What’s next for 2022?

Prof. Marcus Schögel asks which topics will have a significant influence on the company's own marketing and corporate management in the coming years.

Current times are characterized by unpredictability, lost certainties and a lack of long-term orientation points. “Driving on sight” seems to be the order of the day. So that the decreasing speed of this approach doesn’t completely slow you down and you lose your orientation in the haze of the pandemic, it makes sense to ask yourself which topics will significantly influence your own marketing and corporate management in the coming years. And since we are in the middle of the turn of the year, it’s time to follow Mark Twain’s advice: “It is easy to make predictions …”. Well then!

In the following, we will present some theses that have run like a thread through various presentations by our students in the Master in Marketing Management program in recent days and weeks. Also in the “Marketing Class” of our MBA program, there were many indications that some things, which we would certainly have liked to have given a few years of development time, are already almost “around the corner” to keep us busy in the coming months and years. In addition, the discussions in the context of our doctoral colloquia at the HSG are always a haven for fresh thoughts and perspectives.

The following thoughts are therefore intended to stimulate thought – and also to trigger discussion. They are theses that are only sketched out here. They are not intended as a recommendation for action, but as an impetus to question current perspectives and to open up to new opportunities and challenges.

NFT – Blockchain yes, but (maybe) not Bitcoin!

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs for short) flew into the marketing ecosystem almost like a black swan. For years, blockchain technology was something for technology companies, land registries and currency experts, but the revolution in marketing was a long time coming. All the more unexpected is the momentum with which NFTs are currently creeping into the field of vision of marketers. Be it digital artworks that justify their auction value by adding a distinctive signature, luxury brands (most notably Louis Vuitton) that want to brand their (current and future) products and services, or Quentin Tarantino who wants to add NFTs to the “stills” from his film Pulp Fiction to make them truly unique – all are based on the first serious application of blockchain technology in the marketing context. By means of a unique signature stored in the blockchain, authenticity and origin are unambiguously attributed to a single object [1]. Currently, the hype surrounding NFTs is hard to keep track of. Too many applications seem to be possible, and there is hardly a boardroom or management consultancy that does not discuss options and investments in NFTs. However, discussions, trials and prototypes in the coming months will show where and how the boundaries for NFTs are to be drawn.

Metaverse – “Meta” will be welcomed too!

Anyone who remembers the heyday of “Second Life” is probably rather critical of the idea of the metaverse. The forecasts were too loud and undifferentiated back then, and the hype surrounding the virtual space of Linden Labs was over too suddenly. It probably helps to think unconcernedly and anew about the idea of a digital living world as an extension of our physical world. The fact that Henry Ford’s “Faster Horses” inevitably come to mind illustrates the creative space that can be derived from the visions and ideas surrounding the metaverse. If the competition between ideas develops in a similarly diverse and disruptive way as in the case of earlier “innovation thrusts” (such as the WWW, mobile Internet or artificial intelligence), then we are in for a dynamic development that will hopefully be accompanied by a dominance of individual players (the so-called GAFAs [2]). If the players position themselves appropriately, competition will show which solutions will prevail. Then “Meta” can also play along, with pleasure …

Sustainability – but without pathos

No topic has emerged from the shadows of the pandemic into the center of society with greater selfevidence. However, this is (still) accompanied by a certain pathos that no longer does justice to the topic. Today, sustainability does not mean a decision against traditional conventions and for a certain lifestyle, but is a necessity. The topic must therefore help companies to better understand their customers and their changed “jobs to be done”, to rethink innovations and thus to find long-term positions of success that work beyond “greenwashing” and “de-coupling”. Bill Gates’ thoughts on the subject of sustainability, for example, help to “marry” the idea of innovation with the subject of sustainability in an exemplary manner [3].

Brand Activism – Impact before visions

While the last few years have been characterized by an inflationary (and often unreflected) use of the term “purpose” in the context of marketing and branding, an action-oriented form of dealing with corporate attitudes seems to be emerging in the form of “brand activism” [4]. Integrating socially oriented value categories into visions, missions or brand purposes is not enough to convince the demanding customer groups of generations Y, Z (or even Alpha). Accordingly, initiatives that follow the basic pattern of “brand activism” and have an impact both internally and externally will be those that have the most lasting impact on brands and corporate values in the near future. Be it campaigns by Oreo or Nike, events by Ben & Jerry’s or the sales approach of Patagonia: “By their deeds you shall know them!” – This postulate then also applies here!

The answer to GDPR and missing cookies? Engagement!

Now that the first US states of California, Colorado and Virginia have enacted consistent data protection guidelines similar to those in the European Union with GDPR, it is time for a rethink in dealing with customer privacy. In addition, the rampant collection of customer data via “3rd party cookies”, soon to be triggered by Google’s “Cookiegeddon”, will mean that other approaches to the traditional ideas of individualization and customizing will have to be found. The answer lies in the orientation towards the active engagement of the customer for the interaction with the company. However, this does not just mean the “like” or an emoji in the comment line to a social media post, but “customer engagement is the ongoing interaction between company and customer, offered by the company and chosen by the customer” [5]. As plausible as this definition is, the implementation seems simple at first glance: permission marketing [6] and “little yeses” [7]! Although both concepts had almost disappeared into the “mothballs” of marketing, they have proven to be valuable approaches for the development of long-term interactions not only in the projects of our students. If it is possible to build up a positive chain of effects through the consciously requested permission of the customer over several small steps, the customer’s commitment increases and his data then helps to interact where added value is created for both sides. However, this approach poses a significant challenge to companies: the previously seemingly prevailing approach of “communicate a lot with little content!” in order to collect as much data as possible is hardly effective anymore. On the contrary, customers seem to appreciate it when clear offers, structures and benefits are developed by companies and then communicated. Then legally driven data security finally becomes customer-centric data privacy!

These references are certainly only brief “spotlights” on significant changes. Depending on the company, market or customer situation, a different in-depth look is important. Hopefully, however, they will inspire you to think further! We are looking forward to your comments, suggestions and hints!

[1] In essence, this brings us back to the origin of branding – marking to identify something specific.
[2] GAFA: Google, Amazon, Facebook und Apple.
[3] Gates, B. (2019): How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need.
[4] Sarkar, C & Kotler, P. (2018): Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action.
[5] Greenberg, P. (2019): The Commonwealth of Self Interest Business Success Through Customer Engagement.
[6] Godin, S. (2002): Permission Marketing – How to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers.
[7] Vögele S. (2002): Dialogmethode. Das Verkaufsgespräch per Brief und Antwortkarte.

Porträt Prof. Dr. Marcus Schögel
Prof. Dr. Marcus Schögel
Associate Professor