Top 20 Marketing Trends brands should watch Out for (2021 Update)

Dec 23 2017




Last Updated: May 19, 2021

Author Neeraj

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The last decade has been the years of transformation for marketing, especially regarding the recognition of issues concerning common people and the creation of proactive measures to overcome difficulties consumers face today. From emphasizing more on digital channels to increasing Twitter character lengths, to realizing and acting upon fake news, and addressing common privacy concerns, brands today are becoming more and more consumer-centric.

Marketing is evolving and there is a long way to go. In this blog, we will discuss 20 such marketing trends brands should watch out for.

1. Virtual Reality in Questionable State

Virtual reality started with a big bang. It was expected to be a part of mainstream advertising budgets, but witnessed a limited play in movies and TV shows, in contrast to games. Flagship mobile phones like  Lenovo Vibe X3 had bundled mobile phone and virtual reality headsets together, which is not the case with leading mobile brands today. This is going to continue, and brands will see lesser traction on mobile devices and applications of virtual reality in marketing. It could take few more years for VR to reach a tipping point.

2. Machine Learning in Marketing

Machine learning, inevitably, will change the way brands consider marketing to their customers today. By now, you must have tried looking at a product on an e-commerce site, and the very next second the same product is shown to you in multiple ad formats in your mailbox, on the apps you download, and on the websites you visit. It will grow with the dynamic shift that the mobile and android market is experiencing today. Basically, it demonstrates machine learning in digital advertising, termed as “retargeting.” Leading companies such as Facebook, Google, and Vizury enable this for marketers to effectively target their audience for improved conversions. It also brings in the real-time application of ads to the desired audience and cuts on unwanted spends as machines can learn faster than human beings. Essentially, personalized and better-targeted ads, real-time application, and the ability to learn quickly will eventually get more cost-effective for the businesses out there.

3. Limiting Gated Content

Creating a simple landing page and gated content has been useful in the past few years. From necessary to unnecessary gating of content, and forcing users to submit a form in exchange for an asset, offer, or benefit, gated content has been overused. Brands like Zendesk have already started using a mix of gated and non-gated content. Customers would prefer not to be forced to fill out a form every time they need an asset from your website. This trend will see more traction, and brands will choose what to gate and what not to gate going forward. Using a suitable mix and differentiating gated and non-gated content will be the key to success and blogging is going to open new avenues for businesses including free and open content which was otherwise gated in past. Check out our guide on best practices for social media and best practices for organic link building for an improved content strategy for your business.

4. LinkedIn Gets Life

Over the last decade, LinkedIn made multiple improvements to its platform including bringing in objective based advertising to businesses and enabling square resolution videos, the like and clap buttons, they also started promoting thought-leadership-driven video bytes—often candid conversations targeting youth, B2B professionals, and job seekers—the purpose LinkedIn is well known for. All these initiatives added a lot more life for LinkedIn users, as it sometimes get boring to talk business all the time as such. There are, however, certain limitations with Linkedin ads and improvement areas like any other product company out there. This trend will surely be noticed by leading brands, and people will try bringing in youth, new thoughts, and candid conversations on LinkedIn. With free data plans floating around you and 5G on the rise, we will see a lot more videos on Linkedin than you ever did.

5. Twitter Declines

Twitter didn’t see much growth due to limited improvements in the ad platform and the focus on user acquisitions. There is some positive news  however. Increasing the character limit to 280 characters resulted in positive trends and it was welcomed by most of the experts as such. Businesses should ideally adopt to relevant hashtag usage according to their business and industry of operation.

6. Rise of Instagram

According to Social Sprout, Instagram surpassed 1 BN mark in 2020 itself. There is a new and controversial Instagram for Kids in discussion as well.

Top hashtags on Instagram

1. #love
2. #fashion
3. #photooftheday
4. #photography
5. #art
6. #beautiful
7. #travel
8. #happy
9. #nature
10. #picoftheday

It has become a must-have for celebrities, controversial artists, photography enthusiasts, and fitness freaks to grow their follower base. Irrespective of need, users are experimenting with Instagram. Whilst it’s good to have 2 to 3 hashtags in a tweet. Instagram’s rules are the exact opposite, and it provides more liberty to its users. Users are adopting more and more hashtags to be heard on this noisy image platform.

