Grab your joysticks: seven consumer comms trends for 2021

I could have written you 21 trends for 2021 (not least because it sounds good), because marketing and communications have evolved more in the past year than they have over the past decade.

'Market less and matter more' will be a mantra for 2021, writes Sophie Raine
'Market less and matter more' will be a mantra for 2021, writes Sophie Raine

Brands have been forced to toss out existing plans and re-evaluate preferred sales channels, customer journeys and stakeholder communications.

Alas, the space allocated to me for this piece enables me to pick just seven. So, for fear of exceeding my word count, I’ll crack right on.

1. Brands as civil servants

In response to the disruption of consumer needs, brands are expanding their meaningful role in people’s lives; stepping in to provide spaces and infrastructure for consumers to socialise, learn and explore. They are choosing to market to people less and matter to them more, a trend that will continue to prevail in 2021.

2. Ideas, not channels

Will 2021 eventually see the end of siloed communications? This isn’t a revolutionary ambition – but the industry has stubbornly resisted true integration for a variety of (usually fairly old-fashioned) reasons. Brands that succeed in 2021 will be those that take a truly channel-agnostic approach to campaigns; that start with an insight and idea, and then objectively consider the best channels to use to reach their business/marketing objectives.

3. Social commerce explodes

When many businesses were forced to close their doors due to the global pandemic, they turned to their social channels to drive revenue. In 2021, brands will aim to reduce friction in the sales funnel as customers embrace social commerce.

4. Grab your joysticks, gaming is going mainstream

We are seeing a cultural shift in the way people are identifying as gamers and speaking about gaming, so it’s only logical that brands would look for opportunities to capitalise on this in 2021. This audience values authenticity and transparency over overt brand messaging, so time will tell how many will succeed.

5. From outputs to business outcomes

For communicators to have a ‘seat at the table’, we need to present results that resonate with the C-suite. In an increasingly competitive world, where budgets are tight and being scrutinised, the onus is on us to be more accountable for the money spent on communications. Upping the sophistication of metrics and how they’re presented is critical to succeed in 2021.

6. From transactional to intersectional

In 2021 we will see agencies and brands embracing intersectionality and casting off ideas about ‘audience targets’ defined by linear identities. As we uncover the richness of individual experience, we will make deeper and more meaningful connections with consumers, understanding and celebrating every facet of their lives. This will also help us to pave the way for more consequential work on diversity and inclusion.

7. The rise of hyper-localism

Communities big and small have rallied together during the pandemic – we’ve seen the power of collective spirit, whether that’s meant clapping for carers on our doorsteps, or cheering on Captain Sir Tom Moore. This focus on "local" will stay relevant in 2021; traditional, large-scale influence (such as celebrities) will hold less appeal than smaller-scale influencers with loyal followers, who can drive targeted messages into a core community based on niche interests or locations.

Sophie Raine is managing director, consumer brands, at Ketchum London

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

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