In many ways, 2020 has been an accelerator of ideas, strategies, and new projects. The reason is certainly because of the need to find alternative business solutions to survive a new economic and social scenario caused by the current health emergency. The year that is about to end can also be defined as the year of “digital awareness”: brands have become aware that digital can offer infinite possibilities both in terms of awareness and market positioning.
According to the Global Marketing Trends 2021 study by Deloitte, 66% of respondents said they have a highly positive attitude and appreciation towards digital technologies, and 63% said they will use digital technologies even more in the future. This data is extremely important, especially when compared to digital usage and attitudes toward it, through the end of 2019. In Italy, for example, literacy was low compared to European standards, as highlighted by Desi at the beginning of 2020 (and thus at the beginning of the pandemic). Over the course of this year, however, there has been a proliferation of initiatives that use digital at various levels, and above all even in sectors that are notoriously less accustomed to change. In a previous post, we examined the relevant aspects of what has been defined as “emergency digital”.
Best marketing strategies 2021 start from “human needs”
Digital awareness seems to drive our present and the end of this year, but it also forms the basis on which to build the strategies of the future marketing strategies 2021. Deloitte identified some “unusual” trends united by a sort of breakdown from the traditional business mentality that focused only on processes, earnings, and optimization. The year 2021 will see human needs at the center of winning strategies. These trends are:
- Purpose: The pandemic has drawn completely new economic scenarios, and only those brands that are clear about their purpose and, above all, are able to convey these aspects to their target audience, will survive. Continuity of success, therefore, seems to be increasingly linked to the ability to adapt to change and to the involvement of the public within the entire process.
- Agility: Traditional concepts have been abandoned in favor of flexibility for some years now, but the current situation calls for a greater push toward innovation in terms of design, ideas, features, and a strategic approach throughout the customer journey.
- Human experience: The importance of human connections, of listening to the needs of customers, is the starting point for the entire analysis. The human experience is made up of a thousand facets and this offers brands endless possibilities to improve and to adapt to the new reality. Researchers go so far as to speak of the “human mirror” as the key to success.
- Trust: Like any relationship, the one between brand and consumer must be based on trust. It is precisely the fulfillment of the promise made in the offer phase and is realized in quality, transparency, clarity, and continuous commitment.
- Participation: Without a shadow of a doubt, 2020 is the year that loneliness ruled over all other feelings. On the other hand, 2021 will be the year of involvement, of participation, of building an increasingly close relationship with consumers (think of reviews and conversations on social networks).
- Fusion: The concept of competition in the strict sense has been modified, leading companies to cooperate with each other in the function of a “greater and common good.” An important point of innovation is precisely the fusion and contamination that in 2021 will have to take place at the level of ideas, partnerships, and agreements in order to create a true ecosystem of brands in perfect (or almost perfect) balance.
- Talent: The last (and certainly not least) trend is the one related to people within (and beyond) organizations. The working models of the future will certainly have to focus on talent and creating the conditions for its development. If in 2020 we have heard so much talk about the transition to smart working, it is now necessary to improve it, not in terms of productivity but of well-being. We addressed the positive effects of digital on the well-being and retention of workers
Toward and agile organization
Deloitte’s research makes us think about the technological scope and potential of organizations, first in terms of maturity and then in terms of practicality. Agile organizational culture is definitely a goal to be achieved for all companies who want to survive the economic and social scenarios that 2020 has ushered in. When we talk about organizational culture, a very apt definition is the one given by J. Pfeffer: “a set of shared ideas, implicit and assumed within a group, which determines the way the group perceives, evaluates, and reacts to the external environment”. Making sure these shared ideas do not remain fixed over time but adapt, change, and innovate is what constitutes an agile culture. Staying in the realm of quotes, one that fits the context of the discourse is surely the one given by Albert Einstein (even before marketing, organizational and economic models were theorized): “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them.”
Marketing strategies 2021: From theory to practice
To the superficial eye, Deloitte’s Marketing Trends 2021 may seem very theoretical, but if we wanted to put them into everyday reality we could certainly identify concrete implications.
The importance given to human needs can be translated into a strategy of personalization. The data collected by companies is a great resource on which to build knowledge, dialog, and an increasingly close and personal relationship with their audience. Each of us will have come into contact at least once with the “tailored recommendations” made by Amazon’s algorithm. But perhaps not all of us know that the collection of data on preferences is responsible for 29% of total sales. Although we’ve cited a complex example of personalization, it’s important to consider that it’s also applicable at lower and simpler levels: think of a newsletter, targeted content, using a tone of voice that is very close to your audience to communicate, etc…
If we talk about personalization, we talk (almost automatically) about customer experience. A warning for brands in 2021 is to study all the touchpoints in order to implement omnichannel strategies that are able to cover every point of interaction. Here again, digital becomes a faithful ally in the construction of a point of contact that in turn will become interaction and finally relationship.
To support personalization and customer experience, another concept intervenes that, although it has been debated for a long time, finds a way to renew and reinvent itself. This is storytelling: despite its ancient origins, storytelling continues to be one of the pillars on which to base and cultivate the relationship between brand and customer. Telling the story of a brand, of a product, of a value, continues to interest and excite people. Moreover, storytelling lends itself to being applied in different forms depending on the contexts and the actors involved. Just think of the phenomenon of influencers creating content on behalf of brands or of the increasingly conscious use of inbound marketing with valuable content, especially in the B2B world; of the production of podcasts by brands even on topics that appear (apparently) unrelated to their main business.
The consumer is King (semicit.)
Starting from what is one of the most famous phrases for marketers, it is possible to state the concept on the basis of the central role that the customer will assume in 2021. Organizations will have to take into account, through the realization of their marketing and communication strategies, the needs of consumers and prosumers. Shifting the focus to the target means reversing the perspective not only in terms of product or service, but also (and above all) in terms of branding, social responsibility, data processing; in short, the entire universe that revolves around a company.
The focus on product is the basic assumption of the journey to purchase, however, conscious consumers are looking to go beyond that. In the decision-making process, therefore, certain variables that are no longer negligible on the part of brands come into play. We are talking about attention to the environment, social commitment, protection of privacy, dedication to causes consistent with values; in other words, everything that falls within the scope of what is known as Corporate social responsibility.
Last but not least
At the end of the analysis of best marketing strategies for 2021, we would like to underline some phenomena that, rather than new trends, seem to confirm their success and their longevity (at least for another year) of use.
Artificial Intelligence and its application in terms of workflow, chatbots, voice search, and automation will continue to dominate the scene of business strategies. However, in light of the new requirements, it will be good for brands to focus on humanizing it.
The year 2020 has taught us, especially with TikTok, the power of user generated content, i.e. content created spontaneously by users. The possibilities offered by filters and audio are for brands a treasure to draw from and feed in order to get in touch with an increasing number of users.
We’ve already stressed the importance of content, but it’s worth highlighting how form can amplify the effect of valuable content. The positive data on video marketing (and on the fruition of videos in general) suggest that brands should focus on producing increasingly engaging and interactive content. In 2021, users will continue to search for social live feeds, reels, virtual tours, and whatever else companies can offer them.
Finally, we find an unexpected comeback: the newsletter! Since the beginning of 2020, there has been a significant increase in the use of email marketing by companies ( just think about the “abandoned cart” ecommerce email as an example). Some statistics have already predicted that by 2022, 347.3 billion emails will be sent (Statista, 2020). Brands, therefore, will definitely have to work on templates, content, graphic layout, navigability, and the copywriting strategy (and microcopy) if they want to make sure the user gets to the end of the page.