Even as the vaccine starts to show a clear path to pandemic recovery, the digital ecosystem is trending towards a big shake-up with the onset of Apple’s controversial tracking changes, multiple Big Tech anti-trust lawsuits and Google formally eliminating third-party cookies.  And there’s more!  Here are 8 marketing trends to watch in 2021:

1 Fixing Digital Complexity

Collecting 3rd party data was easy compared what it will take to collect and authenticate 1st party data.  There are new sources for 1st party data, like TikTok, Kroger and Walgreens, but more sources mean marketers must deal with more gatekeepers.  Then there are ad-tech firms and media companies vying to create the cookie alternative.  Marketers will be dealing with more balls in the air and vendor selections!

2. The Activists Mindset

Last year’s civil rights movement changed forever what is expected of brands on the purpose front.  Consumers are now watching to see what brands actively work to make the world a better place.

3. CMO’s Seizing Leadership Opportunities

Spread-thin CMO’s are pulled constantly in multiple directions.  Forester Research forecasts that CMO’s will have shorter planning and production schedules, reduced media budgets, fewer internal resources and less reliance on agencies and ad-tech companies.  The silver lining though is the CMO position will claim a bigger stake in the leadership of their organizations.

4. Marketing Agility Becomes the Norm

As shorter planning and production schedules become the norm into 2021 and beyond, how can marketers adjust efforts on the fly while building the long-term equity that brands need?  “To meet this demand, marketing leaders must identify what truly matters most, create a short set of criteria to prioritize each request and identify how best to address it, “ Lizzy Kune, senior director analyst at Gardner, says.

5. Evolving Roles of Brand Spokespeople

The search for actual consumer influence through celebrity partnerships increased in 2020 as the pandemic shuttered film and TV production leaving celebrity creatives the time and financial need met by brand partnerships.  Marketers just need to make sure that celebrity brand partnerships “meet the moment”, whether that means coronavirus concerns, economic realities facing consumers, racial justice or whatever 2021 has in store.  Celebrity brand partnerships will likely continue into 2021, as well as the use of microinfluencers on social media networks.

6. Customizing Campaigns for Social Platforms

New social platforms like Tik-Tok and Thriller picked up momentum in 2020.  For marketers, that  doesn’t necessarily streamline the work they must do to reach audiences engaging with new social platforms. Understanding the different consumer mindsets on new social platforms and customizing campaigns present a challenge for marketers.

7. Driving “Stickiness” through Connection, Convenience and Value

Consumers come back to brands time and time again because of the satisfaction they experience.  A recent McKinsey report says that connection, convenience, and value drive this satisfaction or brand stickiness.  Marketers should remember our world doesn’t evolve around their brand’s product, service, or website.  People are only users or consumers of a brand for small portions of the day, thus the importance of planning around the whole human.  To achieve this, marketers might need to move from purely data driven tactics that talk to consumers’ heads and have defined marketing the past few years to more purposeful tactics that appeal to consumers’ hearts.

8. E-Commerce Way of Life

Buying online is probably the biggest consumer behavioral changes caused by the pandemic.  And these habits are going to change even as the pandemic recedes.  Consumers are now used to the e-commerce and digital shopping experiences they’ve come to expect.  Social commerce is booming and will only continue to grow, especially social and livestream shopping apps.  To meet this demand, social platforms have melded content with commerce, connecting consumers with brands and shrinking the sale funnel.  Facebook added a Shops tab, Instagram beefed up shoppable posts and e-commerce on IGTV, Reels and TikTok rolled out shoppable livestreams.