Global trends shaping marketing in 2021: Part 2

Thought Leadership
What will be the most significant trends to impact marketing in 2021?

Following yesterday’s blog post, our remaining global leaders from around the world share their thoughts on the trends that will shape marketing, and social media, over the coming year.

Conscious social
Roberto Collazos Garcia, Managing Director, Munich and Berlin
In 2020, it became clear just how much the socially-conscious generation (and future Generation Alpha) affects brands, politics and society as a whole. Going forward, companies need to be paying more attention to key issues – such as mental health and social justice – if they want to remain relevant in 2021. Over the coming months, we’ll start to see brands reposition themselves, moving from marketing methods to more cause-oriented messaging; but socially-conscious marketing is not a rush job. Brands that act superficially will inevitably fail when they are caught by consumers, while those brands that act authentic and address important issues will grow with new generations of users. To achieve this on social, marketers must start thinking beyond the generalisation of Gen Z and Millennials, to create a brand that focuses on building a community of like-minded individuals.

Virtual products for the “on-camera” world
Gabriele Cucinella, Stefano Maggi and Ottavio Nava, Co-founders and CEOs, Milan and Madrid
With people globally facing recurring lockdowns at home, brands are increasingly shaping their products and services to reflect this. Buying products online, including via social media, has become the main – and safest – way to make purchases. One of the areas that has been impacted is the virtual products people can buy while gaming – from clothes to extra lives or powers – and how it has become a normal activity even for casual (or mobile) gamers. It’s also influencing behaviors on non-gaming platforms. Some physical products can now be replaced by virtual ones: cosmetics and apparel firms for example can enter this new environment by creating virtual-only product lines. With virtual meetings and calls continuing for the foreseeable future, both in people’s work routines and when they want to interact safely from their houses, in 2021 virtual limited editions will become the new normal for a growing number of brands.

Buying is now a social act!
Sandrine Plasseraud, CEO and Founder, Paris
From train tickets reserved through chatbots to swimsuits bought via InstaShop, social selling is now everywhere in our connected lives and has profoundly changed purchasing behaviours forever. Consumers have now perfectly integrated social media into their purchasing process – from research and reviews to sharing their brand experiences, and as such, we’ve already begun to see a number of new behaviours emerge, including the rise of in-app payments, sharing the purchasing experiences through live streaming, and ‘trying before you buy’ via new immersive media, such as VR headsets and AR filters. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated this growth, pointing out the limits of traditional commerce and the need for brands to reimagine the customer purchase journey with influencer marketing and innovative on-platform purchasing solutions in mind. But as we head into 2021, this is something we can expect to see grow, as brands continue to reshape shopping for this new hybrid world.

The rise of reliable idols 
Jim Coleman, CEO, London
In 2020, influencers have been placed under a microscope. Irresponsible behaviour and actions like breaking stay-at-home orders or spreading misinformation around Covid-19 were not tolerated by social media users. This has led to people being more discerning about who they follow, and why. They’re searching for reliable idols – a trend we covered in our 2021 Think Forward report. For brands, it’s impacted the way they work with talent – integrity is important, not just reach. We’re already seeing this come into play. The NHS and UK Government recently announced they’d be working with ‘sensible’ celebrities and influencers in their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. In this landscape, the influencers brands work with will increasingly serve as shorthand for the kinds of values the brand itself upholds and people may even expect greater transparency around who brands are working with and why. In 2021, influencers will need to do more than look good – they’ll need to prove they’re worth their place in the feed. 

Socialising learning
Alberto Pachano, Managing Director, Madrid
Education during lockdown has been one of the biggest challenges of 2020. Families, parents, kids, teachers, schools: we’ve all suffered. But what if social was the next thing for learning? What if the new `just-for-learning’ platforms (or derivatives of existing platforms) are the new – and right – solution to take education to the next level? Kids have been educated using the same methodology for around 300 years, and in 2020, we’ve only sought to replicate that experience on screen. But think of kids in rural or remote areas getting the same education as any other kid in a city, or classes existing in a digital and socially-empowered multicultural environment at the same time for kids all around the world. We already know a huge amount of jobs can be done almost entirely remotely, so why not education too? I can’t say that 2021 will be the year this happens to its fullest (I hope it will), but I definitely think it’s something that will start rising after the ‘lessons’ we’ve learned.

Open source creativity 
Coby Shuman, Managing Director, Toronto
Creative collaboration isn’t completely new, but the interaction between creative and community is intensifying at an incredible pace. Lockdown has accelerated content demands and creators have heroically responded with smart, collaborative content formats. The process of content creation is becoming even more communal through the removal of gatekeepers, the democratization of tools and the fluidity of remixing what’s already out there. Social feeds across most major platforms are increasingly becoming a place to co-create, not just for passive consumption. The brands who will win in 2021 are those that disrupt their community management mindset. They can foster creativity amongst their own communities, using followers and their conversations to directly inspire content from other advocates. Forward-thinking brands will move away from traditional influencer models to a creator mindset, bringing together creatives to make content for one another, and with one another.

The end of ‘Big Social’?
Benjamin Arnold, Managing Director, New York
Throughout 2020, we saw unprecedented – yes, that word again – challenges being brought against ‘Big Social’ in the US; from FTC inquiries and lawsuits to multiple Senate hearings, and the politicized Section 230 debate. Add in some monumental populace movements – for example, public reaction to Netflix’s Social Dilemma – and we have what amounts to a historic year of attention on social. The outcome of this, to generalize, has been provocations that could realistically alter the structure and hierarchy of the social landscape as we currently know it. Putting aside any potential legal or regulatory implications, for marketers and for consumers there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about these potential changes. For one, an unwound marketplace increases opportunities for more emerging platforms. This, in turn, would lead to greater competitiveness and more innovation, as platforms compete for users and ad dollars. We’ve seen this already with TikTok’s emergence as a serious media player in 2020, and more platforms could similarly benefit in 2021.