2021 Marketing Trends: Pt. 1

It’s worth emphasizing that the effects of what we’re all watching play out in real-time will be rippling throughout brand marketing, PR, digital marketing, communications, and platforms for decades to come. There is a pathway to focus and develop a clear plan to emerge from this volatile period stronger than ever while building a new loyal customer base along the way. Welcome to Serendipit Marketing Trend Watch, the first in a series where Serendipit takes an in-depth look at some of the hottest and emerging trends in marketing, digital, and PR.

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2020 Redux: Now What?
Discover 2021’s Most Defining Trends

Remember Peloton Wife? In December 2019, the fitness giant’s holiday campaign was widely criticized by consumers and news media for sexism, with the spot drawing comparisons to Black Mirror, a long-running original dystopian series on Netflix. In July that same year, an opinion reporter in the New York Times aptly described this growing online phenomenon as “civility porn.”

Just 36 hours later, Ryan Reynolds and Maximum Effort Productions released an Aviation Gin ad starring #PelotonWife. How? Newsjacking and no existing exclusivity clause or contract for the now-viral star, Monica Ruiz. While Peloton publicly professed their dismay for the online social communities’ misinterpretation of their intent, they’d given the actress their blessing to do the piece as it provided a diffusement point for the controversy. The tongue-in-cheek jab at Peloton Husband introduced gin to newer, younger audiences and gave everyone a happier ending for Peloton Ex-Wife. Crisis averted. Consumers and all media types ended up buzzing for both brands, sparking a good laugh, turning a brand crisis into a triumph. Aviation Gin took off, and people still love Peloton. (Just ask our founders and team – we have one in our private Covid-safe office gym, and competition for the best workouts and spots is fierce.) Win/win.

Then came 2020.

If you really want to make 2021 your year, pay careful attention to the big picture 2021 marketing trends.

Nothing else captures the essence of the year better than Match.com’s “Match Made in Hell/Make 2021 Your Year” campaign, released in December. The diabolically clever ad is set to a reworked version of millennial influencer/music powerhouse Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” carrying us on along for the journey as Satan and 2020 meet and fall in love. We see the couple from hell in all their glory. Satan stands watch outside the bathroom while 2020 is gleefully stealing TP. We see them laughing together, solo dates in empty stadiums and theaters, and snapping selfies in front of a dumpster fire. In short, it was a perfect representation of the brand and the year. In the follow-up ad, Satan and 2020 talk about their relationship in a hilarious take on Match.com testimonials. That’s the type of outstanding branding and PR and fresh creative marketing we all can love.

When life (or marketing) hands you lemons, make lemonade. It happens to be a perfectly awesome mixer for gin. Vodka, tequila, and whisky, too.

We’re a few weeks into 2021, and with the gavel down on a historic second impeachment and the pandemic not even close to being controlled, big picture marketing trends for 2021 are quite predictably going to be driven by more crisis PR, Brandstanding, and Consequence Culture. Hopefully, as vaccines roll out and we emerge from the virus’s grip, we will move into a renewed feeling of community, (maybe beyond strictly online social communities?) and the economy and cultural environment will stabilize, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride for a long while yet. 

So, we all get it. Staying laser-focused on business and producing results looks daunting in 2021. But we also know it’s achievable. After all, in the year from hell, we found ways to achieve blazing hot results for our brands and clients, and made great use of online network tools (lookin’ at you, Zoom).

Happily, many health experts are projecting a much better outlook by summer, and we have a Super Bowl on the horizon!

Is your brand solid, appealing to the right audiences, and consistent in voice, tone, and values?

 2021 Marketing Trends: Perils, Pitfalls & Awesome Opportunities

The Super Bowl is iconic for many reasons. Football fans may be centered around the game, but everybody watches for ads, exciting halftime shows, and entertainment superstars. Performance slip-ups circulate in the form of memes within seconds on community-based social networking sites. Brands and host cities end up being the biggest winners of the day. Many of our most enduring and influential ads arrive during the big game day. Collective feelings of nostalgia never fail to arrive with the Budweiser Clydesdales. 

But for now and the foreseeable future, this year is different. Social unrest and the pandemic are still raging across the country. Packing thousands of football fans in a stadium, gathering in entertainment venues, hotels, restaurants, then sending them home to their respective states during a pandemic seems like a losing bet. Even with the sanitary precautions and the debut of the cashless experience supported by ‘reverse ATMs,’ it feels like Satan is already bored and sweeping through dating profiles looking for a hot new chick. 

