Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021
February 8th, 2021
By: Julia Mao
Marketing is a fluid subject that adapts with society; there’s never one way to go about it and trending strategies change almost every year. There’s no denying with the widespread changes and events in 2020, there are a few new notable trends that brands and marketers should be sure to watch out for in 2021.
1. Digital Heavy Era
Perhaps the most self-explanatory change is the forced shift from brick-and-mortar to an emphasis on the online experience. Around 75% of buyers and sellers prefer digital options over traditional face-to-face shopping due to safety and convenience concerns (Davis). Mandatory closure of stores from local guidelines means even people who may have typically always shopped for their goods in person have been forced to at least try digital-shopping; in fact, in the first half of 2020, the United States saw an increase in e-commerce equivalent to that of the past 10 years (Sneader). Something marketers should note, however, is that there is a lack of brand loyalty in online buyers and brands need to creatively figure out ways to fend off competition and differentiate themselves in the e-commerce space. One example of a company with a notoriously high online customer loyalty rate is Netflix due to their exclusive content and personalization of posters they choose to show on a person’s homepage based on data collected from different users.
2. Brands for Social Impact
In response to the social unrest and increased light on major issues that need to be addressed in society such as Black Lives Matter, discrimination against minorities, and climate change, many brands have turned from complacency to taking a stance. Major players such as Ben & Jerry’s and Paypal have advocated for reform and are trying to change internal diversity and environmental practices. New businesses and projects like NAACP Atlanta’s Invisible Hate were also born from scratch in 2020. Crayola also recently launched their “Colors of the World” product line which includes a greater variety of skin color shades. 60% of consumers want the companies they buy from to have a position on social issues (Komiya).
3. Creating a personalized brand experience
Still, images and poster board ads are slowly going out of trend as interactive content begins to thrive. Pandora for Brands recently launched a feature that allows users to voice engage with ads and create personalized experiences based on the user's answer. Pinterest introduced a new AR feature that lets you try on makeup shades before you buy it to promote shopping on Pinterest. Spotify Wrapped, which shows users their personalized listening habits through an online exhibition, has been very popular with premium members. Interactive content marketing has been shown to drive successful call-to-actions and generates stronger brand loyalty and sharing.
4. Influencer Marketing’s Golden Age
There are a lot more blurred lines between brands and influencers as more and more influencers on social media are agreeing to partnerships with large-scale brands. Since Livestream attendance and platforms like TikTok have spiked in 2020, platforms like Amazon Live have emerged for influencers to promote sales through live video. Additionally, Dunkin Donuts partnered with Charli D’Amelio to release a drink called “The Dunkin” which lets fans easily order her signature drink. Not long after, McDonald’s teamed up with Travis Scott to create the Travis Scott meal while Travis also released a merch line inspired by McDonald’s. The hype was so real that some locations completely sold out of the Travis meal.
Do you agree with these trends? Do you think there are a few that we missed? Comment below and join the discussion!
Julia Mao is Marketing Society's Fall 2020 Study Abroad Director & Social Media. Julia is currently a Sophomore at NYU Stern, majoring in Marketing and minoring in BEMT.
Chi, Clifford. “9 Of the Most Inventive Interactive Marketing Examples We've Ever Seen.” HubSpot Blog, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/interactive-marketing.
Davis, Sarah, and Lauren Toney. “How Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Impacting Ecommerce [January 2021].” ROI Revolution, 28 Jan. 2021,
Komiya, Kantaro. A Majority of Consumers Expect Brands to Take a Stand on Issues Before Purchasing, Survey Finds, Barrons, 7 July 2020, www.barrons.com/articles/a-majority-of-consumers-expect-brands-to-take-a-stand-on-issues-before-purchasing-survey-finds-51594143666.
Murugesan, Divya. “5 Learnings from Industry Experts to Retain Loyal Customers.” Freshchat Blog, 8 Oct. 2020, www.freshworks.com/live-chat-software/retain-loyal-customers-blog/.
Sneader, Kevin, and Shubham Singhal. “The next Normal Arrives: Trends That Will Define 2021--and Beyond.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 5 Jan. 2021, www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond#.