7 Marketing trends of 2021 which you should take into account when creating a strategy

Last year was the year of insights. Everyone had the time to stop and think. This year is the time for moving and approaching heights that seemed too far away in 2019. Last year showed that in every situation there is enough room for flexibility. And if you were attentive enough you may have noticed that the flexible ones were also most human.

But enough about last year. I’m very excited to share with you the marketing trends that in my opinion will be the game changers (some of them are here for a long time, but this year we’ll have the opportunity of seeing them unwrap). Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts, as marketing has already become a lot more playful and dynamic. Behold the 7 marketing trends of 2021.

Becoming a purpose-driven enterprise

In other words, Know your “why”s. Yes, you’ve heard it before. Yes, there is nothing new in that. But think about it. How many brands and companies out there know their purpose? How many of them know who they’re built to serve? The COVID situation was like a litmus paper for all the businesses out there. The ones who know will adapt, no matter what they sell today.

It’s like having something bigger and stronger than all the circumstances. Lifelike, when you have that big goal that brings that sparkle to your eyes every day, no bad weather can be the reason for you to feel down. The true purpose gives organizations this meta observer position, from which things align differently. Usually, hard decisions become easy to make. Having this position, companies can give the best response to any crisis. This response will be aligned with the brand identity and most definitely will be long-term orientated.

Just take a look at the numbers.

You may say that for so many years organizations have been living and doing quite well without a certain purpose. But the fact is that nowadays two global trends suggest organizations can do a lot better than “well”.

How? Firstly, by ensuring their enterprise purpose and CSR initiatives are focused on making the world a better place. Social enterprises are where humanity is going. The perfect combination of profit and social impact. Millennials and Gen Z aren’t supporting enterprises that don’t share their values and most definitely are walking away from those who don’t hold themselves accountable.

Secondly, high hopes are set for businesses. People believe that businesses are the most capable and competent group for solving global issues. Not nonprofit organizations or governments, but businesses (according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveyed 34,000 individuals in 28 global markets).

With such levels of expectations, enterprises that dream big should start somewhere, for example by:

  • ingraining measurement in policies;
  • connecting profit to the purpose;
  • setting KPIs for teams (for example engagement surveys).

But most importantly, stay true to promises made.

Agile marketing

Truth is that the only thing which is for sure is the fact that nothing is for sure. The downturn isn’t something you can ride out by focusing on costs or spending ahead hoping to capture the market share.

User behavior has changed. The user is more digital than ever. Pandemic has played the role of the ultimate catalyzer of the digitization process. Which means that the rooms are getting crowded. Usually, a single person is exposed by anything between 400 and 10,000 advertisements per day, each vying for his/her attention.

It’s physically impossible for the human brain to perceive such an amount of content. Just remember that one time you had to meet up with a friend in a super packed up bar, you didn’t stop to listen to the bar’s noise, you were concentrating on finding your buddy! The same goes with content, it must be relevant, otherwise, it’s noise.

Bringing relevant content is a result partly of creativity and mostly of data-driven insights. The better you understand your customer (as you remember from the first part “knowing who you’re built to serve”), the higher chances you have of bringing in exactly what he/she needs. Real-time delivery, all the time.

Where can one have all the data? This question is getting bigger and bigger, especially taking into account the new privacy regulations. For now, the adequate answer can be customer data platforms. Certainly, the best solution for a company would be creating a CDP on its own. Which will bring an ocean of insights based on the CJMs, which can reveal the key customers’ interactions across the site/app. And with all that providing a relevant real-time marketing solution.
Don’t get frustrated ahead of time. AI is here to save the day *joke about robots taking over the world*. A good example can be Deloitte Digital’s social sensing capabilities forecast. Conversations are headed over the next 72 hours, helping enable organizations to scan conversations in the marketplace, measure consumer sentiment, and predict where those conversations may trend over the coming days. Where can this be implemented? This can be as specific as measuring and predicting sentiment on advertising messages or determining where people who have recovered from COVID-19 may be most open to donating plasma containing antibodies.

Having all the data, marketers should start the conversation. We live in a time where the communications channel variants are numerous. But having in mind the singularity trend which is evolving steadily for years now, we can observe a new formation which can be called a social CRM. What is this? It’s a compilation of different channels that is capable of bringing to the business a “one-on-one” service at scale. When you can not only choose from a relevant to your needs catalog but also can easily book yourself a meeting with a sales representative.

Another interesting example from China, where the cosmetics company Perfect Diary developed a virtual KOL (key opinion leader), Xiao Wanzi, to offer her followers advice on its products and share tutorials on using them in the best way. Part of what makes her so good at her job is that she isn’t real! Perfect Diary developed the virtual persona of Xiao Wanzi to interact with consumers and help set trends in the marketplace.

Implementing agile marketing takes time and…open-mindedness. It starts from the C-suit. And it’s upon you visionary CMOs out there to help the C-suite articulate a vision that brings these tools to life to engage with and respond to customer needs as they develop.

Deeper engagement demand

It was always a game for two, just many organizations didn’t want to live up to this. What goes deeper than engagement? Participation. This is the way to stay ahead of your competitors. Who would leave you if you’re fun to be with in the first place?

Participation has many faces. Starting from ambassadors, influencers and continuing with innovators and collaborators. Low-touch participation can include writing reviews and giving feedback. While active participation represents the more purposeful and involved ways people interact with brands (e.g., co-creation and developing original content). In other words, the future is user-generated. Lego for example has been doing this for years with their “LEGO ideas” contest, where users create the LEGOs they want and the winning idea is brought to life.

