Looking Forward: Emerging Marketing Trends of 2021

2020 has no doubt been a tumultuous year for businesses and agency partners. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have brought on unprecedented obstacles ranging from brick and mortar store closures to budget slashes and event cancellations. Social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions have created an understanding of a “new normal”, bringing about changes in consumer behaviour that are likely to last even after this period of uncertainty. Whether it be the increasing relevance of social commerce or the throwback tactic of nostalgia marketing, here are the top emerging trends to look out for in a year of marketing amidst the “new normal”.

1. Purpose-Driven Activism

While buying behaviour has always been influenced by brand aesthetics and value propositions, the 2021 consumer wants more than just a good product. Research shows that 90% of Gen Z consumers believe companies must act to help social and environmental issues and 75% will do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues. By the end of 2020, Gen Z is expected to account for 40% of consumers, and their buying power will only increase in the future. Looking forward, successful brands will be those who use their voice to advocate for the consumer as well for society as a whole.

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2. Staying Connected

Having been separated and distanced for most of 2020, 2021 will see a natural increase in the desire to stay connected, digitally or otherwise (if the situation permits). Hyper-commercialized brands will falter in comparison to those who pay attention to the value of human connection, and interactive content will gain popularity to satisfy consumers’ fundamental needs for social connection and belonging.

3. Nostalgia Marketing

You can’t move forwards without looking back, and the emerging trend of nostalgia marketing proves that the past can come in handy when you’re looking to stand out in 2021. Described as the advertising equivalent of comfort food, nostalgia marketing uses the familiarity of the old to sell the innovation of the new - all the while also contributing to consumer wellbeing through emotive messaging of interconnectedness, comfort, and purpose. Given the instability of 2020, nostalgia marketing gives consumers a hopeful outlook for 2021 and satisfies a longing for simpler times.

4. Rise of Social Commerce

In line with the timely launch of the Instagram Shop tab, social commerce is the newest rival (or accomplice!) to e-commerce, and becomes the perfect culmination of existing trends of influencer marketing or online shopping. As online and social commerce becomes more and more marketable, brands should step up and stay relevant by curating an Instagram shopping experience that strategically and visually aligns with their existing sales channels.

5. Authentic UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is any content — videos, images, reviews — created by customers or users, rather than by the brands themselves. Despite the undeniable importance of brand content creation, UGC is proven to far outperform brand-created content due to its appeal of authenticity and relatability. When social media is increasingly saturated with ads, brand content and sponsored posts, UGC provides a much-needed authentic representation of ordinary people, lifestyles and experiences.

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6. Brick & Click

Online sales boomed during 2020 when street footfall was low. Moving into 2021, no brand can afford to be offline as the retail industry moves from brick and mortar to “brick and click” - an omnichannel experience allowing customers to shop both online or in store. The normalisation of online shopping calls for brands to seamlessly integrate in-store and online experiences and create cohesive customer journeys for all available retail channels.

Final Thoughts

Planning for 2021 may seem daunting, but the onslaught of 2020 has also created new opportunities in the form of brand activism, social commerce, nostalgia marketing and more. As brands and businesses move into the uncharted territory of the new year, it is more important than ever for marketers, strategists and brands to have a firm understanding of key emerging trends in consumer behaviour that will define the marketing landscape of 2021.

Looking to plan your brand’s PR and marketing strategy for 2021? Feel free to send us an email to discuss how we can help your brand succeed in the “new normal”.