2021: The Year of the Human

Ah, 2021. The year we’ve been waiting for. A year of new opportunities and few guarantees. 

Especially for marketers. Coming out of a year when most marketing budgets faced certain annihilation, a solid strategy may seem elusive. If you find yourself behind in your planning, you’re not alone. 

But plan we must. And happily, amid all the “pivots” and “resets” of 2020, one compelling theme has undeniably emerged: The need for human connection. 

Top marketing trends for 2021 put the emphasis on people. And it’s no wonder. Isolation and media immersion have given audiences a desire for true relevance — and a keen eye for BS. In the wake of a year of “raw” being splayed across screens we couldn’t escape, we’ve become connoisseurs of what’s real.

And that’s exactly the place to start. As you move toward solidifying your strategy for 2021, consider these three ways to fortify your marketing plan:

  1. Meet human needs authentically. The pandemic cast a bright spotlight on human need — and companies that responded well made big competitive strides.

    When times are tough, brand relevance is key. A Gartner survey showed brand strategy topped the list of “vital strategic initiatives” for CMOs in 2020 — a huge leap from the bottom of that list in 2019.

    There’s never been a more critical time to invest in what your audience thinks about your brand. In a recent Deloitte study, 82% of respondents said they would do more business with a brand that pivoted quickly to meet their needs – and more than one-fourth of customers walked away from a brand they perceived as acting in their own self-interest. In the same study, 5 out of the top 7 global marketing trends focused squarely on people.

  2. Put the “personal” in personalization. Personalization isn’t a new concept — 79% of B2B marketers surveyed by Gartner say they consider it the best way to engage buyers. But even under normal circumstances, personalization can be expensive and tricky. In the current climate, the risks increase. That’s why many B2B marketers are looking at account-based marketing to get the most out of their personalization efforts.

    We’ve seen clients apply this targeted approach — choosing one industry, taking a deep dive into the market, and identifying key companies — with great success. By concentrating budget and resources on your highest-priority accounts, you can build a more accurate customer profile, better understand the needs of target customer segments, and tailor your campaigns to meet those needs effectively.

  3. Double-down on digital. A unique factor in the pandemic-induced recession is the move from brick-and-mortar to digital. Today, “relevance” is as much about digital channels as it is about customization. 63% of participants in the Deloitte study say they’ll continue to lean in on digital technologies well after the pandemic is over.

    How will this play out in the near term? Expect to see the tech giants profit as brands increase their spending on digital ads. And expect social media and influencer marketing to skyrocket as more and more brands recognize the need for user-generated content to add authenticity to their campaigns.

We’ve always known it, but 2020 put it in vivid relief: Customer-centrism pays off. As long as the “new normal” includes lower budgets, we marketers will be doing what we do best: Thinking outside the box to reach the ones we serve.

This year’s successful brands will put human needs at the forefront of every message, touchpoint and campaign. 2021 is your opportunity to rediscover your purpose, build new levels of trust, and elevate experiences through stronger engagement with customers. We can help you get there.

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