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Thriving through customer centricity

Macro trends, from the integration of digital and physical channels to increasing calls for diversity, are upending the marketing function. What can brands learn from their highest-growth counterparts to thrive?

The past 18 months forever redefined customer engagement strategies—and with this change has come unprecedented complexity. Consider just a few of the macro trends unfolding in the market: In a world where people continuously toggle between digital and physical channels, linear customer journeys are almost a relic of the past. Consumers expect more tailored and personalised experiences but, simultaneously, are more guarded in how their data is captured and deployed. Even the definition of convenience has changed as people expect items and services to be available at the push of a button. Beyond products and services, people are more attuned to what a brand stands for—and if it’s only maximising profit, many will walk away before the brand can even put an offer in front of them.

These trends are creating just as much complexity within the four walls of the organisation. As artificial intelligence becomes core to the entire customer experience, teams are scrambling to find the right mix of talent that elevates—and integrates—the creative and analytical. In parallel, brands are continuously looking to ensure their talent is just as representative and inclusive as the experiences they hope to deliver to market. And underscoring all of this is the reality that marketing budgets shrunk to record lows at a time when expectations are at an all-time high.1

Given these trends, how can brands thrive in an increasingly complex world?

We believe the answer requires holistically rethinking the way brands engage with customers—and for good reason: When we surveyed over 1,000 global executives, we found the highest-growing brands (defined as those with 10% or higher annual growth) are moving beyond point solutions and comprehensively addressing the entire customer experience—encompassing everything from activating an enterprisewide purpose to overhauling entire customer data strategies.

Taking the lead from these high-growth organisations, we took a multifaceted approach to the 2022 Global Marketing Trends report.

In addition to surveying executives from five countries, we polled 11,500 consumers across the globe, as well as conducted 18 in-depth interviews with executives from leading global brands (see sidebar “Research methodology” to learn more). In total, we identified seven trends that are customer-centric and take a 360-degree view of the solution set.

360-degree engagement: People, data and experiences

To provide leaders with a road map to thriving in these unprecedented times, we organised our trends into three sections: people, data and experiences.

However, these sections are not mutually exclusive endeavours. They comprise an interdependent system that, when integrated, forms the basis of dynamic customer experiences.

Putting people at the centre

The opening trends in our report build the foundation through which everything else flows: the people the brand serves.

Purpose—A beacon for growth explores how high-growth brands are cutting through the noise of competing on price and quality alone and building a competitive advantage by committing to and communicating their impact beyond profit.

Authentically inclusive marketing focusses on how marketers—and their advertisements—are generally the face of what a brand stands for beyond profit maximisation to consumers. And as populations continue to become more diverse and increasingly prioritise representation, it’s important to get the brand authentically right or risk losing your customer of today—and the future.

Building the intelligent creative engine In a fast-paced world, marketers need a talent model that moves at the speed of culture. This trend highlights how brands are unleashing creative content that better resonates with today’s world. This includes using agile cohorts of creative and analytical talent to solve customer problems and seeking new forms of external talent, for example, by turning influencers from product spokespeople to creative agents.

Building the data infrastructure

The proliferation of channels has led to myriad sources of data. However, more is not always better and, in some cases, what’s available today won’t be here tomorrow. Our next two chapters provide guidance in navigating this increasingly complex data environment.

Meeting customers in a cookieless world discusses how marketers should be preparing for an environment where less information will be available as third-party cookies continue to disappear. Further, we note how high-growth brands are already ahead in their first-party data strategies.

Designing a human-first data experience But it’s not just about moving to a first-party data strategy; designing a human-first data experience shifts the lens to consumers to better understand the balance between people finding the use of their data helpful and, well, creepy.

Designing dynamic experiences

The customer experience is the culmination of every step along the way. In this spirit, our final two chapters highlight how brands can bring everything together to ensure their experiences match their aspirations of delivering dynamic solutions to customers.

Elevating the hybrid experience lays out how brands can build dynamic, cohesive experiences in both their digital and in-person environments through leading principles from human-centred design.

Supercharging customer service with AI considers the consumer’s perspective to show how timely offers and knowledgeable customer service can better help consumers make purchase decisions. This trend reveals how artificial intelligence can be integrated with human service to bring the best of both to the entire customer journey.

Together, these trends highlight that marketing is a powerful force for growth in designing customer experiences that foster trust and meet human needs.

Research methodology

To ensure a globally relevant, cross-topic understanding of marketing and the customer experience, we conducted two global surveys and 18 in-depth interviews with global executives.

The Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey polled 1,099 C-suite executives from global companies located in the United States (62%), the United Kingdom (11%), France (9%), Japan (9%) and the Netherlands (9%) in April 2021. This survey asked chief executive, marketing, information, finance, operating, legal and human resource officers their thoughts on a variety of topics driving the evolution of the marketing function. As this report focusses on marketing and customer experience leaders, 50% of the respondents consisted of chief marketing officers or those with similar titles (such as chief experience officer and chief growth officer), with nearly equal distribution across the other C-suite roles.

All businesses (outside of the public sector) had at least US$500 million in annual revenues, with 73% having over US$1 billion.

The Global Marketing Trends Consumer Survey polled 11,500 global consumers, ages 18 and above, in May 2021 across 19 countries: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, Ireland, France, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Japan, India and China.

Separately, executive interviews were conducted throughout 2021 and involved 18 executives who either currently or previously held chief marketing, customer experience, or executive officer roles. Their insights were key to uncovering the trends included in this report.

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Deloitte Digital

Digital technology has changed the face of business. Across the globe, Deloitte Digital helps clients see what’s possible, identify what’s valuable, and deliver on it by combining creative and digital capabilities with advertising agency prowess and the technical experience, deep business strategyand relationships of the world’s largest consultancy. Deloitte Digital empowers businesses with the insights, platforms and behaviours needed to continuously and rapidly evolve to perform beyond expectations. 

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  1. Kelly Blum and Gloria Omale, “Gartner says marketing budgets have plummeted to 6.4% of overall company revenue in 2021,” press release, Gartner, July 14, 2021.

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Cover artwork: Tank Design

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