The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it significant disruption impacting industries and markets across the world, while also paving the way for change in technology and consumer experiences.
At the same time, long-standing social issues around race, gender, and culture sparked movements in cities around the globe demanding more diversity, equality and inclusion.
All of these things have pushed industries to evolve in some way, shape, or form to meet the realities of today’s consumers, employees, and brands in what we consider the “new normal.” Based on all of these changes, here are three brand key marketing predictions for 2021:
1. Consumers will see through virtue signalling
According to a Designers blog written by Micah Bowers, brand virtue signalling is an effort by a business to demonstrate their “high moral standing” by offering opinions on political and social issues that are likely agreeable to others (or align with their values)—but often “with little or no intent to act on said opinions.”
Think with Google listed this issue among its 2021 predictions for marketing: that consumers will see through any inauthentic efforts by brands, and will be more inclined to hold brands accountable for their corporate social responsibility targets—particularly among Gen Z and millennials.
In fact, based on the Edelman Trust Barometer, “63 per cent of Americans believe that brands that issue a statement in support of racial equity need to follow up with concrete action,” said Jess Kim, a B2C insights specialist in Google marketing. “If they don’t, they’ll be seen as exploitative.”
Incorporating more diversity and equality in the workplace and through marketing mediums such as images, video and animation, will be important.
2. Brands will navigate a more divisive social and political climate
Similar (but still different) to the first point, HubSpot said in its Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021 blog that consumers will be paying attention to how brands navigate an increasingly polarized social and political climate.
Although that point may be geared more towards the United States, consumers across the globe are paying attention too.
As Tim Linberg, Chief Experience Officer at Verndale said: “Every ad dollar spent, every choice of channel and platform, every social post, every inch of shelf space, and every conference or trade show will be evaluated through the lens of what a brand’s marketing decisions say about who they are and what they stand for.”
Consumers will seek out brands that are authentic and align with their values, which is something that Think with Google also reported.
“People want to believe in what they’re buying, and increasingly seek to align their personal values with their shopping habits,” said Alexandra LeVoguer, a B2B specialist on Google Canada’s marketing team. “Research has found that consumers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven companies.”
When planning your marketing strategy for 2021, LeVoguer advises businesses to consider how they can make it easier for the consumer to make value-added decisions. Search for inspiration in direct-to-consumer strategies, and consider how your values can be reflected in your marketing work—particularly your digital mediums.
3. Marketing budgets may decrease, to the detriment of the company
As Forbes mentions it in its Ten Marketing Predictions for 2021: marketers will have to deal with shrinking budgets and smaller teams. The decision by companies to spend less on marketing, and specifically digital, could prove detrimental.
“During an economic downturn, companies that pull back and starve marketing efforts, do not perform well,” said Litmus CMO Melissa Sargeant, in the article. “And, when our consumerism-driven environment reengages, those brands will be further behind than they were when they made those budget-conscious decisions.”
HubSpot also called this prediction out for 2021, warning that businesses that decrease their marketing budgets are setting themselves up for failure. And those companies that position themselves properly will come out stronger in the end.
What Does This Mean For Businesses?
Understanding who you are, what you stand for, and what your customers want from the brand as a human experience that reflects their values, will be important moving forward. And your digital efforts will be key.