Destinations are also in the spotlight, so it’s one long commercial for Tampa and the Sunshine State between time outs and game day features. All the crisis PR ingredients are brewing for businesses associated with the event, but the focus is still the venerated spots in the Super Bowl lineup. Aside from title sponsor Pepsi and the rest of the varsity ad squad, marketers are growing increasingly wary of the potential fallout to come, and many will choose to sit on the sidelines this year. We’ll know soon enough. 

For more on big brands shunning Super Bowl ads, see the latest in Variety.

Tourism soars in host cities and states for 2-3 years post-Super Bowl. For instance, hosting Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 returned a gross economic impact of $720M. Add in recreational cannabis tax revenues, and we’ll be set for a shorter recovery time and lots of great marketing and business opportunities, which is why Arizonans were elated when the NFL announced the city of Phoenix as a host city for Super Bowl LVII in 2023. By then, things should be much closer to normal. Arizona and the Super Bowl will be back in the global spotlight for all the right reasons. Believe it. 

The Diamondbacks began to play in 1998 as an expansion team alongside the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Remember the stunning 7th game of the D-backs/Yankees 2001 World Series? Down by one in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, and Luis Gonzalez clinched the win with a walk-off hit! Winning a Super Bowl trophy in our own hometown and state would feel sublime. Smart local businesses and brands have plenty of time to start planning and preparing for 2023!

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Will Satan and 2020 be part of the Super Bowl ad lineup on February 7th in Tampa, Florida? We know we will be watching. With so many seeking connections through virtual means, competitors might take a newsjacking page from Ryan’s playbook and take a playful swipe at Match.com. Will the next stop be marriage and a honeymoon basking in volcanoes, or are they headed for couples counseling? After all, there’s always Plenty of Fish in the sea. Ashley Madison, operating more on the DL since its epic database hacking put the fear of God into the minds and the hearts of many, has an opening for a big comeback with another ‘rejected Super Bowl ad’ that flashes into the future with Satan. Will they take it? Will Match.com counter with a hopeful story highlighting an Angel and 2021 falling in love? The creative possibilities for these brands are all deliciously enticing, which is precisely why we love what we do. It’s addicting, challenging, and stressful at times, but above all, it’s fun.

With another Cupid-focused retail holiday season gearing up, Dirty Pop Cards has the perfect antidote to bad breakups, and you should see how they’ve put an oh so naughty spin on Valentine’s Day. (We have to plug them because our team has so much fun working with them.) There are wholesale and affiliate programs for savvy retailers and influencers. It’s practically guaranteed we’ll see 2020 theme cards popping up in brand extensions from cardmaking giants like Hallmark and American Greetings and niche companies for decades to come, but this time, Gen Zers will be reminiscing about the bad old days.

Every move forward from here must be carefully planned and calculated.

2021 Digital Trends & The Social Landscape

The bottom line: We’re all consumers from birth to death. Virtual learning, regular use of online network tools, and work from home are daily realities for many people. Puzzles and board games saw a comeback. In our search for safety, security, travel, and beauty in the world, millions of consumers embraced virtual tours of homes, travel destinations, and museums and attended virtual or socially distanced happy hours, religious services, events, and engaged in online social communities. We ordered groceries and products online. More people adopted pets for companionship and their quiet way of soothing and making us laugh, emptying many shelters. 

Having weathered the first round of ups and downs riding the pandemic marketing rollercoaster of 2020, by November, it was clear the hell ride was just getting started. 

Marketers and brands: Take a deep breath and say hello to 2021. With everything that’s going on, it’s critical for all brands to stay alert, listen, and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. As the old adage goes, it’s always darkest before dawn.

Laptop and mobile shopping habits gradually became more mainstream, and after the year we’ve had, there’s no going back. Conveniences such as home delivery, curbside pickup, contact-free experiences, virtual tours, and customized experiences are also on the rise. Hand in hand with the pandemic, Crisis PR, and rapid adaptations for retail businesses and services to continue operations, cannabis was designated as essential. Millions agreed, and the industry boomed. 

