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André Jacques
Opinion
André Jacques

Are current marketing trends wicked or virtuous?

marketing trends 2021

Every year, discussing marketing trends is as common as putting a little extra in your stocking, yet, this year, it’s a jack-in-the-box kind of present.

As we reach the end of, perhaps, the most eccentric year of our lives, it becomes exceedingly more vital to check the marketing trends and reflect on the upcoming. By now, everyone is asking themselves the same question:

To what extent will our future attitudes and behaviors be fundamentally influenced by what we lived throughout this year?

This is a reasonable question because many past impacting events were thought to change for good the way we live. For instance, the airline industry is affected now and then by a black swan event like 9/11. Back then, many anticipated that we’d no longer travel as much as we used to. However, reality proved otherwise, and as soon as confidence returns, the airliners that managed to stay solvent will experience steep growth once again, just like it happened many times before.

Conversely, the subprime crisis was not only predictable, as avoidable. We could have learned not to fall into it again; nonetheless, we’re making the same mistakes again, and if it weren’t a virus bringing all this mess, it could very well be the second wave of a financial crisis.

The point is that, although we may keep past events fresh in our memories, the new normal, once wickedness is gone, is not that often so different than the old normal. That’s the reason why we must look at current trends with a grain of salt because they may very well be swiped away once the facemasks are stored in the back of the drawer.

Still, the exercise is worth making, especially when we’re aware that the virtuosity of such trends will be proof-tested in the upcoming months. Moreover, if the selection below has previous prevalency, that it is now heightened and can eventually endure or perchance stronger than ever.

5 marketing trends to keep in mind for 2021

Altogether, the more concomitantly the marketing trends are to humanity, to the understanding of human beings by putting them in the center of every brand and business decision, the more durable they are.

Purpose

The first trend is Purpose, based on the deep understanding of why a business is a business or why a given brand exists. It’s fair to question if this is a trend or a license to operate. Well, it’s both, and the only reason why it’s a growing trend is that every business today is more often faced with the same wake-up call: will we last? Are we worth what we sell or what we do for the common good?

When the answer is known, a business or a brand is delivering its emotional benefit. It can be building a community, inspiring others to thrive in a particular field, standing up for the right values, or being active against wrongdoing. There are many options, but those facing adversity, rooted in a strong purpose, know precisely how to behave in every stance.

[Consumers] change their perception and, in the end, their purchase behavior towards brands that take positive actions.

Consumers reward brands with a purpose because they change their perception and, in the end, their purchase behavior towards brands that take positive actions. Furthermore, they punish more severely those who take negative actions by converting more to changed perceptions and negative purchase behavior.

Agility

The second is Agility, which is strongly correlated to the adoption of digital technologies even more. One of the buzzwords that have triggered paradoxical reactions and many may have heard: “if anyone mentions the word agile once more, I’ll punch his face!” Agility has been so often said that it can become annoying. But one thing is for sure, the brands that prospered during this year were the ones that more quickly adapted their business.

Everyone uses digital technologies more. It’s inevitable. It will not go away that easily because the need has knocked down most barriers that may have still been there. More impressively, many people became more educated about digital technologies. Design and Service play a more critical role in this story because a brand can win by delivering better interfaces and experiences. The big players grew and improved click-to-door times. E-commerce exploded, and many brands sold more than they used to in their physical stores (those who haven’t been whining about the virus).

In sum, screen time, video game sales, web traffic, e-payments, digital subscriptions, and even B2B Account-Based Marketing are booming. Markets soon will accurate this for sure (some receding will happen most likely in 2021), but the humans got it now and will very unlikely drop it.

Digital Anthropology

The third is Digital Anthropology, not from an academic perspective, but in the de facto relationship between humans through virtual means. Who could imagine that we’d replace commuting hours and intercontinental traveling with Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, and Houseparty?

Zoom jumped from 10 million daily users to over 200 million in just one month. Likewise, some data suggest that during the lockdown, mobile downloads of Houseparty grew 87 times faster than downloads of the mobile Zoom app, suggesting the growth was far from Zoom-isolated. Video chat (or meeting) is increasing across every demographic, and the key motivator is not business but emotion! Users opt for a video to feel closer to others. In the market research field, the unthinkable is becoming a reality: digital ethnography!

Remote work is now not just encouraged by companies as it’s also subsidized in many ways. The aftermath of this global experiment is far from being known. But this is perhaps the trend that is more difficult to assess its virtuosity or wickedness.

Contribution

The fourth is Contribution, which can be seen in two ways: in content and business. It refers to engagement and how people’s active or passive influence determines brands’ influence when it relates to the content.

Writing reviews, sharing experiences, providing feedback, or discuss what a brand does, is something that we all end up doing, sometimes. We can all influence others’ attitudes and behaviors toward a brand, more or less through our contributions. More actively, brands can invite people to co-create and develop content (and products) for them. This is growing intensively, and marketers are increasingly incorporating it in their strategies and tactics.

Talking about Contribution from a business perspective is acknowledging that the sharing-economy is heavily suffering. Security concerns have put peer-to-peer accommodation and transport in a precarious situation, challenging its survivability. Nevertheless, some exceptions can be found, such as the rise of Shef, a New York platform dedicated to home cooking on demand. Any house can turn into a cloud kitchen, and anyone can become a chef, as long as they follow specific terms and conditions.

This is one of the living proofs that the new economy is prospering fast. The focus may be different, but still, new ventures emerge. This type of entrepreneurship is here to stay despite the bumpy ride.

Talent

The fifth and last is Talent, the key differentiator for an ever-changing competitive landscape. In the old days of marketing, hammering consumers’ heads with jingles and humor, babies, and cute animals, a scent of eroticism, were half-recipes of success. Today, marketers are strategic thinkers in any organization, and their role has witnessed an overwhelming change. Nobody can sustainably master a skill because the reality in a digital world is fluid and ever-changing. Knowledge has decreasing obsolescence, and skills must be continuously renewed and recycled. Not to mention the need for dexterity: managing current so masterfully well as the new and upcoming.

More than a digital transformation, companies need a talent transformation.

More than a digital transformation, companies need a talent transformation, and at the center of the vortex that is sucking everyone in is marketing. Of course, there are limits to what humans can do, and the best way for marketers to position themselves is to understand where there’s a need for people and where there’s not. The incorporation of artificial intelligence and automation in marketing activities can still seem vague or distant to many, but while living in a digital Darwinism era, there’s no other option. Humans’ talent and the talent of machines combined are the business and brand evolution that will determine who will be here in the upcoming decades and who will be not.

Marketing trends usually come in longer lists and refer to concrete activities. In this case, the intent is to trigger the discussion about the overarching drives that push businesses and brands forward. It’s not the author’s intention, though, to meet a collective agreement on such trends. Some seem pretty wicked anyhow, and who knows if they’ll prevail past the imminent vaccination times? And discussions are definitely here to stay in the digital setting. To start with, what’s your view about the challenging question posed right after the first paragraph?

André Jacques

Global Executive, Marketer, and Innovator who delivers consistent success in building, growing and improving the profitability, performance, and value of organizations within the global consumer and FMCG environments. Positions companies for the next level of growth through in-depth partnership development and trust-building approach. Leads units through motivational and collaborative management, building and retaining highly functional teams. Formulates a progressive and bold vision based on lessons learned and industry best-practices, with the capability to see through the clutter and react appropriately.

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