• Mark Hallander

5 digital marketing trends to implement in the new year

As marketers, we need to keep relevant in a world that is always evolving and constantly innovating. While it's easy to get overwhelmed by the opportunities, it's important to embrace change in the marketing space as opposed to being afraid of it. I have selected 5 trends that could shape the landscape in the coming year.

#digitalmarketing #trends


Looking back at a year filled with constant change and adjustment due to the global pandemic, I believe that many marketers will go "back to basics" and prioritize brand building over other strategic initiatives.


Many will undoubtedly feel like 2020 was a year of no progress. But while we all worked from home - trying to find solutions in these turbulent times - there has been a lot of development in the digital domain. Here are 5 trends to consider in the post-corona era.



Live Video

As I mentioned in last year's post on marketing trends, video marketing has come to stay. The format combined with social distancing and regulations to stay at home has seen the live video industry blow up in 2021.


According to data from Twitch, YouTube and Facebook there has been a 99% year-over-year growth in hours of live stream video watched between 2019 and 2020. This demand is very much reflected in the gaming industry, which saw a large increase in the number of people who viewed YouTube Gaming in 2020.


Source: 3PlayMedia


In other words: People turned to video to stay connected, to be inspired and entertained. And while the general population became more comfortable with video communication in 2020, other forms of video quickly became part of the norm.


Just to name a few, TikTok continued its growth as Instagram introduced Reels and the dominant media Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube have all given brands the option to "go live".


The opportunity of the live format for the coming year lies within its ability to build a deeper connection with consumers – allowing brands to get closer to their audience by proving credibility and personality.



High-Quality Branded Content

After a year of damage control, many marketing decision-makers now need to focus their efforts on building a strong brand position. In doing so, quality is vital if you’re looking to build a reliable brand image that people recognize and trust. I believe we will see high-quality branded content grow as a consequence of that.


Branded content is when the story weighs heavier than the product or advertising message behind it. In 2021, people don’t want to feel like they are being sold to. They want value and experiences. As a result, we have seen more and more people implement ad-blockers to combat the intrusiveness of online ads. In fact, branded content is 22 x more engaging than classic display ads.


A highly relevant example of branded content is Apple’s 7-minute ad “The whole working-from-home thing”, where a team of people work remotely towards a deadline under very relatable circumstances. They make it all happen with the power of their apple products. Very entertaining. Not very salesy.


Source: Apple YouTube Channel

That is what high-quality branded content can do. It works because it engages the audience with entertainment value, educational value or inspirational value – rather than forcing advertising down their throat.



Interactive Content

In continuation of the trend within quality branded content, the insight behind the modern consumer is that they have become very particular with consuming content. We are simply getting tired of the mundane ads that we have all seen a million times before. Without putting effort into personalization many brands lack originality.


Hence, I think we will see a larger push for interactivity in order to catch user attention and increase engagement. The tendency has been on the rise for a time now, and it is best understood as a crossfield between content marketing, with more traditional educational content such as blogs, and more entertaining content such as branded games. Other examples of interactive content include assessments, quizzes, polls, interactive videos/display banners and contests.


At the core, it's about offering value to visitors while creating a fundament of data to tailor-make marketing solutions. This will, in turn, help you refine personas and targeting. The introduction of interactive ads is something that will enable brands to provide a much more personal offering to their customers rather than just promoting generic offers. Just take L'Oreal's Hair Color Quiz that recommends the best hair color fit based on the users' color goals, natural color, shade and gray level. And engaging and personal experience.

loreal-hair-color-quiz

Source: L'Oréal Paris USA Hair Color Quiz



Build trust with data ethics

Technology progresses and safety needs to evolve with it. I think many marketers have come to the realization that online tools have been the lifeline in a turbulent year. However, as more people go online, they have a growing responsibility to protect user’s privacy and data.


The basis of the digital ecosystem is trust. It’s a growing trend that brands are seen as a safeguard for consumers' data – and they need to be very clear in how they are using it. So rather than offering the basic level of compliance, companies are expected to work on data ethics and choose what’s right for consumers.


The marketing field is adapting to meet these needs meaning that discussion on data ethics will turn to concrete action for many brands in the new year. And while marketing is no doubt a key driver in this transformation, the current discussions on data ethics are not isolated to the marketing function as they extend to c-level and especially larger corporations are establishing privacy centers of excellence that focus solidly on data privacy.


Google is one frontrunner in the field of data ethics, and they have drafted 7 guiding principles on privacy and security that inform decision-making on products and processes.

Google-privacy-principles

Source: Google Privacy and Security Principles


User-generated content

While user-generated content is far from new, the global pandemic has opened the door for this discipline, which is a practical way for brands to engage with their consumers.


USG has been used for years to get user testimonials, endorsements and social influencers, but while positive customer feedback is important to your brand, it’s not the only way of involving your consumers in your marketing output. More brands are turning to social media to repost user-generated content including videos, images or reviews. The benefit of using raw, uncut imagery from users in marketing is that it boosts the brand's authenticity - making it real and relatable.


I think a lot of parents have felt the weight of the pandemic. Having to juggle numerous projects at work and virtual meetings with impatient children in need of homeschooling, parenting became another ballgame in 2020.


Tapping into this insight, the Australian online clothing retailer, The Iconic, paid tribute to “Those who mother” in a campaign released ahead of Mother’s Day in May. With this series of touching, authentic moments of hard-working Mums during Covid-19, the brand created a large momentum of word-of-mouth through user's own content.

Source: The Iconic YouTube Channel



Where to go from here?

While these digital marketing trends do not represent the complete list of developments within the industry, they are a great place to start in planning your 2021 marketing strategy. Whether this comes down to shifting a part of a budget into user-generated content or finding an alternative to tactical display banners. It's far from the first time, that I have investigated upcoming trends of the marketing landscape.


At the beginning of 2020, I investigated the increase of video, consumers turning to voice searches, social commerce, direct messaging, and various price fluctuations in ad platforms.


And the year before that, I assessed the use of influencers, marketing automation, mobile marketing and the emerge of chatbots.