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Marketing in 2022 : The Shift I Never Saw Coming

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This time of year always begs for reflections, predictions, regrets, and hopefully a few highfives. A solid year+ into Wheels Up, and we have a whole lot of all of those to go around. But I think, shockingly and incredulously, my biggest take away from 2021 is that we could all use more gut reactions and instinct-based decision making. Hear me out…

If you know me even a little bit, that has to be a shocking statement. I’m Type-A, hyper analytical, black and white, and pragmatic to a fault. I run on data and hustle. If you’ve read any of my other newsletter introductions, you already know that I always have plans A through D, with plan E queued up on the back burner just in case. I’m direct. The art of sugarcoating anything is lost on me. And no one has ever accused me of being “warm and fuzzy.” (Unless of course, we’re talking about dogs.)

I’d love to have a subjective analysis of my own nature versus nurture, but I think my brain has only built upon its natural proclivities thanks to two+ decades in an industry that has gone from zero accountability to data overload. My first marketing job out of college was at a big NY ad agency, where the only numbers we looked at were dollars and cents on insertion orders for media buys. Maybe we ran creative through a focus group occasionally, but by and large, marketing was something “unquantifiable,” “squishy,” and “subjective.” (And our print budget alone was over $50M a year.) Since then, it’s been a steady march toward rock-solid attribution, and as the excuses around lack of data have evaporated, marketing has been pushed further and further into the arms of sales teams where we are held accountable to revenue forecasting and quota. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for that. It’s done wonders to move marketing teams out of the red and into the black, from a cost center to a revenue driver. You know what CFOs think is sexy? When marketing teams can reliably predict revenue month by month based on their budget.

But I gotta say, I think the data-pendulum has maybe swung a little too far. Algorithms are so good we’re all convinced our iPhones are listening in on us. Artificial Intelligence is on its way to putting writers out of work. Your Google search results and Facebook newsfeed deliver content that your brain physically cannot ignore. Our daily martech automation has us cordoned off from our customers, letting workflows run their course to deliver MQLs and SALs and Closed/Wons at a steady clip. Those are actual people, you know.

Until this past year, I was guzzling the data juice. In January, a long time coworker, friend, and fellow Wheels Up’er, Bridget Quigg, added intuition classes to her roster. If you don’t know BQ, she’s famous for her creativity workshops that use improv principles to bring teams together and help them do their jobs better. And like a good friend, I signed up for her first cohort to support her - not because I was at all interested in intuition. (Sorry, BQ.) In fact, one of the recurring jokes in our class was my lack of feelings. But I did the homework, read the assigned readings, tackled the discussions with an open mind and supportive heart because I wanted my friend to be successful. And then a funny thing happened - what she was saying kind of started to make sense. And then an even funnier thing happened - her techniques started working. The right decisions were easy to make, options were obvious, and I noticed that all these years I’d had good “instincts” and pushed them aside in search of validation from data or leadership or friends. As it turns out, most of us do this nearly as soon as we’re old enough to start making decisions.

At Wheels Up, not unlike many of our clients, we’re at a stage where we have a lot of things figured out, but still a ton of growing to do. When I look back at the big decisions we had to make throughout the year, I had strong intuitive feelings about each and every one right off the bat – and they were usually pretty spot on. Sometimes we pushed for data to validate. Sometimes we talked it through and made a gut decision. And I think that’s a good thing. We need to be agile and responsive, and live by the old startup adage to “fail fast,” and to be careful of over indexing on our own bloated tech stack that can slow us down in data overload (and is hella expensive). I’ll go out on a limb and say that contrary to everything that you’ve heard for the past 15 years, gut decisions might be one of your best marketing tools - but using intuition is a muscle you have to condition and a skill you have to hone.

So in the spirit of less Cambridge Analytica and more Don Draper in 2022, Wheels Up is super excited to announce our very first webinar – Trust with Your Gut: Why Your Business Hunches Matter, led by our very own Bridget Quigg. We’ve adapted her full intuition curriculum into a bite-sized taste of this valuable skill that you already have but probably aren’t using. We’ll talk about how to pick up on the vibes your gut is sending you, and how to complement the data with these cues. We’ll break down how you can use your intuition to get pointed in the right direction, and then use your logical mind to make strong decisions. As a career content strategist herself, Bridget has become a master at using intuition to interview better, find the sticky story, and stir emotion with prospects and clients. I can guarantee that as a marketer or leader, you won’t attend another webinar like this. We’re so excited to share it with all of you (and with my mom, obviously).

We hope you’ll join us on Wednesday, January 19 at 10AM PT/1PM ET. In the meantime, the next time you have a nagging feeling about something, maybe take a second to think about what your gut might be trying to tell you. We’d love to put our heads (and guts) together to help your team grow this upcoming year.

And from all of us at Wheels Up Collective, happiest of holidays to you and yours, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped make our 2021 a great year.


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