It is 2021 and a lot of us have high hopes of what this year will bring. But let’s be honest, it’s really not gonna take a lot to impress us after the year we all just had. So while it may feel like you made absolutely no progress in 2020 and spent most of your days working from home in your sweatpants and watching reruns of your favorite sitcoms to remind you of simpler times, there was actually a lot happening in the digital domain.
In fact, it’s now safe to say that digital marketing has gone mainstream. I no longer have to explain to my grandma what I do because she’s now officially a Zoom aficionado. So, while the rest of the world was basically at a standstill, the internet was on fire, fueling some pretty massive events, social activism, and disruptive marketing.
So, what’s coming in hot or getting even hotter in 2021?
Well, that is exactly what I’m here to share today.
Now, this is nowhere near as surprising as number six on this list, so keep watching. But I have been saying this for years, video is the future. And it’s not gonna be any different in 2021. In fact, in light of recent events, it’s gonna grow even faster than previously predicted.
Even if you’ve never considered yourself a video person, 2020 probably turned you into one, whether you know it or not.
In fact, live video blew up in 2020. By 99%, to be exact. Yep, you heard that right. The live streaming industry increased by 99 freaking percent in 2020. Thanks to the global pandemic, mandated stay-at-home orders, and social distancing regulations, people across the globe turned to video to stay connected.
And in literally no time at all, hopping on a Zoom call became the new thing to say. We Zoomed for work, we Zoomed for happy hour, we Zoomed for holidays, we Zoomed for everything. And, as the general population became more comfortable with video, other forms of video communication also started to become part of the norm, like TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Live, even Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have options for streaming live video now. Yes, it is safe to say that people are loving it. And you betcha, businesses are taking notice, too.
Well, the smart ones are, anyway. But the live streaming trend does not stop there.
If you’re not a video person, you’ll be happy to know that number two, audio content is on the rise. So this is a crazy stat, but did you know that more than 100 million Americans listen to at least one podcast each month? Or, if you’re like me and you’re obsessed with history and true crime podcasts, it’s more like one or two a day.
But wow, has podcasting come a long way. And if you’re not a regular on at least one podcast, have you been living under a rock? These free streaming delights cover every topic under the sun and you can listen while you do, well, just about anything else.
I know I’m listening to a good podcast when my house is as clean as ever because I always try to find a million things to do and clean while I’m listening to podcasts and procrastinating on real work. But this stat is a huge reminder that audio content is on the rise in 2021.
And Twitter gets it. They just released a feature that allows users to send audio-based tweets. Oh, and let’s not forget about the new kid on the block, an audio-based app called Clubhouse that is shaking up the voice-driven social media world.
I literally spent two hours on a Clubhouse livestream the other day. Two hours.
It is currently invite only, and not many people around the world have access yet, but don’t worry. You will get your moment if you haven’t already. So, Clubhouse basically allows you to access virtual rooms where you have voice conversations with other people to talk about anything and everything without having to stare at your screen. Whoever creates the room has the ability to control speaking privileges and topic and everyone else can just pop in and out as they please. So the verdict is still out on how this app will shake up the marketing world, but stand by, I will be keeping a close eye on this one.
So whether you’re a frequent podcast listener, an audio message sender, or a Clubhouse OG, one thing is certain. Audio content cannot be ignored in 2021. Trend number three, user-generated content. Now, this is definitely not anything new, but just like live streaming in 2020, user-generated content marketing really skyrocketed. More businesses are turning to social media to promote their products than ever before, but not in the typical paid ad kinda way that you’re used to seeing.
User-generated content includes those videos, images, or reviews that you see your favorite brands reposting all of the time. They’re candid, real, and they are super relatable. In fact, more than 86% of companies are using user-generated content as part of their marketing strategies. Sometimes it’s an actual influencer who has a paid partnership with that brand, and other times, it’s genuine feedback from a fan of the brand. And it is totally brilliant because it works.
A great example of this is Lululemon’s brand ambassador program, which relies on thousands of ambassadors around the world to represent and promote their brand. And they do it all for free. I mean, they get free swag and stuff, but how many pairs of Lululemon pants do you need? Okay, maybe more, like, right now, but we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so no judgment. User-generated content is basically the best word-of-mouth marketing strategy you could ever implement.
