After surviving the past year, one has to wonder if there is even a point to predicting trends for the next year. After all, in 2020 most marketers had to toss their intricate strategies in the trash and quickly pivot to tactics that made more sense during a pandemic.
Despite the fact that many marketers are still figuring out how to execute their new marketing strategies, it’s worth taking a second to reflect on what we learned over the past year and how we think those lessons will impact marketing trends for the coming year. To help us with this, we asked eight of our favorite marketing minds to chime in on the subject.
1. Humanity Makes a Comeback.
In early 2020, marketers everywhere bid adieu to their best laid strategies. But as an industry, we grew. We learned how to collaborate digitally, felt freer to experiment to solve crazy problems, and raised the bar on empathy. Our customers were suffering, and we had to respond. As a result, in 2021 marketers will leap more fearlessly into uncharted waters. I expect marketing leaders to push hard against the boundaries of what is normal. Much of this energy will be directed to personalizing digital engagement to create customer experiences that demonstrate a deep understanding of what motivates, scares, and delights customers. Humanity will make a comeback.
Casey Patrick – Content/Digital Strategist, Fusion Alliance
2. We’ll See Real Transparency. Not the Opaque Kind.
It was no surprise in 2020 that consumers responded with snark or anger to many brands’ statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement—those statements felt hollow, because platitudes and meaningful action never align. Organizations that value justice and progress will do real assessments of their diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, and then put those results out there for feedback: Here’s where we are now, here’s our understanding of the history that got us here, here’s what we believe and who we want to be, and here’s exactly what we’re going to do to change. That’s going to make a lot of us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. That’s OK. Only when we know better can we do better, and real trust and healing can begin.
Amanda Kingsbury, Director of Marketing & Communications, Arts Council of Indianapolis and Co-founder, IndyMaven.com
3. Authentic Content Is Key.
In my opinion, 2020 showed us that everything isn’t totally reliant on the production value or budget of content. I think more folks will feel more comfortable creating content in whatever way they can. We saw so many companies and brands release ads that solely consisted of Zoom interviews and user-generated content using smartphones. People learned to look past all the glitz and glamour and started honing in on exactly what the message was. This opens up the door for content that in many ways relates and speaks to the viewer and feels more authentic. Of course, there is a time and place for things to be produced at a certain level, but 2020 has given many people the confidence to use their voice in whatever way they feel is necessary.
Juwann Nelson, Filmmaker/Content Creator, Legacy Canvas Films
4. Thoughtful and Intentional Storytelling.
Everyone loves a good story, especially one that inspires us or one that teaches us something. 2020 was the year that so many businesses and agencies made a commitment to fight racism in our communities and stand up against racial injustice. We all read the press releases, social media posts, newsletter columns, etc. So many of them even listed out action items and made a commitment to a more diverse workplace. In 2021, I believe we will hear a lot of thoughtful and intentional storytelling that allows agencies to share the positive impact they have made in their workplace or community. Thoughtful and intentional storytelling allows every brand to have many good stories and not just one. This also allows brands to really think about storytelling from different voices and perspectives.
Sara Hindi, Community Engagement Coordinator, Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc.
5. Back to Brand Development.
The pandemic changed most everyone’s typical day-to-day routines. Hopefully, that break from the norm allowed marketers time to get away from all the tactics and really focus on brand strategy. Are we building a brand or searching for transactions? No matter what you are trying to do or who you are trying to reach, you need context, creativity, and consistency (with your brand and your tactics). Getting back to brand development will be important in 2021.
Bryan Kryder, Co-Owner, RightHand
6. Emphasis on Connectivity and Empathy.
2020 taught marketers a lot of things—how to adapt quickly, communicate differently, message creatively, but the most important has been a growing emphasis on genuine connection and empathy. And consumers and companies will align with brands who show more of it in 2021. Now more than ever, consumers want to be understood, and with more time on their hands this past year at home to browse and research, they are even more selective over who they do business with. They want open communication and authenticity, they want brands who share triumphs and failures, they want to know your mission and story before making a purchase. Whether you’re in B2C or B2B, take a step back to understand your audience—their hopes, fears, pain points, motivations, passions—and speak to those in every aspect of your customer journey. Align your content and story with theirs. Make your marketing more about them, and less about you.
Molly Horstmann, Director of Marketing, SupplyKick
2021 is the year that CEOs and CFOs look more closely at their go-to-market organizations. There is a lot of budget and revenue allocated to Customer Success, Marketing, Partnerships, and Sales. These groups also own key metrics that can make or break a Quarter. And at the board level, churn rates, revenue performance, and pipeline coverage are all scrutinized. 2021 is the year that the Go-to-Market organizations have to align, collaborate, set shared priorities, and deliver as a team. If 2020 has taught us anything, there will be more obstacles, surprises, and new ideas to overcome in 2021. GTM teams––take note.
Daniel Incandela – Chief Marketing Officer, Terminus
8. Bite-Sized (Creative) Content is Key.
Our attention spans aren’t increasing in 2021. We’ll see many businesses continue, or increase, their creative game to grab attention, particularly in video form. We’ll see more companies utilize Instagram and Facebook Stories, begin to dabble with Fleets, and possibly create a TikTok account. Like the ones mentioned, most content platform tools have duration limits starting at just 15 seconds. The thing to keep in mind when creating content is getting to the punch line quickly and in a way that will get the audience to stop scrolling.
Jara Rowe, Digital Marketing Manager, TechPoint