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Looking Back at a Year of Digital Innovation

AI AI, AI & Emerging Technology Consulting, Extended reality, Metaverse, New paths to growth, Tech Consulting, Tech Services 7 min read
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And just like that, another year comes to a close—twelve months packed with the emergence of exciting developments in technology and new consumer behaviors. The metaverse matured, commerce went social, and brands learned to move beyond vanity metrics and cookie consent to build actionable data with bottom-line impact. In essence, there’s been no shortage of challenges (and solid victories) over the past year—so as you begin to look ahead at the next, let’s take a quick review of 2022 highlights and trends.

Virtualization defines the transformation of digital.

As the world opened back up, an era of digital transformation gave way to the transformation of digital. By this, we mean virtualization: a set of new audience behaviors, cultural norms and technology paradigms resulting from 30 years of digital transformation, hyper-accelerated over the past five years. Virtualization, covered in our report earlier this year, marks a revolution in consumer behavior as people demand more from the digital platforms they engage with, which implicates the ways they look at digital experience, community, ownership and identity. For example, the design of ComplexLand, a virtualization of the hype-fueled annual event ComplexCon, was built around the insight that today’s fashion trendsetters are becoming just as invested in their digital identities as their corporeal ones.

The Social Innovation Lab, who explores up-and-coming trends in social, delved deeper into what motivates some of these behavioral changes in The Search for Meaning. By exploring how technology shapes the ways consumers find and make meaning in their lives, the Social Innovation Lab uncovers how brands can adapt to the new era in digital.

Monks Thoughts We're seeing the emergence of a new set of consumer expectations based on digital experiences that are richer, more meaningful, and more ownable. New tools, technologies, and talent on part of brands to show up and meet consumers in a new way. We call this virtualization




Henry Cowling Chief Innovation Officer

Experiments in the metaverse drive real success.

One of the biggest manifestations of the virtualization trend has been the rise of the metaverse, which many brands have experimented with this year to find their footing. Duolingo celebrated the birthday of its lovable (and persistent) mascot by hosting a game jam in Roblox and building larger-than-life public artwork in Decentraland. Logitech for Creators reinvented the awards show format by building the first music awards show in the metaverse, the Song Breaker Awards.

The fashion industry in particular has found a lot of success in the space. Liam Osbourne, Global Client Partner at the FLUX.Monks, our dedicated fashion and luxury team, shared with Vogue some insight on how the metaverse is an opportunity to become more inclusive. For brands exploring that question and more, the FLUX.Monks have authored a quick bulletin on why the metaverse matters.

Monk Thoughts Exploring the rules for access that are not the traditional levers of wealth or proximity to power would be great to see.
Liam Osbourne

As the metaverse continues to take shape, now is an excellent time for brands to continue experimenting in the space, which was a large part of a discussion shared between SVP Web3, Metaverse & Innovation Strategy Catherine D. Henry; Chief Innovation Officer Henry Cowling; and Mike Proulx, VP and Research Director at Forrester as part of our Meet Me in the Metaverse series. Eager to get started experimenting in the metaverse yourself? Our map of the metaverse can help you find the right home for your brand within this quickly evolving space.

Web3 and other emerging tech begin to mature.

In addition to the metaverse, other emerging technologies have fueled transformative digital experiences—most notably Web3. We showed up at NFT.NYC, the biggest Web3 conference on this side of the screen, with an immersive installation for Cool Cats that blurred the boundary between virtual and the real. Meanwhile, Gucci opened the virtual door to an immersive gallery space used to host an auction of NFT artwork.   

More than just a new tech infrastructure, Web3 marks a foundational shift in brand-consumer relationships, a topic covered in a bulletin we released in collaboration with Salesforce this year titled Web 3: The Future of Customer Engagement. For those wondering how to begin making moves in Web3, check out insights from our In a Monk’s Opinion series, which lays out everything you need to know about NFTs and the blockchain. One tip from the Labs.Monks: be sure to make your NFT projects sustainable.

Speaking of the Labs.Monks, our R&D team has continually released missives on the bleeding edge of tech throughout a year of innovation. Their most recent report on generative AI explores the potential of AI tools like Dall-E and Mid Journey that have captured creatives’ imagination (and people’s social feeds). One example of what the tech can achieve: unlocking efficiencies in animation and other production needs.

Creativity and media go hand in hand.

Throughout the digital era, it’s been tempting to focus attention on vanity metrics. But as CMOs invest more dollars into media (and face increasing budget scrutiny with a possible recession), they will benefit from transforming their approach to a more holistic strategy that blends media and creative to optimize their spend. Speaking to Digiday, Media.Monks Global Head of Media Melissa Wisehart unveiled how our integrated media pillar is designed to help brands make this leap.