There aren’t any hashtag limitations as such, but according to a TrackMaven study of Instagram accounts with 1,000 followers or fewer, posts containing four or five hashtags received an average of 22 interactions, compared to 14 interactions on posts with zero hashtags.

7. Net Neutrality – Loses or Wins – Impact is the Imperative

According to principle, internet service providers or ISPs should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking products or websites. In recent developments in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington voted to dismantle the “net neutrality” rules, thus giving more power to cable and telecom companies to control the future of the web. Advertising revenues will eventually start moving towards Telecom and cable companies, as marketers will have better avenues for consumer profiling and targeting there. We foresee premium charges being applied to advertising.

8. Rise of Ad-blocking Tech

A recent report in March 2017 explained that ad fraud will cost brands $16.4 billion globally, and that nearly 20 percent of the total digital ad budget was wasted in 2016. This is a growing concern among advertisers and publishers today, and it has been bothering Google for some time now. From acknowledging this to be a problem in July 2017 to refunding advertisers for fake ads, Google did all it could to regain advertisers’ faith. About two years ago, P&G’s programmatic partner, The Trade Desk, partnered with bots-detection company White Ops to eliminate ad fraud before buyers are charged from inventory offered by supply-side platforms. This opens new avenues for ad-fraud solutions and more service providers as brands today don’t even have a transparent visibility of where their ads are actually shown.

9. Voice Search

An estimate by ComScore says that by 2020, almost 30 percent of searches will be done without a screen. We have Amazon Alexa devices to justify that already. Google, on the other hand, says about 20 percent of search queries via its app are through voice search. Brands will need to be equipped for voice search sooner. More investments are expected in voice-search friendly websites and apps, and it may also lead to the adoption of chatbots/artificially intelligent virtual assistants to power voice search queries in some cases. Amazon and Google, for instance, have released mini Wi-Fi speakers for the home already. This possesses a challenge to Google, as it limits monetization opportunities.

10. Privacy Breach & Marketing

This is the topic we wrote in past: Blackberry Passport, which was way ahead of its generation, and Blackberry 10 OS have been officially killed. They were too secure, meaning they covered your privacy so well that even the basic Blackberry browser could notify you and ask your permission if a website was trying to know your location, something that Google always wants to know and even tries to find out without your knowledge. For instance, if you go to Amazon website and try to ship a product internationally from the US, it tells you if it can be shipped or not without actually obtaining the user’s consent, thanks to Android and China making the cheapest possible Android devices on earth.

Basically, you either choose an Android or an Apple ecosystem, the latter being costlier, and the market growing faster on the former. With growing Android and mobile devices taking center stage, your privacy is at risk. In one sentence, Google knows everything about you. Likewise, Xiaomi knows everything about Redmi devices, as you have an MI account to sync it all. This is good news for brands, as they can target more users, more apps, and more personalized customer choices and offers.

Maintaining a fine balance between offering what is required and avoiding too much content push will determine their success moving forward. Check out our guide on GDPR implications for Digital Marketing to explore more on this topic.

11. Questionable State of Social Media

Power and politics can overrule social media. Influencer social media campaigns are at all-time high. One thought vs. another, one political party vs. another. Smart marketers are using this opportunity to create biased content and distributing and monetizing such content. Social media is a new mandate for political parties and marketers and agencies will continue to earn more and more in years to come. The state of social media remains questionable, as one can hire thousands of social media advocates/employees and troll whomsoever they want. Thus, every discussion can become an argument leading to the end of the very thought process itself.

Above all, fake robots are also being used to gain likes and spike traffic and numbers, eventually resulting in ad fraud as well. Below are a few classic videos that we found, where China seems to be leading the innovation.

