“The real trick is to turn hindsight into foresight into insight.” ― Robin Sharma

Talking to colleagues, customers, influencers and analysts about their 2022 predictions ('tis the season!) it becomes clear that most are based on lessons learned from dramatic changes brought about by the pandemic. Both topics, lessons learned and 2022 predictions, yield similar results, among them: digital is here to stay, yet highly personalized, human-centered experiences are critical (Deloitte, Forrester, Futurum Research); crisis management has shined a spotlight on agility and innovation (ANA, Google); taking AI to the next level is paramount but trust is also critical (Deloitte, Gartner, Futurum); and the shift to remote work has placed new emphasis on collaborative marketing processes, tools and technology (Forbes, Forrester).

It seems to me that we have seen many of the lessons turned predictions before. At their essence, they are simply solid block-and-tackle marketing practices. Clearly the pandemic abruptly shook us out of our complacency, brought about significant changes very quickly, and hit industries like travel, hospitality and sports and entertainment quite hard. I just think that many of the lessons learned and predictions for 2022 have origins in areas we should have already been focusing on.

A TRUE – Trust, Resiliency, Understanding and Ecosystem – Focus on the Future

The good news is we can follow Robin Sharma’s advice and look at some of the lessons through the lens of hindsight, with the objective of understanding why we really need to shore up existing marketing activity to gain the insights necessary to prepare for the future, whatever it throws at us.

To that end, let's look at some of the most important lessons, consolidated into the acronym TRUE — which stands for Trust, Resiliency, Understanding and Ecosystem.


Trust and transparency in how marketers collect, use and protect information have never been more important than they are today. The ongoing news about what tech companies like Google and Apple are doing to curtail, control or eliminate tracking cookies across the internet is proof of this. Customers are also clearly weighing into this discussion. Consider the new Apple privacy reports that tell users what data is being collected and how many times apps or browsers attempt to track them. Since the company announced the privacy reports Apple has gone from capturing 17% of all sponsored app store downloads, to 58% and its revenue from this business is expected to double.

Looking to the past, privacy is an issue that we have had plenty of warning about. Way back in May of 2011 the EU issued a directive, (it became known as the cookie law) that gave individuals rights to refuse the use of cookies that reduce their online privacy. I wrote my first article on the impact of the GDPR on marketers in June of 2017 and it featured this dire prediction:

“With just one year to go until the GDPR comes into force, the countdown to the death of third-party data has begun.” ― Richard Lack, Managing Director, EMEA, GIGYA

Looking to the future, the privacy lesson is not going away. Gartner predicts privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) — approaches that allow data to be shared across ecosystems but with privacy measures built-in — will skyrocket, with 60% of large organizations using these by 2025. Forrester says that emerging technologies and increasing digitization bring fears and doubts that trigger anxiety and diminish confidence for consumers and includes accountability, integrity and transparency as three of the seven pillars of trust.

It is past time to incorporate privacy into every marketing interaction — or marketers will lose the trust they need to build thriving customer relationships.

Related Article: Loyalty Without Trust: A Long Walk Off a Short Pier


Resiliency and innovation cannot happen without the right skillsets and collaboration. According to the latest CMO survey marketing spend in the next 12 months is projected to almost double and marketing leaders are reporting increased pressure from both CEOs and CFOs to prove ROI. Metrics are important here, but marketers also face collaboration challenges as they try to refocus non-marketing leaders away from short-term returns while also building the case for marketing spending with the C-suite.

The CMO survey also highlighted almost uniform agreement among marketing leaders that having the right talent is the most important driver of growth and innovation especially as they have seen significant increases in responsibility for marketing analytics. And yet the survey concluded that they need improvement in interpreting customer insights important to growth opportunity, using data insights across channels, and leveraging technology to pursue growth opportunities.

Learning Opportunities

Looking to the past, in his 2006 Harvard Business Review article, "Competing on Analytics," Tom Davenport called out marketing’s need for analytical skills specifically when he said, “Amazon customers can watch the company learning about them as its service grows more targeted with frequent purchases. Analytics competitors understand that most business functions — even those, like marketing, that have historically depended on art rather than science — can be improved with sophisticated quantitative techniques.” At SAS we have been espousing for at least 10 years that CMOs must have three important qualities to succeed: transformation — forging dramatic change through innovation; cogence — telling a clear and compelling story through analytics; and cohesion — achieving unifying collaboration across the organization.

Looking to the future, Deloitte's survey of global CMOs found that analytical skills edged out creative skills as the most important in virtually every industry but says this is not a skills swap but rather a melding of data scientists, creatives, strategists and programmers. It also stated however that CMOs will have to change their mindset on collaboration for this to work as they tend to prioritize collaboration lower than the other C-suite executives — and that it is critical for innovation and building agile team structures.

It is imperative that marketing leadership develop the transformational, cohesion and cogence skills needed to ensure they stay competitive and innovative in today’s world.   

Related Article: The CMO Challenge: Success Depends on Customer-Centricity and More Collaboration

Understanding and Ecosystems

Understanding and ecosystems go hand in hand. Marketers must have a robust martech ecosystem that enables a solid understanding of their customers while also providing the integration, automation and speed of reaction needed for agile, hyper-personalized interactions. The Accenture 2021 tech trends report indicates that companies will soon be competing on their technology architectures. It found that a whopping 89% of executives say their ability to generate value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their tech stacks. Think about that for a second: value generation based not on products, services or business strategy, but on limitations of tech stacks. For many of us, this might not be such a pretty picture.

Looking to the past, the meteoric rise in popularity for customer data platforms (CDP’s) since their inception in roughly 2016 and their subsequent expansion of functionality from the original four characteristics (ingest customer data, unify customer profiles, segment audiences, provision data) into something suspiciously similar to a multi-channel marketing hub (campaign and delivery CDPs, smart hub and marketing cloud CDPs) is simply the latest chapter in a decades-long struggle to integrate customer information and establish a technology architecture that allows for analytical insight to be developed and used by business units. One needs only to look back to the Corporate Information Factory published in 1998 to see how long we have been grappling with this one.

Looking to the future, Gartner points out the way here with an entire section of its 2022 tech trends ebook focused on technologies that enable the organization to scale its digitalization efforts. These include hyper-automation, decision intelligence and AI engineering.

Far too many of us are saddled with aging legacy applications, data silos and integration issues in our martech. This is a mountain we must summit to stay agile and relevant.

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