2022 is the year of a conscious symbiosis between brands & users: Anita Kotwani

It has been 2 years since we got hit by the single biggest transformative agent in our lives of all times – the Covid pandemic. This is not the post-pandemic world, but a co-pandemic world, where we are co-existing with the aftermath. The impact of it will continue to remain on the way we live, travel, shop and act says Anita Kotwani, CEO, Carat India.

Before we lay out the codes for our 2022 game plan, let us reflect on some of the striking trends of 2021 and how we were able to adapt ourselves to lend meaningful solutions for our partners. 

Empathy over everything

For one, the consumers have changed by leaps and bounds in 2021. The second wave shook the country from its core. While this was not accounted for, it undoubtedly became a looming theme, further making a case for strong empathy from brands. 

So, for Philips, we stepped away from the usual product-centric communication and joined in solidarity with the audience at large. A video asset was created just as a reminder for the audience to take care of their mental health in these testing times and that we are right by their side. 

The campaign was received very well, as the spotlight was on a larger perspective. It highlights that sometimes all a brand needs to do is step away from its push strategy and just be the one with the audience. 

Fast-tracked digital adoption

Secondly, as a result of most activities turning indoors, digital acceleration that would have otherwise taken 4-5 years happened in the last 1-1.5 years. 

Skyrocketing adoption of digital payments

With most purchases happening from homes and increased skepticism of being in contact with physical cash, digital wallets received a huge impetus. Post COVID-19, 9 out of 10 Indians preferred online payments gateways. 

The dawn of OTT

What started as an outcome of circumstance (live TV shooting suffering because of restrictions), became a habit for the masses. India opened to parallel entertainment, with platforms like ZEE5 growing by almost 200%. At the backdrop of this boom, we ended up creating true and tangible value for our clients. As the only agency with a bespoke tool in place that enable clients to sharp target users on OTT platforms, we stayed ahead of the curve in 2021. We deployed an OTT planner for Mfine in the brand launch campaign to ride on the OTT growth story in India in post-pandemic times. 

Screen-Free Media

In line with the growth of contactless media like QR codes, AR/VR, audio and voice commands received a big boost. While voice cuts through the language and literacy barrier in India, digital audio streaming has seen a steep spurt. There was a 155% growth in kid-friendly content, 20% growth in playlists dedicated to cooking and news podcasts saw a whopping 245% growth. We rode the wave in time with Intel through a voice-activated ad on Gaanaa, which led the users to know more about the 11th Gen processor. 

Gaming and E-Sports boom

The home-bound year also led to a sizeable time being spent on e-games. Currently, India stands at the 5th position among the world’s top mobile gaming markets. Focus has shifted to game development, new gaming ventures entering the market and developers trying to constantly elevate the gamer’s experience. For Intel, we leveraged this to achieve a mammoth of momentum through IGD (Intel Gamer Days) Pro Invitational. It was a mega virtual tournament. We live-streamed 29 hours’ worth of content to mobilise the gaming and e-sports community and generated traction for Intel’s Gamer Days site hosting device and processor deals. 

The upskilling upsurge

With schools and universities going online for the most part of the year, EdTech platforms saw a massive uptake. Interestingly, this wasn’t limited to students alone. People signed up for a lot of vocational, upskilling and reskilling courses as well. Capitalising on the boom, we partnered with CODE-A-THON, one of the most popular coding Olympiad hosted by Hindustan Times for Intel. Our timely association with them registered our brand as a leading tech player in the ecosystem. 

Going into 2022, we cannot be sure if the year is going to be sans uncertainties, especially with the looming threat of the new variant. But we can be sure that this time around, we must be armed with cognizance and foresight to be one step ahead of the uncertainties. 

We foresee some of the aforementioned trends to continue raking up momentum and some new ones to crop up as offshoots. 

Prolonged Pandemic

As mentioned earlier, this is not a post-pandemic world but a co-pandemic one. Thus, building on the existing digitisation, bridging the gap between virtual & reality, simulations and gamifications will be the way to go. Carat will strive to build relevant and effective gaming solutions in 2022 for our clients through our bespoke gaming vertical, as 44% of smartphone owners are touted to use their devices for gaming by 2022. 

Brand Citizenship

Empathy was not a temporary ask from brands. Going forward, brands will be expected to show a semblance of responsibility wherever possible and will be expected to use their power wisely. Post the pandemic, consumers will invest extra effort in making a brand a part of their ecosystem. Thus, enablement, betterment and empowerment of our target audience, that is, being ‘purpose-first’ rather than ‘profit-first’ will benefit brands in the long term. 

Tighter Audience Identity

As a result of the increasing concerns towards responsible behaviour and adherence to privacy, etc., on behalf of brands, ecosystems are going to go cookie-less. In that case, 2022 will be all about tightening first-party databases for our clients to achieve efficient targeting. Engaging and rewarding users to interact with the brand and willingly provide data will be something to ponder upon in the next year. Needless to say, this will only happen when sufficient trust is built between the brand and its users. 

2022 is the year of a conscious symbiosis between the brands and users. The pandemic has been instrumental in giving rise to a sentiment of ‘we’ over ‘me’. It will be upon us to amplify the sense of ‘we’ to truly create a win-win for everyone.  


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