Content themes that will resonate in 2022

Content is the language brands use to communicate with their customers. The proliferation of touchpoints between brands and consumers has led to that much more content. Today, branded content is all-pervasive and exists throughout the customer journey. In the attention economy, the primary task of content is to effectively engage intended audiences. Leading brands have devised their own secret formula to conjure up content that hooks customers. But as we emerge from the once-in-a-century event, that is, this pandemic, the language of brands demands a reset.

The pandemic has significantly transformed people’s attitudes and behaviours. As we clock two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, all talk of a return to a pre-pandemic normal has paled. It’s now widely accepted that the tectonic shifts the pandemic brought with it will result in changes that are here to stay. A global Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum reported finding among people “a profound and widespread desire for change rather than a return to how things were before the pandemic”. In fact, 85 per cent of Indian respondents said they wanted their life to change significantly rather than return to how it was before the COVID-19 crisis.

Clearly, the same content is no longer going to strike a chord with this changing audience. The post-pandemic consumer is more likely to engage with content that has the underlying themes of purpose, authenticity and trust.

State your purpose

Almost every post-pandemic study and research mentions the rising prominence of purpose in all aspects of business. The Ipsos survey states that global sentiment is against returning to the pre-COVID status quo of prioritising profits over people. 86 per cent of the respondents said they wanted to see the world become more sustainable and equitable.

A report by Merkle, titled ‘The Next Generation of Consumer Behaviours’, suggests “in 2022, the onus is on brands to do right by their consumers”. This could be linked to the growing influence of Millennials and Gen Z as the cohort with the most purchasing power. The Merkle report found that 76 per cent of Millennials and 83 per cent of Gen Z believe brands should take a stance on social issues. In contrast, only 59 per cent of older consumers were of the same opinion.

Purpose also takes the top spot on Deloitte’s Global Marketing Trends for 2022. “The expectation that the purpose of businesses should go beyond maximising profits is becoming more common,” affirms the report. In the post-pandemic world, brands with a competitive advantage are those demonstrating a commitment to purpose. According to Deloitte, 42 per cent of high-growth brands believe purpose is fundamental to brand messaging.

Display your authentic side

Branded content usually features an aspirational tone. It has even succeeded in inspiring people to take action and improve their lives. But in the context of the current state of affairs, a similar strategy carries the risk of appearing tone-deaf. Whether individuals or businesses, few of us were unscathed by the pandemic. And now, we’re in a time of global-scale recovery. Content configured to this new reality and displaying authenticity is more likely to resonate with audiences. In the wake of a prolonged period of turmoil, consumers are rejecting unreal standards of perfection and seeking real human connections.

In the wake of a prolonged period of turmoil, consumers are rejecting unreal standards of perfection and seeking real human connections.

The pandemic also put the spotlight on physical and mental wellness. People are now more proactive about their overall health. Content that advances the wellbeing conversation and promotes ideas around living healthier and taking time off will be in favour. Constant exposure to grim news has also boosted the preference for light-hearted and inspiring content.

Win trust and loyalty

Close on the heels of the pandemic is a period of economic uncertainty, shrinking disposable income and conservative consumer spending. At a time like this, content that focuses on building customer trust and loyalty is likely to show better results than content that aims to generate sales and convert leads. Brands can capitalise on the opportunity by channelling content efforts towards customer retention rather than acquisition. Be it thanking customers for staying with you through difficult times or finding ways to add value to their experience.

Regardless of the time, the universal key to winning an audience’s attention is understanding their needs. And consumer needs have changed drastically over the course of the pandemic. In the post-pandemic world, effective content will indicate brand purpose, communicate authentically and seek to earn trust.

(The author is Zahara Kanchawalla, co-founder and CEO of Rite Knowledge Labs)
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