Ritson’s top 10 marketing moments of 2022

From Elon Musk and BrewDog to brands’ Russian exodus and brand purpose, Marketing Week’s trusty columnist reveals his biggest marketing moments of the year.

Mark Ritson has taken a look back over the past 12 months to find the biggest, most impactful moments of the year. And boy has it been a busy year.

10. Musk messes up pricing

Ritson says his feelings on Elon Musk range from he’s a “moron” to thinking he’s a “genius”. However, he describes his decision to introduce an arbitrary $20 (£16) fee for a blue tick, with zero research, before swiftly dropping it to $8 (£7) as Musk’s “most pathetic moment of 2022”.

Ritson calls it the “perfect exemplar of how not to do pricing” and suggests if marketers want a crash course in the correct way to go about it, all they need to do is the exact opposite.

Five lessons on how not to do pricing from Elon Musk’s Twitter

9. Brands mourn the death of the Queen

Brands’ response to the passing of the Queen is something that garnered much coverage in the press, with Ritson pointing out there were hundreds of brands “making an ass of themselves” by offering their condolences on social media.

While it’s not damaging to the brands and most people won’t complain, Ritson says it’s symptomatic of a bigger problem. Consumers don’t care because “brands are little, little things” when looking at the bigger picture, which marketers often forget.

Look at your brand from the customer’s perspective, not the other way round

8. BrewDog’s ‘anti-sponsorship’ of the World Cup

BrewDog’s “anti-sponsor” campaign generated a lot of headlines in the UK, with its opposition to the World Cup being held in Qatar shared by many. But while it made a worthy point, the marketing community took issue with BrewDog’s double standards given it still played matches in its pubs and sold its beer in Qatar.

On top of that, BrewDog also had its own employee scandal to deal with after hundreds of staff – past and present – signed an open letter highlighting the company’s own “toxic culture”.

A new marketing phase is resulting in empty but effective advertising

7. TikTokification

TikTok’s growth in users, engagement scores and ability to handle video advertising well, means other more traditional platforms are understandably concerned. Their defence against this new threat? To do exactly what TikTok does.

Just because all the incumbent social networks were great disruptors doesn’t mean they are also great at defending against their own disruption, Ritson points out.

You can’t beat TikTok by becoming its clone

6. Airbnb goes long

Ritson describes Airbnb’s decision to spend a larger portion of its marketing budget on long-term brand building and its balance of long and short as an important one, especially as it is a illustrates a bigger issue in the industry.

He suggests there is a strategic point many brands are missing, that if you split up the long and short while uniting them around the same campaign, and accepting the “blurry edges of it”, it will always perform better.

5. Extrapolation errors

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic many people warned of the vast changes to consumer behaviour we were likely to witness. Fast forward nearly three years and most of that was “utter bollocks” in Ritson’s words.

He highlights people’s increased take up of online shopping as an example. Because while there was clearly a spike during the pandemic, this dropped back when people were allowed to leave their houses again. Data shows internet sales as a proportion of overall retail sales are now at the same point they would likely have been if Covid never happened. Ritson calls it the “boring brown line of continuity”.

Welcome to the new normal, it’s the same as the old one

4. Patagonia sells out

Rather than going public, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard said in September the business was “going purpose”, as he gave the company away to help combat climate change – a move that cost him around $3bn (£2.5bn).

Ritson believes it illustrates a key point about brand purpose, that it is not free and should come with sacrifice and cost. Paraphrasing famed creative director William Bernbach, he says “a brand purpose is not a purpose until it costs you something”.

Patagonia has thrown down the gauntlet on purpose
3. Unilever becomes less purposeful

Ritson describes Unilever’s repositioning of its approach to brand purpose as a “very big and important moment”.

Referencing Unilever investor Terry Hall’s comments about the FMCG giant’s focus on purpose, Ritson calls this “the great quote of 2022”.

While Hall’s point is “brutal” it had an impact on Unilever itself, with Ritson saying it brought to the fore the business’s focus on value, performance and product.

Good purpose, bad purpose: Marketers shouldn’t oversimplify the arguments

2. Russian brand exodus

Ritson says marketers should not forget how “despicable” Russia’s attack on Ukraine is and how much the industry can help.

He says it was “quite astonishing” that more than a 1,000 big brands pulled out of Russia, the speed at which they did it and the impact it had. “If you want to look at purpose costing you something, this is where you need to look,” he says.

1. Stagflation marketing

Stagflation was the theme of this year and will unfortunately probably be the theme of next year too, Ritson says. It happens when two countervailing forces happen at the same time, in this case high inflation and economic stagnation.

This creates two linked, but separate challenges for marketers. While inflation will cause the need to increase prices, recession will demand of marketers the need to maintain ad spend. Ritson suggests to understand maintaining ad spend marketers need to understand “one of the most important concepts in marketing” – excess share of voice. Managing price rises will also be critical for marketers going into 2023 as they look to navigate the rocky months ahead.

In the video above, Ritson shares his thoughts on and analysis of the first of his top moments of the year, but to view the full video with all 10 head over to the Mini MBA site – you’re in for a treat.

The next Mini MBA in Marketing begins on 4 April 2023, while the next Mini MBA in Brand Management starts on 25 April 2023. Visit the Mini MBA website for more information and to book your place.