Top 10 Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2021

January 12, 2021

Looking for the latest trends and buzzwords to incorporate into your next role-play? DECA’s Competitive Events Specialist shares a look at what to expect in the new year.

1. Micro-influencers/Nano-influencers

We all know about social media influencers, but do you know about micro-influencers and nano-influencers?  While brands originally thought it was most beneficial to partner with macro-influencers boasting millions of followers, they’ve realized that the high price tag comes with a low ROI. Instead, micro-influencers have between 1,000-100,000 followers and tend to focus on a specific niche where they are considered experts. While they have a smaller “cult” following, they often have stronger relationships with their followers and higher engagement. The good news for brands? They cost far less than regular influencers!  Nano-influencers are another type of influencer with less than 1,000 followers. They are typically popular in local communities and are perfect for local marketing efforts.

2. Responsible Consumerism

There are two sub-trends focused on responsible consumerism. First, brands are looking at questionable ethical behavior from consumers during the initial COVID-19 months—hoarding products such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bottled water that caused a massive shortage. Second, major brands are listening and adjusting business practices and messaging based on what is important to consumers. Trends include social justice, environmental sustainability, political activism and refurbished/secondhand goods.

3. Storytelling

Using storytelling allows marketers to engage with an audience’s emotions and immerse them in what’s happening first so that the product comes second. A well-crafted narrative puts customers in the role of the hero, showing how they can use a product or service to overcome a challenge they face. Being able to grab a consumer’s attention is critical for a brand to stand out and get noticed.

4. Twitch

Not just for serious gamers anymore! What started as a live streaming platform for gamers has transformed into a platform to watch and chat with fans all around the world. Twitch’s non-gaming content has quadrupled in the past three years and saw a surge in 2020 as people turned to gaming to stay entertained while safe-at-home. Brands and influencers can now engage with Twitch’s 17.5 million daily users.

5. Customer Retention Incentives

Since the pandemic began, many brands found new customers while normal purchasing habits were interrupted. Whether brands acquired new customers due to convenience, availability, boredom or brilliant marketing tactics, they must now focus on creating beneficial incentives to transform their new buyers into loyal customers.

6. Cancel Culture

Fueled by social media, being “canceled” refers to public, mass withdrawal of support, typically in response to perceived poor behavior or wrongdoings. One positive aspect of this trend is the increased focus on monitoring all communications and actions of staff, influencers and other stakeholders to ensure unbiased marketing efforts. To mitigate the risk of being canceled, brands must keep open channels of communication, evaluate the risks of business decisions and understand when it is time to address and/or correct missteps.

7. Inclusivity

Given the importance of equality, inclusion and diversity brought into the spotlight by racial inequality protests in 2020, marketers must evaluate all campaigns to ensure no group of individuals is excluded or marginalized. Target markets must widen or realign to include groups that may have been left out of prior campaigns. Brands should also leverage enlightened consumers’ increased focus on social justice and civic engagement by highlighting elements of their brand values that speak to civic participation and expression. However, this can’t be faked as a “marketing ploy”—consumers will do the research and hold brands accountable.

8. Collaborative Partnerships

Brands will continue to find new ways to work together. A perfect example: customers can return Amazon purchases at Kohl’s stores. These strategic partnerships are growing in number every week, blending industries and channels. Marketers can leverage these unique business relationships to gain new customers, add value and build brand awareness.

9. Social Commerce

It’s no secret that social media is now the biggest and most beneficial platform for digital marketing. With the introduction of shopping on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and many others, social commerce is set to become one of the biggest marketing trends in 2021. 55% of online shoppers currently make purchases through social media and 71% of consumers turn to it for shopping inspiration. And we’re only at the beginning. Now is the time for brands to make their products and services shoppable on social media.

10. TikTok

While the app has already been a huge favorite among Gen Z, the pandemic has accelerated adoption as many Millennials and Gen X look for fresh ways to connect and be entertained. Watch for the growth of video ads, branded hashtag challenges and creative content tools. Blending storytelling, video marketing, influencer marketing, user-generated content and social commerce, TikTok will only continue to grow in relevance.

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