2021 The Year’s Trends in Digital Marketing

by Bianca |
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2021 The Year’s Trends in Digital Marketing

Think about the age-old Hollywood narrative. Boy meets girl, obstacles arise, will they make it? Inevitably, they do. Perhaps sixty years ago, this story would have been thrilling and exciting. Sometimes, it still is, if for nothing else, comfort. But it’s undeniable that the vast majority of audiences have garnered an innate understanding of this rise and fall, conflict and resolution. Now that it’s ingrained, story-tellers must become more inventive; cloaking the bones of structure with compelling revelations. Thankfully, conventionality is by default being thwarted in at least one big development. The stories being told now don’t just reflect a portion of the population; we have access to so much more than our own perspective and self-revelation. 


Marketing is no different. When profit margins became more important than transparency, and corporations can actually get away with it, why wouldn’t they?! Thankfully, consumers have wised up to the fact that the small print isn’t just saying, ‘if you see this, have a lovely day!’ So these cheesy digital marketing campaigns that take you on a winding tale of a young girl blowing dandelion fluff across a field? The one that apparently has something to do with auto insurance? Yeah, people are over that. This is what they’re into...




Minimalist Design & Conversational Tone


Less is more. Peter Brooksing your brand has become very Feng Shui. 


Minimalism means subtle design and clear intention. A pared back message indicates transparency, is facile to navigate and uncomplicated. Aesthetically, it’s raging. Holistically, it’s a growing value, intertwining with our need to reduce waste and clutter in our world and minds. As it can be associated with a higher quality of life, it is also synonymous with a higher end experience. 


The same goes for text. Advertising lingo is experiencing a shift, from formal to colloquial.  Of course there are those who still wind poetic narrative, ladening sentences with rhetoric galore, thirty words long. Just like that. But the truth is, however much it means to the writer, it’s a moot point unless it’s read. Most people will glaze over a paragraph of text. Silence is stronger than shouting. Stripped sentences mean more. 


Getting to the point and remaining unembarrassed about plain language is the most important thing. Treating your reader like a friend, injecting some humor and using ‘isms’ are all much cooler than pomp and circumstance. It’s not just important to be cool. It’s also important to be relevant.


Semantic searches on Google, i.e. ‘Can I use mouthwash instead of toothpaste’, ‘How do I save my phone after dropping it in the toilet’ and other head-scratching doozys are now the norm, and Google takes that into account. They try to read between the lines, sourcing the intent of the question to find the best responses. So if your language sounds like stiff keywords bent on an SEO jetstream, you’re not going to hit normal people asking regular questions. 


Whether minimalist design gets you excited or not, you’d be daft to ignore the minimalism in vernacular. 



It is a non-negotiable that businesses today align with values that resonate with their audience. Ensuring that trustworthiness is intrinsic, not just a slogan, is key. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report, “organizations should view themselves as human entities that mirror-and support-the values of those they are built to serve.” This encompasses messaging integrity and Inclusion & Diversity. 


How is your business doing in this area? The best advice is to stop dancing around for fear of a misstep, get your nose to the grind and show up for the work. This is also reflected in the numbers. Over 40% of minority and LGBT consumers would switch to a retailer committed to inclusion and diversity. Lip service really does mean less than hard yards. Real change starts from the inside out, and consumers are savvy and hardened enough to recognize the difference. 


Start by clarifying your business purpose and who you’re built to serve, and incorporate it into every important decision. If your processes have authentic integrity, this will resonate at every level, and with your audience. Educate, listen, hire and implement. Use your digital marketing channels to let people know what you’re up to, but emphasize facts over peacocking. 


For anyone particularly cold-blooded; you also make more money that way. Investment in inclusion means greater returns. The report cites that “66% of respondents were able to recall when brands acted in self-interest...more than one in four respondents strongly agreed that such actions spurred them to walk away.” The numbers don’t lie. That said, the integrity is more gratifying. 