Monk Thoughts We’re really looking at and drawing statistical correlation between what happened in the media universe and what is the downstream business impact.
Melissa Wisehart headshot

Uni's relaunch campaign demonstrates this more holistic approach through the development of both the creative and media placement by one partner. With three creative variations and four measurement initiatives, we ensured the creative rolled out across today’s most relevant channels according to their purpose within the brand ecosystem.

When it comes to creative optimization, wellness brand Hatch found great success—and shared some of their secrets in an episode of In a Monk’s Opinion featuring Hatch’s VP Growth Marketing Holly Elliott. Many brands that rely on digital platforms for their marketing face a series of challenges: rising acquisition costs; a limited ability to manage their performance, attribution and audience targeting; and the risk of losing brand authenticity. Hatch assuaged these concerns by striking a balance between creative and performance. In the episode, Holly and our creative performance experts offer insight into how historical performance data can fuel further creative iterations.

Brands prepare for the oncoming privacy era.

While media optimization and performance may be top of mind now, budget conscious CMOs are also eyeing another obstacle on the horizon: overcoming their reliance on third-party cookies as attitudes in privacy shift and as Google aims to sunset third-party cookies with the Chrome browser. And speaking of cookies, VP of Data Services and Technology Doug Hall recently shared ways marketers can rethink cookie consent and management using the Privacy Sandbox platform.

Add to the mix that Google is sunsetting GA360 to make way for its new GA4 platform, meaning brands have plenty of adjustments to manage in the near future. Thankfully, GA360’s sunset was postponed to July 2024, meaning they have more time to perfect their migration strategy. Our data experts put their heads together to create a short guide on how to maximize your move to GA4 before the deadline.

Monk Thoughts Google is postponing the Google Analytics 360 sunset. The move to GA4 is now 2024. This is not a time to pivot on your data and privacy strategy, this is the time for you to perfect your migration over to GA4.




Doug Hall VP, Data Services and Technology

We’ve also got some inspiration based on how other brands have future-proofed their data strategies with great success. We began our partnership with Molson Coors in 2021 with the goal to bring more of its digital media in-house. By taking an ambitious, holistic approach focused on modernization, we’ve since helped the brand future-proof with a robust, in-house digital media team: a data transformation that ranges from data acquisition, data activation and enrichment, and optimization.

And in the commerce space, leadership from Canadian retailer Reitmans shared the role cloud computing played in building a single source of truth throughout its entire organization, joining online consumer behavior with data from over 400 brick-and-mortar locations. Check out the episode of IMO to learn how a strong data foundation helped the brand adapt at speed.

Speaking of data foundations, emerging technologies like Web3 offer new ways of connecting with consumers and strengthening relationships. In an episode of Meet Me in the Metaverse, Ashley Muscumeci, our Director, Go-to-Market, sat down with Jordan Cuddy, Chief Client Officer at Jam3, and Avanthika Ramesh, Senior Product Manager, NFT Cloud at Salesforce, to explore how building a resilient data foundation will help brands get a head-start into the Web3 future. One key insight: despite being a new space, the same rules apply when it comes to user consent. “Even if you are bridging Web3 and Web2 data to bring all these identifiers about a consumer together, it’s really important that the user opts in and provides consent to merge these identities,” says Ramesh.

Commerce goes social and creators go virtual.

In recent years, creators have expanded their digital footprint into new spaces—like gaming and social audio—and have even adopted new content ventures to translate audience engagement into revenue for brands. So, what does the intersection of content, commerce and entertainment look like today? The Social Innovation Lab launched a report earlier this year, The Year of Digital Creators, to explore the state of the creator economy in depth, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

One example of how creators have transformed the consumer journey is through the rise of live commerce, the subject of a recently released Social Bite from the Social Innovation Lab. Live commerce blends communities and real-time connection to offer entertaining, interactive and personalized experiences for audiences, and the short deck offers a glimpse into the live commerce journey and how brands can activate audiences every step of the way.

What’s next in the realm of digital creators? Expect more and more virtual influencers in the form of CGI-rendered fictional characters or avatar alter-egos of real people. With the rise of the metaverse and more accessible motion capture technology, virtual influencers are primed to become a more common presence in brands’ influencer marketing strategies—and if you’re curious about the role one could play in your own marketing, check out another Social Bite about how virtual influencers are coming alive.

Here's to a new year of innovating!

With so much innovation in the last year spanning experiences, content creation and optimization through data, there’s a lot to celebrate as we cap off 2022. Looking ahead into the new year, these trends will continue to shape brands’ strategies as they seek to engage with hyper connected audiences in the new digital era.

Where will you begin? Reach out to start your 2023 journey with confidence.


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The website has been translated to English with the help of Humans and AI