Top Ten “Lab Original” Articles of 2021
Rounding up the most popular and insightful articles that we published over the course of the year
Welcome to the end of 2021 — We did it!
As we continue to navigate the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was also a breakthrough year for a few important emerging innovation territories, including social audio, NFTs, cryptocurrency, and the Metaverse. All the buzz around these hot concepts is aptly captured by the popularity of the following four articles:
The Rise of NFTs and What It Means for Marketers — Feb. 18, 2021
Perhaps as a testimony to what a banner year that NFTs and the larger crypto movement have had this year, this 101 guide to NFTs for marketers easily takes the top spot as our most popular article of the year, with more than 13,000 reads. The hype is simply undeniable. But have marketers learned how to harness the buzz around NFTs and truly deploy it to the benefits of their overall brand experiences? Things are certainly trending in the right direction, but it is still too early to call.
What the Rise of Clubhouse Means for Marketers — Feb. 4, 2021
Clubhouse had a big moment at the beginning of the year and ushered in a new era for live social audio content. Yet, as the year went on, the path to monetization and brand opportunities turned out to be lackluster for the hottest social app and the type of social audio content it champions. This early piece from 2021 examines how Clubhouse could effectively monetize the attention it garners, along with some thoughts on what the rise of social audio means for audio advertising.
A Marketer’s Guide to the DeFi Movement — Oct. 28, 2021
DeFi, short for decentralized finance, is an umbrella term for the emerging class of blockchain-based applications aimed at decentralizing the existing financial system by offering peer-to-peer alternatives for conventional financial services and institutions. In this piece, we take a close look at how DeFi works, the pros and cons of DeFi, and what it means for financial service brands.
Facebook Stumbles Into the Metaverse — Nov. 4, 2021
Facebook’s bullish move is pushing the nascent concept into the mainstream spotlight far before the company is ready to deliver any use cases of true value. In doing so, its rushed stumble into the metaverse has inflated the hype and expectations around the metaverse, possibly setting up everyone for disappointment. Here’s my take on what brand marketers need to know about Facebook’s corporate rebranding as Meta.
As always, each Lab member brings their own passion and subject matter expertise to our original articles. This year, we published contributions from every team member, old and new, on a wide-ranging array of topics, including the experience economy, the wellness culture, holiday shopping trends, live commerce, and more. All of these articles broaden the perspective of our thought leadership and enrich our understanding of the evolving market landscape. The following three articles are among the most viewed articles by guest authors that we published this year:
The Future of the Experience Economy — Aug. 12, 2021
Not only do venues have to assure fans that it is safe to come back, they also have to convince them that the in-person experience is better than, or at least comparable to, the virtual experiences that people have become accustomed to over the past 17 months. In this piece, the Lab’s group director Josh Mallalieu walks us through how venue owners and experiential brands are using new technology and digital services to enhance guest experiences, eliminate friction, and provide additive experiences.
Myth vs. Truth: Sustainability as a Tenet of Brand Value — Sep. 23, 2021
Increasing awareness of environmental challenges is having a transforming effect on consumer behavior at a rapid pace. Yet, despite knowing that, brand marketers are still slow to take actions to green-proof their brands. In this original piece, our client service director Ben Hone walks us through the common myths around sustainability, and how brands can confront these common objections used to argue against building a sustainable brand.
The on-demand generation is getting one step closer to the holy grail of instant gratification, and live commerce will play an essential role in that evolution of consumer expectations. In this original piece, Ryan Miller, our manager of partnerships, walks us through how live shopping solutions grew from pandemic-era explorations to an essential part of ecommerce infrastructure, and what the future holds.
Here at the Lab, we are always fascinated by the intersection of technology, media, and culture, for we believe that the trends emerging out of this crucial crossroad are the ones that hold the true power to shift audience attention and change consumer behavior en masse. After all, the combination of technological advancement and cultural shifts is what drives media habits and raises consumer expectations.
Throughout 2021, we continued to keep a close eye on the intersectional trends that are popping up across key innovation categories such as fintech, social commerce, gaming, and the creator economy — all of which blend and converge fluidly with one another to form powerful new trends that marketers should heed:
The movie industry didn’t move online fast enough, and as a result, it’s now trailing music and video games in cultural relevance. The friction of having to go to the theater didn’t used to be a problem, but in 2021, when culture moves at the speed of memes and dark social, that friction significantly slows down movies’ ability to occupy the center of our cultural conversation. However, there is nothing Hollywood loves more than a good comeback story, and there are many moves that the movie industry and media owners can make to earn its way back into the cultural spotlight.
The Exciting Intersection of Fintech and Ecommerce — July 9, 2021
As an extended version of my analysis on the market-making potential of ecommerce solution providers like Shopify, Affirm, and Square, this piece is meant to be a deep dive into the dynamic intersection of fintech and ecommerce, and how today’s ecommerce solution providers are catering to and reshaping online shopper behaviors.
Why Brands Should Still Care About NFTs — Aug. 20, 2021
As a follow-up piece to the NFT 101 for Marketers article above, this article seeks to deepen our understanding of the potential alignment of NFTs and video games that could open new doors for brands to rethink their strategy regarding gaming, NFTs, and digital assets. Furthermore, it also offers a glimpse into the metaverse future where NFTs and other decentralized financial tools may serve as its economic infrastructure.
The ups and downs of 2021 have not been easy to navigate, yet it offers a hopeful glimpse into a post-pandemic future where we embrace the cultural shift triggered by hybrid work, adopt more flexible omnichannel experiences, and dive deeper into the wild wild west of web3 applications and the metaverse with eyes wide open. Nothing is ever the same, and this decade is still young and full of possibilities. What your brand does in 2022 will help determine where your brand will be situated in the broader consumer culture and competitive landscape by the end of the 2020s.
Thank you again for your readership! Check back in early January for our CES coverage as well as the 2022 Outlook trend report. Happy holidays!