The marketing world we once knew is gone. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of certain marketing trends and approaches, as well as the decline of old-fashioned and no-longer-effective methods of business communications and strategy. As we flip the calendar to 2021, The Pollack Group’s team of marketing and communications experts tell us what they expect to happen in the new year.
1. Online Features are the Priority
Because physical interactions and retail had to close or pivot to more geographically distant strategies, businesses will likely consider online or physically distant opportunities from the very start. They will also proactively need to consider virtual transactions right from the beginning of interactions and, in the case of physical retailers, they will have to set their sights on online stores. In contrast, consultants will start selling online classes in tandem with their consultancy work and be ready to pivot to virtual interactions at a moment's notice.
2. Subscription Fatigue Hits Consumers, But They Will Buy Bulk
Now that every media production empire offers its exclusive streaming service, users are overwhelmed with the obligation to subscribe to services with which they are not fully on board. This means that if a user only uses 10% of services from a business, they'll most likely be turned off from subscribing to the full suite offered by a business and having to pay for services they do not need. Bulk discounts or pre-paid services will seem a better option to consider. If committing to a monthly membership is difficult, paying for just three months upfront at a time, may be preferable.
3. Social Issues Will be at the Forefront
In an environment where silence is equated with being complicit with the status quo, businesses will no longer be able to be bystanders on social issues. The year 2020 was marked by one of the largest social awakenings in memory, triggered by the public murder of George Floyd. Several companies were quick to dust off statements condoning racism, straight out of the “PR playbook.” Following, these vague playbook statements, there was a negative public rebuke. In scathing criticism, the public-at-large insisted that unless companies were willing to share and commit to improving the diversity of both their c-suites and company makeups, their words had no value.
4. Dissolution of the Conglomerates (At Least in Appearance)
Most American consumers have tired of the empires of the world's biggest consumer companies: Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. But they don't want to admit that they can't live without them. Businesses will opt for more direct offerings of goods and services, even though they'll still have to carry out the transactions with Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc.
5. Brands Will Rely on Influencer Marketing for Authenticity
Pre-2020, brands used influencer marketing to drive awareness within their target audience. However, this year there was a shift in how brands communicate and share their messaging with consumers, especially with Gen Z. To rebuild trust and loyalty from particular audiences, brands will need to continue to rely on influencer marketing to connect with consumers, but with a caveat to focus on delivering brand messaging more authentically.
6. Brands Actually Shouldn’t Take Themselves Too Seriously
The brands that resonate with consumers right now are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously. So, in 2021, piggyback on this winning strategy and give people “a port in the storm” so they can smile, laugh, and forget about the severe issues going on in our very serious world. It’s okay to relax a little.
7. Communicate Direct-to-Consumer
Brands and companies will find themselves in a ceaseless hard news cycle. Unless a brand is making news about something relevant to current events, it will be challenging to breakthrough. Additionally, 2020 changed the way consumers interact and trust the media, influencers, and social media information. They are less inclined to consume news about a brand or program and rely more on the news media for hard news. Still, communications in 2021 will be made more directly with the consumer. Creative and engaging virtual interactions and experiential VR and AR programs will still win the day for the first half of 2021. They can be amplified on social media to propel them through paid social media to reach audiences effectively.
8. Honesty Is The Best Social Media Policy
Brands seek relatability recognize that social media is a great platform for it. On social media, companies created goodwill in 2020 by being honest about their business challenges, about the causes they believed in and about what they are doing to help their employees and their communities get through in a difficult time. Social media has given brands an opportunity for open, first-hand conversations with their customers. There will always be the angry commentators but being authentic on social media continues to be an incredible way to create new fans and turn existing fans into superfans.
9. Brands and Companies Should Inspire Hope
2020 was universally reviled. In 2021, we enter into an era of healing and hope as we work together to repair communities. Communication during this time should be about hope. Cynicism on one end of the spectrum, or empty inauthentic promotion on the other, will not resonate. Instead, brands and companies need to key into making their communities better in a real and tangible way. They need to use empathy with audiences, find out what they need, and deliver on that. Communications programs dedicated to helping lift communities will resonate.
10. Meaningful Connections Using Interactive Content on Social Platforms
With more people finding themselves bored at home and scrolling through social media as a way of biding away their time, brands have the opportunity to use their followers as ambassadors for their cause. Marketing professionals must work with clients to creatively strategize tactics to integrate more user-interactive content into their platforms. This includes trends, filters, and even virtual reality content that can be accessed easily from a smartphone. Brands will need to make up for the disconnect sowed in 2020. Cultivating meaningful relationships with an audience in an authentic way, is the answer.
11. Brands and Companies Will Need to Find Relevance
Pre-2020 communications tactics will not work the same in a post-2020 world. The world has entered a significant transition, and the long-term effects of that will only start to become apparent over the next year. Sociopolitical currents will override almost everything else. To be successful, brands and companies must find ways to be relevant to their stakeholders and consumers during this time by establishing meaningful interactions and finding solutions that meet their needs. Companies will need to find ways to help, to make a difference, and to lift their communities.