The Trends That Will Impact Marketing in 2021 [Part One]


Social distancing has reduced the spread of COVID-19, but lockdowns and isolation have also aggravated or created other health and well-being concerns. In a new study from the Mayo Clinic, investigators found a significant increase in loneliness and decreased feelings of friendship during the pandemic. So, it’s no wonder the trends for 2021 will reflect people first. After all, we are humans, serving humans.

This three-part series will examine the trends we think will impact marketing in 2021 and why they matter.

  1. Marketing with Purpose
    In an ongoing pandemic environment, many organizations are navigating a new reality. Their products and services may not have the same market position they had before the outbreak. Having a clear understanding of “why” your brand exists, and who it is built to serve, will create enhanced community connections and increase your customer loyalty.

Why it Matters:
Consumers are taking note of brands that connect their business role in society to its long-term value. In Deloitte’s survey of 2,447 global consumers, 79% of respondents recalled instances of brands positively responding to COVID-19 to help their customers, workforces and communities.

We can look at a few recent Super Bowl spots to see how this trend is manifesting — Chipotle, “Can a Burrito Change the World?” DoorDash, “The Neighborhood,” and the unforgettable Toyota, “Upstream” spot featuring Paralympian Jessica Long.

What we are watching:
Bringing the “why” to brand purpose can unlock creativity, inspire employees and create differentiation by building an emotional connection with consumers. Shift your long-standing corporate policies to better support the workforces that drive your business. Develop specific KPIs to ensure your brand lives out its promise to link profit to purpose.

  1. Trust
    Messaging should be based on what people value — and not their demographic. Trust is achieved when what is promised is what is delivered.

Why it matters:
When gaps between what is promised and what is delivered exist, trust is eroded, and your bottom line suffers. According to a Deloitte survey, people were highly attuned to the negative actions brands took during the pandemic, with 66% recalling when brands acted in their own self-interest (e.g., raising prices on essential items). Perhaps, though, the biggest loser was the bottom line as more than one in four respondents strongly agreed that such actions spurred them to walk away from the brand in question.

What we are watching:
“Actions speak louder than words.” This old adage is even truer today. Ensure that your message matches your ability to deliver. Over-promising and under-delivering is outdated — your brand simply can’t get away with it any longer. Marketers must be transparent in their intentions and reliable in their fulfillment.

  1. Human Connections

Making authentic connections is now more critical than speed-to-market or efficiency. When an organization designs its future based only on efficiency, a debt accrues when no consideration is given to human connection. This debt manifests in bias and lack of inclusivity.

Why it matters:

Relationships matter! Recognition, retention and loyalty are created through ongoing relationships. Addressing the most pressing customer needs requires deliberate organizational planning and continued commitment to staying the course.

What we are watching:

John Steinbeck, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, eloquently wrote, “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” At its core, empathy can equip you with perspective.

This dynamic change requires a highly personalized customer experience that aligns with how they want to do business. To do this requires good data and flawless execution. Consumers are connected all the time and want to access your products and services when it is convenient to them. They also desire choice, for example, in-store and online shopping — with curbside pick-up or delivery. Bottom line, they want what works best for them.

Check back next week when we explore three more trends for 2021.