At the start of a new year, we tend to see a ton of predictions about the biggest trends of the year. This happens in every industry…fashion, food, music, and even marketing. However, the trends we predict for marketing are looking a little different this year. Marketing trends this year will focus on brands learning to be culturally relevant and navigating the shift into digital.
Hold Your Brand Accountable
Brand accountability. Let’s just say consumer expectations on brand accountability rose in 2020 and aren’t showing any signs of stopping. In a year where it seemed like there was a new crisis every day, brands who stood from something saw a lot more support and respect than brands that chose to stay quiet. In fact, brands that spoke out on social issues grew 2 times faster than brands that didn’t in 2020. And the same is likely to be true in 2021. From messaging to their actions brands should be considering how they can make the world a better place.
Going hand and hand with brand accountability, another big push in 2021 will be for marketers to recognize audiences as humans, not just users and consumers. COVID-19 has shown we can all have more empathy for others, and marketers are not an exception. So instead of bringing consumers into your brand’s world, find a way for your brand to fit into their world.
Stop Planning and Start Being Flexible
If anyone is currently making marketing plans for the entire year… stop. Remember how well that worked out last year? This year in marketing we have to be ready to expect the unexpected. We might get one month into the year, and the whole world could change again. We just don’t know. So instead of making explicit marketing plans, make a plan of how your marketing strategy can be flexible. If you build flexibility into your marketing plans for the year, your brand will be able to quickly adapt without being set back. We saw a ton of great examples of it in 2020. In March, it took General Motors only 18 days to adjust operations and start contributing to the production of ventilators. We also saw distilleries do this with hand sanitizer, and many other brands quickly adjusting their messaging and operations to help consumers instead of continuing to market at them. Focusing on flexible marketing in 2021 will help your brand become more agile and preserve long term growth, even if there are disruptions.
Increased Digital Activity Is Here to Stay
Last year we saw many businesses go through a digital transformation, and the shift to digital will only accelerate in 2021. In 2020, many brands used digital platforms as a way to fill the void of live events, social gatherings, and travel. This year we will likely see the digital transformation go beyond this and influence the way that marketers obtain and use data, personalization, increased automation, expanding budgets, and tech stacks, etc. While last year was more of a “panic-pivot” to digital, this year it is expected the use of digital platforms and tools will be much more intentional.
We will also see eCommerce continue to expand both online and on mobile. A survey showed that 49 percent of consumers plan to continue shopping mainly online even after the pandemic. This is important for retail, grocery stores, and CPG brands. They have to be ready to continue marketing and selling exclusively online to meet the needs of their consumers that do not yet feel safe going out in public.
Increased Influencer Marketing
The use of brand spokespeople and influencers is another trend that will continue this year. Brands are looking for ways to elevate their campaigns while also delivering authentic content that showcases their values. Finding the right influencer to convey your message is a great way to accomplish that. But, there is an emphasis on the “right” influencer. When it comes to finding a spokesperson for your brand you don’t just want to find the person that has the biggest reach. While reach is important, you also want someone representing your brand that also shares your values. As mentioned earlier, brand accountability is another big marketing trend this year, so finding an influencer that meets the moment is key.
While these are the current predictions for marketing trends in 2021, who knows what will actually happen. Last year was a challenging year for marketers, and there will likely be more challenges this year. The best thing any marketer can do right now is not to plan too far ahead and be ready to make adjustments.