12 January 2021

Predicting 2021’s key marketing trends

Expert comment
This month marks the beginning of a new year – and while most of us will be glad to leave 2020 behind, it has inspired some exciting changes that we can carry with us into the future

There’s no doubt that the events of last year are influencing the marketing trends of 2021, so join us as we explore the exciting developments that lie ahead.

Challenging creativity

Creativity thrives without boundaries – or so we thought. It turns out that a year filled with limitations has actually given way to the most inspiring campaigns in some time. Rakesh Patel from Spotify says…

The challenging environment around us this year has led to incredible creativity and innovation.

Without the ability to travel, meet up and make new footage, companies have (quite literally) had to look closer to home for their content. Tesco told comforting ‘Food Love Stories’, Uber flipped the script and thanked customers for not riding, and Apple focused on all the possibilities that exist between our own four walls… and this turned out to be just the beginning of a huge transformation in ad trends.

While the above brands chose to hone-in on the theme of staying at home, others broke free from any physical confines by creating audio campaigns. Beauty brand NARS adapted to the shift in shopping habits with their voice-activated ad on Spotify, allowing listeners to order samples of their makeup products simply by interacting with their Smart Speaker. And aside from these innovative uses of audio technology, audio is a medium that allows creativity to really thrive. With copy, voice and music all inviting real ingenuity, it represents a triple threat – so we can expect to see many more businesses use sound to flex their creative muscles this year.

 

Connecting with customers

If there’s one thing most of us have taken from 2020, it’s the importance of human connection. Just as in personal life, consumers now want stronger connections with the companies they choose to invest in. This trend is part of what led to global snacking brand Mondelez to announce their move to ‘humaning’ – a new marketing approach focused on human connection. While it may be a made up word that’s received a lot of backlash, the aim behind the term is more than valid, and so many brands are working to bring more of this personal authenticity to their approach. Using data to provide a personal service is one way to do this. Though this strategy seems like a good start – with 91% of customers more likely to choose a brand offering personalisation – brands will have to dig even deeper in order to form the kind of authentic connection consumers are now craving.

Burger King is one such brand that’s been using their platform to bring people together during this time. Their recent #WhopperandFriends campaign began with a surprising plea for customers to order from rival restaurants like McDonalds and KFC in a bid to support staff across all local chains – and they strengthened this showcase of solidarity by promoting independent restaurants to their 328,000-strong Instagram following, alongside the message “there’s more to life than the Whopper”.

 

Contributing to a better world

With authenticity comes a demand for accountability. A Wunderman Thompson Intelligence survey found that 85% of young people believe brands should be about more than profit, and that 80% think they should directly help make people’s lives better. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that long-established names have had to rethink their strategy in recent years, and that new businesses are often propelled to success by taking a stance on important world issues.

2020 in particular was a memorable year for businesses committing to change. Patagonia continued their fight against climate change, Bobbi Brown empowered women through career training,

Coca-Cola joined the Facebook boycott, and Ben and Jerry’s spoke out against white supremacy. And as a generation of changemakers grow into decisionmakers, questioning the status-quo is set to become second nature. Brands will have to take a stand on important social, political and environmental matters if they are to find their feet in 2021, and speaking out on multiple platforms – including the telephone – will be a fundamental way to promote consumer loyalty.

 

Combining old and new technologies

Many businesses had little choice but to embrace a more digital way of working in 2020, and it’s driven significant changes across the media landscape. In this relatively short period of time, brands like Ulta have temporarily moved away from TV, radio and print, and focused their attention on streaming, digital and social media – and this flexible approach to ad spend has become a more permanent fixture for the beauty brand.

We’re not going back to the traditional thoughts about timelines and who needs to be where for what when we think about creative.

Meanwhile, other, older tech revelations were being brought back to life in order to help businesses navigate new regulations. The humble QR code has become a necessity in the hospitality and retail sector, giving consumers a contact-free way to check in, read menus and much more. Fashion brand American Eagle Outfitters now uses this technology to provide an express styling and collection service that doesn’t even require customers to enter the store – and it’s just one of many examples that’s revolutionising how we shop and socialise today.

From drive-in cinemas to innovative apps, 2020 has been a time for embracing the potential of tech old and new – and this is something we can take with us into 2021. While many businesses are naturally focused on the next best thing, it’s important not to overlook the tools that got us here. 65% of consumers still prefer to contact a company via telephone, so anyone hoping to hone their customer service strategy should consider devoting significant resource to call routing and audio content. And as adoption of cloud telephony continues to rise, we can look forward to seeing the caller experience reach new levels of creativity, engagement and efficiency.

It’s hard to foresee exactly what direction brands will take in the coming year, but if one thing’s for certain, audio is going to play a fundamental part in bringing authenticity, creativity and innovation to fruition.

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