Personal and professional Zoom meetings, virtual learning, and more time spent at home while still at work have become daily realities for many people. While safe at home, we got out of our comfort zone, wore cozy clothes, and escaped virtually to museums, galleries, and attractions in local or faraway destinations; ordered from GrubHub and Amazon and shopped for products online and in-app. As we mentioned before, old-fashioned puzzles, family and niche board games, as well as hobbies, saw a comeback. Of course, many of these marketing trends have been steadily climbing in popularity year by year — demographic by demographic — technology upgrade by upgrade. Information, community, and convenience. All from our laptops and smartphones. 

Anxiety, mental health, and sleep have all suffered. Last year saw cannabis being designated as an essential business. Millions of plant lovers agreed, and the industry boomed, all while many other companies struggled to stay open or failed. By the November election, it was clear the cannabis sector will continue making considerable inroads in the American economy for years to come.

Americans bought 67 percent more weed last year, outpacing 2019 by 40 percent. 

Cancel Culture vs. Consequence Culture in the Digital Landscape

Everyone is weary from the ongoing impact of the pandemic and our volatile social environment. Looking back, the year that shall not be named offered more than its share of PR crisis management and dizzying pivots that set the stage for some of 2021’s most defining trends and lessons. This time, we know that anything can and will happen, and we’ll all be better prepared for the shockwaves. 

Social justice hashtags and Karen became some of the biggest buzzwords of the year. Sharing to community-based social networking sites as many brands and employees got entangled either resulted in controversy through sparking it or standing up to it. ‘Hello, PR Crisis team? We have a situation.’ 

Large or small company, keeping a finger on the market pulse through real-time data analytics and social monitoring makes solid business sense. Right now, the power and importance of the #Brandstanding, #SocialEquity, and #SocialJustice trends are playing out in the national stage spotlight as well as globally. 

One by one, major corporations, donors, and brands are taking a public stand and making their brand values known. These strategic moves are reaffirming and reassuring to millions who share their values and beyond infuriating to others. As marketers, you must always be mindful and authentic in your messaging, but it’s become vital now and in the future. Smart analytics and insights, social channel monitoring, and nimble response times are the keys to success. 

In 2021, many businesses and marketers agree that #CancelCulture tags should be more aptly called #ConsequenceCulture. Hopefully, everyone learns their lessons. Make sure everyone knows what your brand values and policies are, and they understand how to conduct compelling online tours, consultations, and interactions, wherever they may be applicable. And remember, employees are only as good as their training. No matter what type of business you’re marketing, everyone from C-Suite to staff should know what to do and who to call for help in a crisis. 

Digital regulations on content and ad compliance are already changing, making effective marketing particularly difficult in industries such as the hemp, cannabis, and wellness categories. Strict regulations are the norm. In 2021, we fully expect new hurdles to clear for digital campaigns and marketers as big tech platforms adjust their TOS and guidelines in anticipation of possible legislative changes. Some may face lawsuits and extensive investigations. The question everyone is asking: How will these events affect digital platforms, marketing, and consumer behavior?

Keeping Up with the Evolution of Marketing

The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

Understanding the cultural shifts and impacts of our newest generations of consumers is no longer optional. It’s mandatory. As the full impact of recent events become clearer, so do the challenges. While the national political scene remains volatile, conversations from larger virtual communities and social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter often spill into shared, less well-known apps, along with other niches, community-based social networking sites, and hyperlocal platforms like NextDoor. Use any dark periods to conduct a diligent review of all the platforms your brand has a presence on or those you may be considering for future marketing. 

Take another look at all your upcoming social marketing messaging and short-term strategies. Adjust the voice and tone if needed, or reschedule campaigns for a later date. Listen. Customers will. As always, be true to your brand values and business. 

Consumers from every demographic are flocking to TikTok, the playground of choice of the next generation power demographic – Gen Z. If you haven’t seen them flex yet, you will. Gen Z is more likely to buy from brands that have established clear values, are inclusive, and have a strong online social community. These digital natives are using channels like TikTok, and Instagram Reels in new and inventive ways to make their presence known and their voices heard, and they’re currently wielding an estimated $140B+ in spending. They are 40 percent of the total consumer base and the most racially and ethnically diverse and progressive generation to date. 

See more on Marketing to Gen Z from Serendipit founder Alexis Krisay here.

Self-Care Comes Into Focus

There’s always a social channel or shopping app beckoning and enticing us all in this digitally-driven world. 

As the new year begins, let’s keep our eyes on the prize: staying sane, healthy, eliminating the pandemic, and getting life back to normal again. Of course, it’s going to look and feel drastically different, which is why social media listening is such an important online marketing tool. 

