As a marketing agency specializing in content marketing, brand strategy, website design, social media marketing, SEM/SEO, and more, 2020 was not at all the year we thought it would be. In fact, once the pandemic hit, we found ourselves having to scrap and pivot many of our meticulously-mapped out client marketing plans. But being flexible and re-strategizing at a moment’s notice is something we’re always equipped to do – after all, no good marketing plan ever stays exactly the same over time. It can’t be if looking to sync with consumer behaviors and the latest trends.
So with this in mind, we used the giant monkey wrench that 2020 threw into our marketing plans to bring you this list of 2021 digital marketing trends that we see sticking around or unfolding further in the year and beyond. It’s certainly not all you can expect – as 2020 has taught us – but, rather, some of our most intriguing findings to inform your own strategy, especially as your own marketing rulebook may be way out of date.
Virtual Events are Not Just Here to Stay, But the Technology Will Continue to Evolve & Grow at a Fast Rate
From Jessica Kaiser, owner and CEO of Hawthorn Creative
“At first, I think there was this initial thought that once the spread of COVID got under control that being entirely in-person would once again return to being the way events are conducted. But, really, being forced to figure out how to build events in a virtual medium – and do it well – has created some really amazing opportunities and experiences in this space. So not only do I see virtual components sticking around and being worked into parts of in-person events as they do return (resulting in what are now being called “hybrid events”), I see the technology continuing to grow and be adopted by this industry at a faster pace.
For example, I think AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are eventually going to become event program must-haves. In fact, one full-service production company I follow, Simple Multimedia (they’ve worked with global brands like Google, Nat Geo, Nike, and more), creates VR Lounge Experiences and VR Interactive Booths for their clients, where they can virtually interact with others in a virtual space and share information. They also produce AR content that digitally brings to life once dull meeting packets or instructional documents through the lens of your phone. Such technologies open up a wider way to experience the information being shared, ultimately making meeting and events that much more layered and that much more effective at engaging attendees.”
“At-Home” Content Taking a Permanent Place in Content Marketing Strategy
From Catherine Shane, Senior Marketing and Content Manager
“I see more brands continuing to develop and push out digital content that helps their consumers to maximize ‘life at home’ – whether that’s in blog content, larger campaign efforts, or by other means. So think blog posts that detail recipes, mindfulness exercises, even at-home style and design tips – the kind of content that brands switched to almost exclusively once 2020’s stay-at-home orders first came into effect since a lot of their previous strategy suddenly felt insensitive (just two examples: “At Home with Six Senses” initiative and “The Belmond Care Package.”).
While I don’t think it will be as large of a focus by any means, I do think many brand marketers saw its merit and will continue to make it a permanent piece of their content strategy because, really, it never goes out of style – pandemic or no pandemic. In fact, creating serviceable or lifestyle content that consumers value and associate with your brand is smart marketing at all times.”
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TikTok Evolving as a Popular Top-of-the-Funnel Marketing Tactic
From Matt Lawson, Digital Media Manager
“I expect TikTok to rise for hospitality and luxury brands that are focused on full-funnel marketing. Yes, the main audience for TikTok right now are users in their teens, but I see older audiences increasingly adopting the platform. According to Statista.com, 10- to 19-year-olds account for 32.5% of TikTok users, but this is quickly followed by ages 20 to 29 (29.5%) and 30-39 (16.9%), so these audiences are right in the sweet spot for many businesses and brands.
As for how they would use it? At the moment, purely for awareness, allowing companies the opportunity to showcase ‘experiences.’ For example, wedding and event venues can showcase actual weddings or the different areas of their properties; hospitality brands can share experiences relating to their property or ‘things to do’ in surrounding areas. The options are limitless. The main goal behind all of this – paid and organic-wise – is to build an audience that views your video and wants to be there, not so much lead generation, but I imagine this could be paired well with other lead-gen tactics.
Lastly, advertising on TikTok is still fairly new. This means less competition and lower costs!”
Squarespace Securing its Spot as a Preferred CMS thanks to New Scheduling Features
From Ally Gerlach, Web Strategist
“Back in the spring, Squarespace purchased one of the most popular web scheduling apps, Acuity. This made a whole new bucket of functionality available that we can implement out of the box as opposed to creating something custom (which means more $) or connecting with other CRMs/scheduling systems (also more $).
Here, at Hawthorn Creative, we’ve found this functionality particularly helpful for our wedding and event venue clients because they can now easily book tours and meetings with their own prospective clients seamlessly. But, I don’t see this stopping there at all. These features are ideal for other industries as well – like wineries booking tours and tastings, independent healthcare providers and medical aesthetics practices booking virtual appointments, and even enterprise businesses booking calls or meetings with potential clients, just to name a few. In addition to scheduling, Squarespace has also seriously bulked up on the number of systems that they can connect with natively. Overall, these changes are making Squarespace an even more viable CMS option for businesses outside of the small business and freelancer space.”
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Brands Promoting Social Justice, Diversity & Inclusion in their Social Media Messaging
From Corey Scarano, Social Media Manager
“In 2020, we saw social justice going from an effort to a movement. And since consumers are more likely to purchase from companies that take a stand on causes that align with their own values, more brands are putting social justice higher on their list of importance. In fact, brands who were silent or tone-deaf during many of the events of 2020 were naturally judged by their audiences, losing customers, investors, and revenue as a result (remember the Facebook advertising boycott this past June?).
That means companies will be baking more of these values into their overall brand presence, social media marketing messaging, as well as more inclusive influencer marketing campaigns. The key, however, will be how they do so, so that it is viewed as genuine and not as ‘woke-washing.’ It’s a delicate tightrope that brands will have to walk and one that will require thoughtful strategy and implementation.”
Web Designs Moving More toward Minimal but Oh-So Purposeful
From Kristen Ritzenthaler, Creative Manager & Lead Web Designer
“2020 presented many unique challenges for businesses around the globe. As a society, we had to make many shifts in the way we work and play and, inevitably, web design followed suit. More than ever before, websites are needing to serve multiple purposes and can no longer just be ‘pretty’ or aspirational. Thoughtful and strategic web design is going to be key in 2021. We’re seeing mobile responsiveness take center stage as more and more users are browsing the web on their mobile devices. In terms of web design, we’re seeing asymmetrical layouts and organic grids, creative typography, colorful shapes, and use of textures. Overall, the 2021 web design mantra is: minimal, eye-catching design meets modern functionality.”
Does all this sound great, but you’re not sure how to put it into action?
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