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The Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends We Can Expect This Year

by Chris Hill - February 8, 2021
2020 was a year unlike any other that caused a monumental shift in all aspects of life and business. Digital marketing was not immune to these changes, seeing a rapid pivot from marketers and the techniques utilized to reach consumers across multiple channels. Then what trends can we expect for 2021, and where should marketers focus their efforts and dollars? Here are the top 5 trends that we anticipate this year.
1. Digital marketing pivots become the new normal 

COVID-19 has completely changed how we interact with one another, and the ways that digital marketers deliver content has evolved. Just as remote working skyrocketed and became commonplace, so too has the rise of virtual events, seminars, and meetings. Marketers will need to adapt their communication efforts and promotional tactics to engage with their audiences.

The Adobe MAX Conference, the world’s largest creative conference, is a relevant case study. They quickly pivoted to a live-stream event and made it free for everyone with an Adobe subscription. Not an easy feat when you have multiple keynote speeches and hundreds of workshops around the globe. They also smartly promoted their event with an email drip campaign that highlighted the benefits of “tuning into” the conference, highlighting their speakers, workshops, and product updates. Adobe also used social media to deliver video and graphic posts about the conference, many with a strong registration call-to-action.

2. UGC that is fun and creates a sense of community

User-generated content (UGC) has always been a powerful tool in the digital marketer’s toolbox. It is a great way to engage your audience and involve them with your brand. By asking users to post their photos, videos, stories, etc., they feel more connected to your business. Moreover, it creates a sense of community, sorely needed after months of stay-at-home orders and canceled events. UGC efforts also have many other benefits. They are fun and uplifting — providing a positive outlet, they create brand evangelists, and they are more influential within social media friend circles than a brand advertisement.

A great example of a well done UGC campaign is Teremana Tequila, the new spirits brand launched by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. His Instagram followers were encouraged to post videos showing their first time trying the tequila. What followed was hundreds of user videos typically showed them uncorking the bottle, pouring a drink, and a satisfying reaction after tasting it. What made the videos most interesting was that each person brought their personality into it — some had stories, offered jokes, and recorded from locations across the world. Of course, the odds of a campaign’s success helps when you have 50 million followers as The Rock does. However, numbers don’t guarantee success but making it fun and creative will always provide an edge. 

3. Brands that are inclusive

Consumer attitudes continue to evolve, and the brands they support have become more reflective of their personal beliefs. More and more, consumers are factoring in a business’s inclusivity and social philosophy before deciding to make a purchase. This is especially true for Gen Z and the future Generation Alpha. Heightened by political and social issues, the brands that have authentically embraced social causes and have been transparent about them will have distinct advantages moving forward. Specifically, they can better connect with consumers, place themselves into online conversations, and build consumer trust.

You can expect brands to become more vocal about their philosophical position, give back to social causes, and increase transparency about their efforts. Examples of this range from Adidas donating $3.2 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Disney donating 1 million cloth masks to vulnerable communities, Sephora contributing $1 million to Black Lives Matter organizations and Patagonia’s continued awareness about the environment. 
4. Easily consumable content

More than ever, people are consuming content at home because of the pandemic. To meet this
shift, digital marketers should increase their focus on easy-to-consume content such as podcasts that are consumable while on-the-go and newsletters that are delivered directly to people’s inbox. While these tactics might be considered old school, they have renewed relevance because they are easy to implement by marketers and easy for consumers to digest.

Recent studies support this growth in consumer actions. For example, one study found that 55%of Americans now listen to podcasts, and newsletter mentions were up 15% during the pandemic. 2021 expects to see continued growth in these areas, and digital marketers have taken notice. Podcast ad spending is projected to hit $1 Billion by 2022. And streaming music services like Spotify went all-in on podcasts, adding podcasts to its platform last year, and their bet has proven very successful thus far. In Q4 2021, Spotify reported that they have 2.2 million podcasts, and they grew their total user base by 27% to 345 million users. They reported that 25% of this audience engaged with their podcast content — up 25% in Q3. 

It’s clear that podcasts are here to stay, and digital marketers are using them to deliver readily-available content and advertising to consumers.
5. The social gaming community

Social gaming refers to online games that allow for social interaction between players. These include multiplayer games, social network games, interactive multiplayer video games, and others. Social gaming has increasingly become an outlet for people to fulfill their need for social interaction and connectivity, especially during the pandemic. Moreover, these games have given rise to several external outlets like online forums and groups that their fanbase can interact with while fostering a sense of community. 

Gamers are increasingly engaging with these outside-the-game platforms, but interestingly, their search keywords are less about the games they play and more about the people they play with. These are conversation drivers that digital marketers should be paying attention to, and as the gaming landscape expands, more brands are expected to invest in communicating with these audiences. Tactics such as personalized content, gaming influencers, and video gameplay will be avenues to reach the social gaming community and engage with them.

Gaming has gone mainstream and no longer has a stigma attached to it. It is a passionate community that will continue to grow and shouldn’t get overlooked. 
New challenges and new opportunities

The pandemic has dramatically shifted how we connect, both in-person and online. People are searching for new ways to come together, create relationships, and develop a sense of community. This presents an opportunity to reevaluate your marketing content, tactics, messaging, and targeted outlets so you can better connect with your audiences. To be successful in 2021, brands will need to be nimble, experimenting with new forms of messaging and content that resonate with consumers while remaining honest, transparent, and creative. 

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