Trends that will dominate marketing in 2021


From purpose-driven marketing to solution-based approach rather than plain media buys, here are some trends industry watchers foresee for the year upon us

To be sure, 2020 has been a roller coaster of unprecedented changes as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe. It has been a year that marked widespread social unrest and polarizing political events. That said, if anything, 2020 has also proved a decisive year, transforming the landscape of retail and marketing towards relationship commerce, improved seamlessness, and local retail. However, as the world prepares for another year of uncertainty, companies everywhere are asking themselves what’s on the horizon for 2021. Decoding the same, industry watchers weigh in on marketing trends and themes that will dominate the space as we move ahead in the next year.

Edited excerpts below:

Kashyap Vadapalli, Chief Marketing Officer & Business Head, Pepperfry

Some of the key priorities that dominated marketing in 2020 include – a very strong focus on immediate ROI of marketing efforts, getting into an iterative process of launch/test – repeat or retreat with all campaigns to understand where the maximum efficiencies lie. From a consumer messaging focus perspective – there has been a clear shift towards education and information and away from hard sales and gimmicks.

In 2021, we will see an acceleration of the digital migration across all consumer classes – everything from shopping to services will move online even more aggressively. In this digitally enabled virtual world, it is easy for Brands to get lost in the technology and focus on transactions, but we will see a few smart and savvy brands go in the opposite direction – there will be a trend of forming strong human connections and deeper relationships. In an uncertain world, consumers will seek ‘trust’ as the paramount currency to influence their decision making and brands that are able to build that by showing and working towards a higher purpose and meeting promised expectations will reap rewards. So, purpose-driven marketing with a strong one-on-one connect will be the way to go for leading brands.

Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager (India & Gulf), Tourism Australia

Given the global adoption of social distancing norms in lieu of the pandemic, 2020 was witness to a massive shift in brand strategy and consumer outreach. Brands across sectors reallocated marketing spends and resources to devise full-fledged digital campaigns with minimal focus on outdoor or experiential advertising. In lieu of this, destination marketing too has had to reinvent itself and adapt to the changing pace of the current environment. With the lack of leisure travel and a heightened need for emergency travel taking precedence, international tourism and those destinations that relied on heavy tourist traffic, in particular, have taken to digitizing key experiences for tourists confined to their homes.

In view of tourism, we can expect to see a broader array and wider offering of virtual opportunities arise from destination promoters to market those attractions and other activities popular with tourists to a larger and more global audience. With a presence among other consumer-centric sectors, AR and VR will also become a highly utilized means to further market a destination to those who would prefer to defer their travel plans for an extended period of time.

More marketers will invest in content marketing to diversify and adapt their product offering to be more attune and sensitive to the consumer’s changing sentiments and needs, which can help build a brand, drive demand, and facilitate conversions.

Sumit Lakhani, CMO, Awfis

The year 2020 has been a game-changer in every way, be it the shift in consumer preferences, re-alignment of business models, or pivot in marketing strategy, the rampant spread of the pandemic caused a drastic alteration in each aspect of our lives.

The nationwide lockdown and social distancing norms led marketers to redevise their strategies in line with the new normal.

Below are some key trends for marketers across industries:

  • Marketing moved from being a communication & support function to being at the core of various functions like strategy, analytics, product, technology and customer experience. They’re not being pulled in for the last mile of ‘GTM’ but also in the initial stages because at the moment they have the pulse of the market and the customers which is crucial for any innovation.
  • While the role of marketing was already evolving (CMO & CBO & CDO lines blurring), COVID has accelerated the whole process.
  • Brands across sectors invested heavily in online marketing activations as compared to prior years, where marketers seemed to prefer a resource split between traditional and online methods of marketing.
  • Information sharing emerged as a key trend within campaigns with the growing universal inclination of customers towards sanitization, hygiene and social distancing. Marketers who were able to remain transparent of their policies and processes whilst keeping the end consumers informed about how their brand will ensure maximal safety amidst these times emerged ahead of the curve
  • In line with the above several brands adopted influencer marketing and advocacy as a key medium of customer outreach to maintain authenticity whilst also building brand equity.

In my opinion the year 2021 will also see a boost in regional content and campaigns, given the exponential growth of internet users in India and the immense potential of the country’s tier 2 and 3 markets.

Sudipta Suri, National Marketing Director, Mirchi

As for marketing trends, this unique year accelerated the growth of some trends much faster than the past trend line. One such trend was the advertisers’ need for customized solutions. Over the last few years, marketing spends were becoming more discerning, and the ‘one size fits all’ media advertising theory was giving way to an innovative customized solution. This was an important shift that helped brands not only reach more elusive customers but also counter tighter marketing budgets. This trend has really accelerated in 2020. When budgets were completely clamped down, advertisers looked for customized solutions for their communication owing to two reasons- the first being that the client’s innovative offerings required innovative communication, and second, the consumer was not willing to spend, hence he needed to be reached in an innovative manner to convince him to spend.

Another trend that is exponentially growing is the digital marketing industry. 2020 pushed all brands and advertisers to take a crash course in digital if they hadn’t already. In my opinion, 2021 is going to be all about recovery. Two marketing trends that I see for this year are- continued focus on the solution-based approach for marketing problems rather than plain media buys, and increased focus on digital marketing. Along with an increased focus on digital marketing, brands will also start asking about ROI. This would be pushed harder by traditional mediums like print and TV, which primarily talk about their reach to show their stronghold on the consumer.

Anushree Pacheriwal, Co-founder, Gemius Design Studio

“The pandemic has taught many things to every one of us, especially advertising and marketing professionals, learnings like ensuring the best results when people are not looking to spend, working towards a more personalised approach with brand’s communication, and most importantly, unlearning the old ways of understanding customer behaviour. During the pandemic, we saw a huge rise in nutraceutical products where people were looking for boosting their immunity and working towards their overall health. Overall, in Amazon sales alone for our clients, we have seen a 300%-500% growth in sales in comparison to the pre-pandemic period. In 2021, we are going to see a trend where people are making smart shopping decisions so it is going to be important for brands to communicate ideas that add value to people’s lives and not just focus on promotions. One word that describes 2021, positivity!”

Vikash Pacheriwal, Co-founder, Raisin

“2020 has been a roller-coaster. While we saw a lot of changes happening in our personal lives, businesses were another ball-game. The pandemic with all its challenges helped us in being more adaptable. One big learning that we as a business took from this year is the realisation that trust is more important than anything. The trust of employees, customers, and retailers is fundamental to any business. If not for the support of our team we wouldn’t have been able to cope with the rising demands, especially on the online front. We also saw plenty of new trends surging during the pandemic and only businesses who could cope with it survived during these pressing times.  One such trend was the surge in online shopping, Raisin saw a 23% rise in its online sales during the pandemic.”

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About Author

Misbaah Mansuri

Misbaah reports on advertising industry. Based in Mumbai, she interviews industry leaders in the creative, advertising and marketing space, reports news updates in the ad space. She drives the ‘Chillout’ section, and regularly reviews ad campaigns. In the past she has reported on mainline news, travel and lifestyle.

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