Health and wellness will continue as a top trend, with a massive emphasis on easing anxiety, sleep, and other self-care. Hospitality, student housing, and rental communities are also making strategic use of wellness and fitness trends by rolling these and other lifestyle and fitness conveniences into amenities. Healthcare providers and insurance companies are also incorporating more information, services, and savings options through AI-enhanced digital apps. 

Exercise, wellness, cooking, self-improvement, and guided meditation channels are rapidly growing in popularity, even on TikTok! Last year, premium mindfulness and meditation app Headspace gained a ton of market awareness and traction with consumers when they offered a free year of content to the unemployed based on the honor system. 

Calm – the #1 app for sleep and meditation – reaches people in 15-second ads that breakthrough news and commercial noise for timed breaks from the world featuring soothing natural sounds and images. Through its free app trial, more people are discovering the Calm channel on Netflix, too. With affordable plans for businesses based on size, many are rolling benefits like memberships and other innovative healthcare apps and platforms into employee health benefits.

How can your company take advantage of virtual opportunities and goodwill building acts and amenities that will resonate with customers and prospects?

The Handwriting on the Digital Wall

Virtual communities and social networks like TikTok are also very timely topics. Promoted as an alternative to Twitter, the Parler platform had a large user base they were hoping to monetize through an advertising model driven by influencers. 

Whether the platform will return or fade into obscurity is still unknown, but it’s clear to the Parler founder that the doors to all sorts of vendors are firmly shut in the US. In recent days on CNBC That’s a Wrap, Parler CEO John Matze admitted he didn’t think the platform would return. However, within a few days, the company was able to secure new hosting services through a server in Russia. Parler is certain to remain in the news for a while. Since the platform requires identity verification and has yet to monetize or identify their influencers, growth will remain a challenge in the future. 

On the flip side, enthusiastic and dedicated Gen Zers and lawyers for the app TikTok faced a potential ban in the US pushed by the President. While matters were in court, users called on Gen Zers, K-POP stans, and the BTS ARMY to act by adapting to new forms of consumer protest. They used hashtags to support #SocialJustice movements like #BLM, the George Floyd protests, and reducing attendance at Trump rallies. Virtual communities and social networks are shaping our world and defining the decade. A broad spectrum of the older generations can still sing the “I am stuck on Bandaid” jingle, but our nation’s bandage has been ripped away.

Need more perspective on the cultural shifts? Rolling Stone’s Culture Council talked about ten important ones here.

The Social Media Generation

Youth, core values of diversity and inclusiveness combined with digital native culture AND love for online social communities and platforms are it. Gen Z will be essential to watch as a new Administration and a post-Trump world begin to form. All of these factors will effectively reshape marketing in 2021. We’ve got a lot of work to do. As radio and TV programs always say during the bumpers, stay tuned. And if you don’t like the program, change the channel or tune everything out for a while.

Final Thoughts on 2021 Marketing Trends

How can your company take advantage of virtual opportunities and goodwill building acts and amenities that will resonate with customers and prospects?

What new possibilities and markets will your brand be exploring in 2021? 

How will you determine your KPIs and measure success? 

Give Serendipit a call, or order online. We’re ready to deliver.

2021 Marketing Trends: Part 2

In Part 2 of 2021 Marketing Trends, we’ll examine the meteoric rise and cultural impact of TikTok and take a closer look at the hottest emerging platform, ClubHouse. 

While the audio app is still in private beta mode, it has the potential to become an essential go-to for thought leadership. People are sick of webinars, Zoom events, MeetUps, and networking. Plus, Clubhouse’s audio-only format and conversational style mean being camera-ready isn’t a necessity, and you can drop in and out at any time. There are clubs for churches, music and arts events, a hybrid blend of industry-focused communities, and so much more. Like TikTok and YouTube, anyone can be a creator. The invitation-only platform’s exclusivity is beginning to generate the same type of excitement as 2004’s legendary Gmail launch on April Fool’s Day. You can bet we’ve reserved our handles and, like everyone else, seeking invites from friends or colleagues on the private Beta testing list. The only questions are when it will launch publicly and how, when, and if brands will be able to join the club. From there, who knows? We’ll bring you more details on ClubHouse soon.

How are you demonstrating your company’s brand values and thought leadership? 

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