In sum: ads that speak to authentic human experience are much more likely to resonate, yes. But businesses that actually elevate human experience and make inclusion and diversity standard practice will do better in the long-run. Making sure that operations and marketing are in sync is a very important first step. 

Artificial Intelligence


The science of tech being able to perform intelligent processes is now an inherent staple of most of our lives, whether we realize it or not. Take programmatic advertising. 


Those annoying little ads that pop up when you’re trying to read an article? People are actually paying so that they can do that to you! Revelatory, right? No. Common knowledge. What’s new is that programmatic advertising, which makes use of AI, bids in live-time on the ad space, after you’ve clicked on the web page you want to visit. The highest bidder gets to say hello, which gives them a chance with you… in the hope that you’ll click on it and then purchase something. Then they pay up for the visibility. 


The biggest asset of programmatic advertising is that it takes into account a multitude of factors about the person they’re targeting, including behavior and lifestyle, in real-time. Manual advertising campaigns look at three or four more general markers. According to Statista, Programmatic Advertising will value $127 billion by the end of this year. It dominates the scene over manual purchases now, and that is not something that’s going to change any time soon. 


Another, very cool example of AI tech is Pinterest’s Lens. Launched in 2017, it uses visual search technology to identify items in a picture. It can also source the original item online for you to buy, or recommend similar ones. It can also amass a Pinterest board based on what you’ve snapped. This was a truly innovative way to increase traffic and potential partnerships with retailers who wanted in on customized recommendations for their own products.


Then take personalization capabilities. There are countless statistics, but I’m not quite sure why we feel the need to quantify the obvious: generic email blasts can feel annoying. When products, conversations and services are curated to our taste, of course we enjoy and engage with them better. AI allows us to interpret metrics and make automated marketing choices in-house. It also can give real-time product recommendations to your clientele. And I’m not gonna lie - I’ve followed those breadcrumbs before!


Then there are chatbots. At times endlessly frustrating, it hasn’t stopped businesses from adopting these bad boys. They are rapidly becoming much better at getting you to stick around to… chat. As technology grows in sophistication, they’re going to become even more of the norm than they already are


With a quick PSA, I’ll let you know that we in-house have pretty awesome specialists who work on the reg with this technology. They can develop solutions for pretty much any budget; we bring digital marketing solutions to the masses, not just the elite. 



Influencer Marketing


The arena is exploding; between 2016 and 2020, the market’s value grew by 8 billion dollars. Even AI is being used in influencer marketing, to help match you with the best voice for your brand. But beyond monetary incentives or tracking cookies, there are so many different ways of leveraging this tactic to suit your business. 


Those who think it’s too expensive, impossible or difficult to start, need to read this article in the New York Times about Parade, a States-based underwear brand. Instead of targeting huge or even just plain big influencers, they looked for smaller fish with a solid, most likely personal, following. They offered them free underwear in exchange for posting photos of themselves in the underwear. A serious win-win, and the personal recommendation was picked up by friends, not strangers, meaning it was way more likely to stick. Stick it did; they’ve blown up. 

Video Marketing


Per Forbes, the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Consumers are more likely to trust products pre-purchase if they’ve been able to see the thing in action. 86% of businesses are now using video in digital marketing, compared with the stat Forbes gave us 6 years ago, of just 24%. That’s a huge increase. With more bodies at home because of the pandemic, consumption of these videos has also gone up. As Google reflects what consumers appear to want to consume, websites with video tend to rank higher in search results. We don’t see this one going anywhere any time soon. If you haven’t got the resources for a video marketing solution, feel free to reach out to our team; it’s kind of our thing. 


That’s All, Folks


Whatever the next big thing will be, you can always expect consumers to adjust to the narrative at some point. Let alone the environmental factors that redirect traffic, think: pandemic. These turning points signal a time of perspective renewal; innovation. Whatever the next hot thing is, we can be sure that it will speak directly to the heart of what matters to the consumer. It won’t just make them feel self-important. Meaning trumps and outlasts significance, every time.