12. Dark Social and Web Analytics Limitations

The dark web is when people share content through private channels, such as instant messaging programs, messaging apps, incognito mode in some cases, and email. Simply stated, any web traffic that’s not attributed to a known source is dark social. It is very difficult for marketers to measure anything coming into their website through dark social. While there are certain ways brands can manage it, this is a lost marketing opportunity, as no one knows how to address this. This trend will continue to rise moving forward.

13. Facebook is the New Video Platform

We have noticed a significant number of video posts across Facebook, unlike traditional images and content posts. Though there are ad inserts within the videos shown on Facebook, which is annoying sometimes, the mix of liking a page and getting all the content from a Facebook page seem to work for brands today. It is on demand as you go to Facebook for social media. YouTube, on the other hand, has the bell icon and subscribing option to do so.

However, we would go to YouTube primarily for videos and not for any other form of content. Apart from this, the content repurposing is phenomenal in B2C brands marketing on Facebook. Clearly, Facebook has an upper edge here; with the introduction of Facebook Watch in August 2017, the continued growth in videos for over 100 million hours of video watch time—much before “Watch” was launched—and free mobile data plans all around, it is poised to move ahead and become the bigger video platform as people are anyway spending more time online while this lockdown and global pandemic goes on.

14. Rise in Mobile Money Means More Avenues for Advertisers

2018 saw a massive shift in the way we do payments. From Android and Samsung Pay, to Google Pay to digital mobile banks, next year we will see an increase in digital payments. Amazon Pay and Paytm are a few more examples. Open banking from past few years has been gaining traction which also opens up new avenues for payment solution providers. This will, however, lead to complex partner ecosystems and demand a need for regulations.

15. B2B Events Won’t Die

In B2B marketing, people still believe that it is important to be present for events and trade shows and it is a prority by virtual means in this lockdown.

We have also seen a lot of resistance to change and shifting budgets towards digital marketing; as they say, “people are resistant to change” in general. Events also involve face-to-face discussions and being seen by the public eye. Though digital marketing budgets will continue to grow, people won’t discontinue B2B events and conferences and experiential expenses as well.

16. Gaming Videos are New Content for Engagement

Animation is in full swing. Gaming companies such as Unilad are using Facebook and showing snippets from the game story itself to engage users by providing them with the look and feel of the game before it is even released.

The level of engagement shows that it’s working. we see this as a growing trend wherein brands will invest more in Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to gain from such online engagements.

17. Media Surround on Gaming Consoles

The gaming consoles and smart TVs, Amazon Fire Sticks also offer the content platform to watch videos on apps such as YouTube, Yupp TV, and Amazon Prime etc. This has been there for some time now, but the addition of new website/miniature app versions are incremental.  Marketers will have a definite reach to users using gaming consoles through advertising.

18. More Telcos Will Offer Digital Content Consumption – Free and Paid

Every telecom company is trying to create a content ecosystem of movies and media channels to gain and retain existing users, which is mostly free for end customers, at least among developing countries. It’s a new mandate for all leading telecom companies. In the West, this content trend is currently dominated by Netflix and Amazon Prime. New telecom companies are offering free data if you buy plans from them. For marketers, this, too, will provide more reach and personalized messaging to the audience, as well as new revenue streams for telecom companies and video content providers.

19. Customer Experience Will Continue to be a Focus

A classic case is with a mid-segment Chinese brand like OnePlus, which has been innovating with every launch they make—from dash charging to frequent patch updates that Android users always ask for, to respecting every flagship they launch and promising Android Oreo updates. Dash charging—this is something a lot of leading brands have failed to recognize, even today.

Almost every query or concern has been directly addressed by the social media/leadership team at OnePlus, truly living up to their brand positioning of #NeverSettle. Brands should use 360 degree/all marketing channels to hear the customers’ voices and address them in public.

20. Bitcoin and Blockchain – Marketing Implications

The Harvard Business Review describes “Blockchain” as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” This is a very recent and trending topic amongst marketers—from verifying ad delivery to paying for content creation and distribution, to rewarding customers. It has a whole new set of applications.

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