Yet again, China took it further with the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), where there are key opinion consumers. Those who had gathered followers thorough knowledge of the brand and not from fame. The platform is built to encourage people to upload video tutorials while others work like search engines that pair people with the most relevant key opinion consumers.

It’s important to understand that participation is highly correlated with age. For instance generation Z’s participation rates can be up to 73% while the rate gradually declines to 42% for people over the age of 45.

The secret ingredient is that people like giving help. When you give them such an opportunity, they are more than motivated. The deeper the participation the higher is the engagement. Go deep not wide. And this strategy is suitable not only for the B2C, but the B2b can also implement some of the nest steps:

  • match your customer journey to the optimal participation platform;
  • nurture and foster customer advocacy and brand loyalty;
  • try pioneering the labs where customers co-create products and services.

The game just got bigger, so make sure to invite your customers to the playground. In the future, we’ll see more and more authentic value-driven content.

Content creators

Content creation will become the most popular profession of the 21st century, as widespread as delivery guys. Almost everyone stimulates the trend. Smartphone manufacturers constantly improve the quality of their cameras and for several years now they have been launching the PRO line aimed at content makers. Developers are investing in content creation tools.

Hundreds of mobile apps that make it easy to create stories are being monetized. Social media drives the generation of user-demanded content by providing bloggers with an audience and reach. TikTok has revolutionized the genre with its extra simple tools and formats, and in particular, generous algorithms with gigantic coverage.

And most importantly, brands, which are hunting the audience’s attention, finance influencers, filling this entire business with money and closing the ecosystem chain. YouTubers, Instagrammers, and Tiktokers who make millions of dollars are emerging as the new heroes and their success stories inspire followers.

A subtrend that enhances the success and scale of the industry is a significant increase in P2P financial support. Donations are becoming a monetization tool for thematic content creators with small audiences. Now, with only 100 subscribers to Patreon, you can make a living only by creating content.

Outsource

All the roads bring us to flexibility. Before COVID-19 there was no such need for outsourcing. Now we see a very different picture. Most businesses preferred in-house workers and to outsource were given certain segments of work.

Taking into account the shortage of specialists, the peculiarities of remote work and regular investments in the retention and development of the team have led to an increase in the owners’ requests for outsourcing marketing tasks based on the “one-stop-shop” principle. They work without a marketer on staff, tasks and control are organized through a project manager, and the client’s team is focused on product, sales, and customer service.

Plus, in the world of globalization and borders erasement outsource isn’t that terrifying anymore. The same goes with the whole work-from-home routine. About the WFH routine, I’ll just add that companies that will successfully combine both models will be more competitive. They will preserve their corporate culture, learn to maintain the required level of creativity and team efficiency, reduce office rental costs and increase employee satisfaction. Manufacturers of comfortable gaming and office chairs and desktops will be able to boost sales through a large new home office segment.

Online education

This one is one of the most obvious trends. With the tech progress, it won’t be long before we’ll be witnessing VR classes, where children will be able to see the countries they are studying in Geography class and who knows what else virtual reality can bring.

Coming back, down to earth. Numbers speak better than words. In 2020, 186 countries closed their schools, and 1.2 billion pupils and students were trapped in virtual classrooms and classrooms. The topic has been very hot for a long time. In 2019, even before covid, $18.6 billion were invested in the Ed-tech sector, and this is not surprising, because by 2025 the online education market is expected to reach $350 billion.

Lockdown has accelerated the growth of all online education projects exponentially, including mobile language learning apps, online course platforms, and video conferencing software. Zoom is used for teaching 17,000 educational institutions, including 10,000 universities in the United States. The Chinese counterpart, DingTalk, had to deploy 100,000 additional servers in the Alibaba Cloud to keep up with the influx of remote students. Of course, the rapid adaptation of online education has highlighted many challenges for the industry.

Among such issues are unequal access to the Internet and technologies among students. The questions about the effectiveness of learning, and reduced motivation. At the same time, some studies show higher education speed and higher attention retention rates. One of the main advantages of online education is the ability to study at an individual pace. The trend will transform government curricula into hybrid models, where the theoretical part is taught online, and the practical part is taught in traditional classrooms.

And from another side has brought up one of the most painful topics for the USA ‒ the university depts. As now many students understand that the university can’t give any facilities, except the zoom conference room. So chances are, we’ll be the last generation to see the American education system like this.

Cybersecurity

Here the pandemic played an even greater role than in all others. As many offline businesses had moved online, the number of internet newbies had increased. Sadly most of them don’t understand the specifics of payment card security, or the importance of two-factor authorization, and have no experience of interacting with phishing sites.

Not only newbies are under cyber attack. If your business operates in the B2B industry and lacks adequate cybersecurity, don’t wait. Strengthen the intranet, firewall, and antivirus and malware solutions for the organization earlier rather than later. In the event of malicious access to your company’s records, it is also good practice to have a dedicated real-world cybersecurity specialist or third-party organization on standby.

While AI in cyberspace is becoming a notable addition, cybersecurity specialists are slowly turning to skilled IT experts for advice on how to protect data. People and groups with malicious intent produce viruses, ransomware, and malware packets more often than not. In 2021, B2B companies with large amounts of data transfers should take into account the hiring of a specialist IT expert (or a small team). This is a strategic step that will ensure that the data of the organization stays protected and under continuous supervision by a specialist qualified to do so.

To sum up, today’s new normal is normal only for today. From now evolving will look much like balancing on a surf. Every second you’ll need to catch the wave. But this is the fun part about it! Let yourselves be more human and more creative. Bring the value you can from where you are now. And remember that it’s never too late to make that pivot!

Author: Daria Kushnir

Editor: Lilly Zaremska

Business growth visionary, people-oriented leader with a passion for knowledge and challenging business cases.