Marketing Trends 2021

How 2020 Has Changed Marketing

We all know that 2020 brought around some profound changes in virtually all spheres of business, and in life in general. These changes are setting trends for marketing in 2021. Here we run through the key ones, as we see it…



Even more advertising dollars are shifting away from outdoor and print to digital media as many people continue to work from home and spend more time looking at their devices than Digital Outdoor or billboards. It’s more important than ever that every dollar is going as far as possible and that we, as marketing and communications professionals, are getting the best value from our budget. Digital media is much easier to measure than traditional media and – to paraphrase Peter Drucker – if you can measure it then you can manage it.

But it’s not only about going digital in marketing terms. 2020 forced many companies into changing their whole business models and restructuring their entire operations to ensure their survival. According to McKinsey, one European retailer built a functioning ecommerce platform in just 13 weeks. Digitalisation provides a speed to market that’s crucial in quick revenue recovery for brands finding their way out of an economic downturn.


Media consumption preferences

Unsurprisingly, 2020 saw a huge change in media consumption in step with the global public’s day-to-day lifestyles. For Australia, Nielsen reported an increase of 52% for people accessing news via their mobile devices, with the US seeing an incredible 215% increase. Social media has become one of the most common channels, while video content has been on the rise. Research by Global WebIndex shows that social media users are now spending 2 hours and 24 minutes a day multi-networking across an average of 8 social media platforms and messaging apps. As ever, to get the best results for their marketing efforts, brands need to understand where their audience is spending most of their time and tailor their marketing mix accordingly.



Global recession spares no one. And that goes for both B2C and B2B sectors.

People are losing their jobs. Unemployment rates are soaring. And those who are more lucky and have work, still have to learn to manage their personal and family budget more carefully. It’s the same story for businesses. Many businesses have had to pull down shutters, metaphorically or literally. And those that are managing to weather the storm, are challenged by the global economic crisis. This has led them to become cautious, cost-conscious and selective. So the purchase process is now more rational than emotional. In the time when every dollar counts, brands should have a laser-sharp focus on their clients’ needs and communicate the real value and benefits of their products.


Marketing with purpose

2020 was hit hard by multiple crises at once: the COVID-19 pandemic, a global economic recession, a climate emergency and the massive racial justice movement, to name a few. Concerned people expect action not only from each other and the government, but also from brands. More and more consumers prefer to purchase from brands that are not indifferent but instead take a stand: those that support climate action, donate a part of their profit to charities, operate as a fairtrade business and promote diversity and inclusion. Brands that are more socially-conscious, in other words.


Small but deadly

Increased online media consumption during the lockdown has resulted in much shorter attention span of users. For marketers it means that if the message doesn’t catch the viewers’ attention within the first few seconds, they will most likely skip to the next piece of content. So, the message must be concise, delivered quickly and captivating.


Long format content

The decreased attention span is also an issue impacting long format educational content. Written pieces, such as blogs, articles and whitepapers are taking a backseat and are giving way to audio-visual formats. Webinars, videos and live streams are more engaging, easier to consume, and help creators establish personal connection with their audience. The irony is not lost on this author!


Visual content

Different forms of audio-visual content have become more genuine and relatable. While studio production was not an option, even big brands switched to creating home-based content, and this set up a new trend. What previously would be considered “unprofessional” or “low quality”, had become a new norm over the months of lockdowns around the world. We are not surprised to see corporate videos filmed in the spare bedroom, interviews conducted over zoom and podcasts recorded over a phone call. In terms of relatable remote working scenarios though, Apple nailed it with its “The whole working-from-home thing”.


E-commerce. Online shopping

Online shopping has been on the rise in 2020. Both as a necessity, because shops have been closed, and as a form of leisure and entertainment. To better resonate with customers, online stores picked up the trend and used new ways to display their products online.

A great example of this is the merchandising in online apparel stores. Have a look at how ASOS shifted from classic studio model shoots to selfies taken on a smartphone in an everyday environment, replicating how their target customers take pictures of themselves to share their styles on social media.


Marketing for the future

The extent to which these trends stick will be closely monitored by marketers and brands over the coming months and it will be interesting to see what becomes business as usual. While none of us knows exactly what this is going to look like, we do know that things will not go back to the way they were. Marketers will have to monitor trends, adjust their strategy and invest in the things that matter, all whilst building agility into their company that sets them up for success in the world that emerges.

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