2021 highlights - 2022 trends

Hitting Our Stride: A Look Back as We Leap Forward

2021 was a busy year marked by momentum on digital technology, diversity, and sustainability.

By CEN BrandLab

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Happy 2022 to all you scientists and science marketers out there, I think it’s going to be a good one, questionable start notwithstanding. This year marks BrandLab’s 5-year anniversary, which, if following traditional guidelines, is the wood anniversary. That feels appropriate, given the uptick in the desire for sustainability-themed content in 2021 that continues to bear fruit in 2022. Digital transformation and diversity were also hot takes for the year, forming the foundation for some of our biggest and most engaging campaigns. Here is a breakdown of some representative campaigns from 2021 that illustrate these themes, and how we expect the trends to play out in 2022. 

A tale of two ebooks 

Let’s talk ebooks. These lead-gen campaigns are great for clients who really want to delve deep into a subject, and look at it from multiple angles, which become the ebook’s chapters. The custom design and expanded promo package in these campaigns drive lots of leads and give a polished branding opportunity. 

On the digital transformation side, we developed a 10,000 word ebook for PerkinElmer titled “Reaching the next frontier of the chemical industry with digital transformation.” 10,000 words is on the longer side, but the client wanted to make room for the discussion of several different digital tools, from electronic notebooks to sophisticated data analysis software. Their overarching goal was to expand their client base. While their digital tools had been popular in the pharmaceutical space, they hoped to achieve more widespread reach in the chemical industry. Our audience includes many folks in this target area, so C&EN BrandLab developed an ebook that explored obstacles that are common to industrial chemists and how digital tools can overcome these issues. 

Turning to sustainability, United Soybean Board came to C&EN BrandLab looking for an ebook that would highlight the benefits of soy as a sustainable chemical feedstock. To explore the diversity of applications for soybean-derived chemicals, BrandLab came up with a three-chapter ebook, The grass is greener: Exploring the promise of soy as a chemical feedstock.” Each chapter focused on a particular class of substances: adhesives, bioplastics, and methyl soyate. Covering everything from wood composites to artificial turf, this ebook boasted a stunning cover design and excellent lead return.

Building a digital narrative

Sometimes, you have to educate readers that there is a problem before they are interested in finding a solution to that problem. MilliporeSigma enlisted BrandLab to develop a multi-pronged approach to create brand awareness for their suite of Connected Lab products, digital tools that address many of the frustrations bench scientists face on a daily basis. 

Yet, scientists may be so used to these problems that they are unable to imagine a world without them. For example, a C&EN BrandLab survey revealed that scientists spend a lot of time just dealing with chemical inventory issues, finding chemicals in the lab, reordering expired chemicals, fulfilling regulatory paperwork, and other menial tasks. MilliporeSigma wanted to raise awareness that such inefficient chemical inventory management is in fact a problem with a solution. 

To that end, BrandLab launched a 5-part native series in print and digital exploring various facets of chemical inventory troubles—from the hidden costs to the time wasted. Each native story had a digital-only interactive component to drive engagement and provide another touch point for education, such as a quiz that rated users on their lab efficiency. Woven into each story was the idea that these pain points can be solved with emerging digital technology. That gave us the opportunity to introduce readers to MilliporeSigma’s LANEXO, which automatically tracks chemical locations and deals with numerous other aspects of chemical inventory management. 

Credit where credit is due

After a successful social campaign in 2020 highlighting women in chemistry, Pfizer came back to BrandLab in 2021, this time for a year-long celebration of Black chemists inspired by C&EN’s Trailblazers issue. We kicked it off with a nomination campaign in our social media channels asking readers to nominate a Black chemist. We then featured a different chemist each week for 30 weeks on Twitter, with roundups on Facebook and LinkedIn. The campaign capped off with a native feature in print and digital that included a brief story discussing Pfizer’s philosophy with respect to diversity and inclusion, along with a spread featuring the 30 Black chemists we’d highlighted throughout the year. 

Big ideas for a big year

As we kick off 2022, C&EN BrandLab has already seen enthusiasm toward stories about sustainability, diversity, and digital transformation, a trend we anticipate will continue. But you ask, how do you keep the content from getting stale? That’s the beauty of science storytelling. We can find a fresh angle for each story because these themes are deep and universal, while our clients’ science and ideas are similarly inexhaustible. It’s been five fantastic years of spinning science stories here at BrandLab, and we are just getting started. 

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