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The 2020 marketing pivot and what’s to come in 2021

2020 has been a year for embracing chaos — for marketers and businesses alike. Although we faced many challenges, there is a silver lining bringing us all closer together. As marketers, we learned to pivot along with consumers in the face of chaos, adapting to new shopping and search behaviors that came to define the year. While some trends were short-lived (like virtual cocktail hours) others have stuck and continue to make an impact. So, what’s next? While we don’t have a crystal ball, understanding 2020 gives us a good idea of where we’re headed as we plan for 2021.  

A shift in TV

It’s no surprise — streaming programming continued to rise as audiences stayed home more this year. Consumers continued to cut the cord, escaping to streaming devices like Smart TVs and Rokus. According to Nielsen ratings, The Mandalorian series alone – available only on streaming devices – generated 47.6 million hours of watch time during the first three weeks of its premiere! This wasn’t just a one-off, either. A March report predicted that media consumption was expected to rise 60% in 2020, and this trend was carried out throughout the year with record-breaking numbers in many markets. This was also the year that Neilsen revealed that their ratings system would now separate traditional and streaming ratings, signaling a shift in advertising away from the television-first model we’ve seen in the past. For businesses with a strong digital strategy, this increase represents a significant opportunity to connect to new audiences that would previously have been difficult to reach.

Shopping from the comfort of home

When consumers needed a break from The Mandalorian, audiences continued to scroll on their devices for retail therapy. In particular, Gen Z and Millennials, who have overtaken BabyBoomers as the largest population segment, are willing to spend. According to BCG, Millennials are expected to increase spending by 10% in the next five years, while Gen Z will increase by over 70%. In 2020, both generations flocked to technology, where e-commerce has grown to fulfill consumer needs for take-out, toilet paper, how-to videos, shopping, and more. Technology followed, with many social media channels launching new features, such as Facebook Shop Live or IG shopping for a seamless “click to buy” shopping experience. 

Searching for answers

The search was on as people looked to Google for answers during this year of unknowns. According to Google, some of the top trending searches in 2020 included “how to cut men’s hair at home” or “how to make a mask without sewing.” Each search reveals the needs and the uncertainties of consumers. As marketers, this search data is a treasure of value. Search not only shows sentiment but also indicates areas where consumers’ needs aren’t being met (hello market opportunities!) You can be sure to see plenty of men’s self-styling products this year.

Honest and relatable social media content 

Don’t go chasing algorithms— remember your story. In this year of social distancing and stay-at-home quarantine,  the need to connect to others was fulfilled online through social media, which provided a voice for many to communicate with the outside world. One of the biggest platforms for new voices this year was TikTok, which emerged as the most downloaded app of the year for users between 18 and 24. However, no matter the channel, the message was the same — honesty and transparency. “We’re in this together” may as well have been the tagline of the year, signifying the connection that we all craved while staying apart.

People buy from people

In fact, a recent study by Allison+Partners found that 58% of marketers believe that humanizing a brand will lead to higher sales. For many businesses, physical doors were closed, giving social media and YouTube the perfect platform to communicate with their audience. The voices of brands showed up for their customers with behind the scenes looks at their struggles and stories in a humanistic way. This honesty often led to stronger customer trust and sales. It showed that businesses were still there for their communities — near and far. 

The Rise of the Influencer

Many businesses also looked to their audiences to give honest feedback on their products or services through influencer marketing campaigns. In our own backyard, Dunkin Donuts used Nano Influencers (accounts with only 1,000 to 10,000 followers) to reach a more authentic audience. The influencers’ goal — to produce high engagement rates by focusing on being realistic and relatable to the audience to promote Dunkin Donuts. The results proved strong, with 21,975 likes and a 5.2% engagement rate. This user-generated content gave an honest look at how users truly feel about brands. Meanwhile, Maine’s iconic L.L.Bean took to the outdoors, featuring brand ambassadors as influencers by specifically hiring #LLBeanstudents that showcased their L.L.Bean adventures on social media throughout the year. While the results of this campaign have not been finalized, we anticipate similar success to the Dunkin Donuts campaign.

Though the marketing landscape may have changed in 2020, the future looks bright in 2021 for businesses and audiences. The benefit of these trends to businesses is the convenience to pivot alongside audience behaviors. Both digital advertising and paid social media offer a relatively inexpensive spend with a high ROI, that can be changed almost instantly. For audiences, these platforms offer a way to connect and share their experiences. We’ll keep pivoting into 2021, listening to consumers, continuing to connect them to businesses, and find the answers to what’s to come in 2021. 

Does your business have questions on how to pivot this year? We’d love to hear from you.

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