It all comes down to the core fact that people trust other people, but we don’t always trust the brand itself. Well, at least not at first. We all expect a brand to self-promote and talk about how great and superior they are. I mean, duh. But when someone else promotes them, we’re all ears and we’re way more likely to buy.
I mean, nothing cements our buying decision more quite like watching a successful case study or an unboxing video, am I right? All right, number four, brand activism. With the much-needed rise of political, social, and environmental activism that the world saw last year, it’s really no surprise to see brand activism pop up as an up-and-coming marketing trend.
In the day and age of the conscious consumer, brands have no choice but to step up, speak up, and take responsibility, or else they risk losing an entire generation of customers. And 2020 saw hundreds of brands speaking up and engaging in activism, like this Nike ad supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, urging people to become part of the change and stand up for equality for once.
Or the launch of Ben & Jerry’s limited edition flavor, Unfudge our Future, urging Australia’s leaders to tackle climate change and invest in a more sustainable future.
Consumers are demanding that brands put their money where their mouth is. We don’t just want a good product, we want a good product from a good company that has the same values that we do. And this has turned into much more than a quick trend or a marketing fad, but rather, it has evolved into an expectation for brands to take social responsibility. But remember, when it comes to brand activism, this is not just a bandwagon you wanna jump on.
Consumers can see right through that fake inauthentic BS. So unless you’re following up your supportive sentiments with real action or investment, it’s probably best to just keep quiet. Number five, branded content. Another video marketing trend that has been on the rise is branded content.
Now, this goes back to the very core marketing principle that people don’t wanna feel like they’re being sold something.
They want value, they want entertainment, they want an experience. And that is exactly what well-done branded content does. It delivers an enjoyable experience for the customer without force-feeding an ad down their throat. In fact, branded content is 22 times more engaging than other display ads, like banner ads, which to be honest, we typically just scroll right past because it has become white noise in the cyber sphere. Times have changed and that type of in-your-face marketing just doesn’t really work anymore.
Branded content works because it engages the audience with entertainment value, educational value, or inspirational value. The best branded content out there is sometimes so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s branded content at all.
Like, think of “The LEGO Movie,” which might go down in history as being the best branded content of all time. I mean, think about it. The entire movie is subconsciously selling you the LEGO toys, but you have absolutely no idea what’s going on because you’re so enthralled in the story and the experience of the film.
And then you find out at the end of the movie, spoiler alert, by the way, if any of you are secret LEGO fans and haven’t seen the movie, that the entire LEGO universe was actually just a kid playing LEGOs downstairs in his basement. That’s brilliant. The movie took a generational toy that was seeing a decline in popularity and made it a cool toy that every kid wants, and it is now a massive franchise. And that brings us to the last marketing trend on the list. Number six, nostalgic marketing.
Ah, nostalgia, like a big ol’ steaming cup of hot cocoa on a cold, winter night.
Do you ever randomly remember a commercial from the 80s and you just can’t help but smile or sing that dang jingle that you just can’t get out of your head? Yes, that is nostalgia at its finest. Nostalgia is that sentimental longing for the past, which, fun fact, was actually considered a mental disorder back in 1688 when the term was originally coined. Thank God we don’t live in 1688, or we’d all be locked up in the loony bin right now.
Nostalgic marketing takes that random feeling of yearning for the past to a whole new level by designing ad and marketing campaigns for one specific purpose, to bring back fond memories and evoke a strong emotional connection to the brand. And yep, it is on the rise. You heard it here.
The future of digital marketing is all about looking to the past. Big names like Nike, Pepsi, Gucci, AT&T, and Cheetos are just a few of the major brands that brought back some timeless classics into their recent marketing strategies.
Now, while that might seem a little surprising, it actually makes a lot of sense, especially right now. Thanks to the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders of 2020, a lot of people were spending a lot of time at home reminiscing about the simpler times and rewatching some of their old favorite movies or TV shows.
I mean, raise your hand if you binge-watched an old TV show during the quarantine. I was a huge fan of “Friends” and I rewatched the entire series in 2020. So yes, just like those feel-good sitcoms of the good old days, nostalgic marketing works because it is familiar.
It’s comforting and it makes us feel safe and more united. And when the world feels scary and uncertain like it does right now, the comfort and familiarity that these nostalgic ads, TV shows, and products provide is exactly what we’re all looking for in 2021.