The year 2020 emphasized the need for businesses to be flexible and adaptable; this is especially true for marketing. With slashed budgets, a constant state of crisis communications, and changes in rules that varied day-by-day, place-by-place, marketers have had to innovate and redefine the industry. At HCP Associates, we asked our team to pool the insights brought by their various specialties to identify the top three upcoming trends for the industry. We found that these trends share a common thread in that they are reactions to the increasing digitization of consumer-business relationships: the increasing concerns of digital privacy, the need for good corporate citizenship, and the changing media mix in today’s Zoom era. 

Increased Digital Privacy Will Cause Marketers to Rethink Strategies 

The first trend follows from the backlash against digital footprinting practiced by digital media firms. Many smartphone users have faced an eerie surprise after seeing an advertisement on their device following a conversation about that subject. Some consumers have reacted by seeking to increase their digital privacy. Most notably in this year, Apple released an update to the software powering the iPhone which removed the automatic opt-in that provides individual data to other appsFacebook countered with a series of full-page advertisements in national publications blasting the decision. Regardless of the outcome of this latest cat-and-mouse, the trend towards increasing digital privacy will force companies to reacquaint themselves with more traditional means of getting to know their customers. This means more primary research, more focus groups, and more customer feedback will be needed to keep a pulse on consumer’s opinions. 

Be Authentic 

The second trend is the desire for authenticity. Driven by current events and by Millennials’ preferences for increased corporate social responsibility and activismcustomers want to engage with firms who take concrete steps to advance the causes about which they are passionate. This manifests itself in many ways, from corporate commitments to remedy racial and gender disparities in their hiring, to designing products that are designed to minimize their negative impacts on the environment. The use of influencer marketing falls under this same search for authenticity – rather than seeing a beautiful advertisement on a particular product, hearing recommendations from YouTube personalities can produce fantastic results because of the trust between those influencers and their audiences. But beware! Today’s hyperconnected consumer can detect fakery from a mile away. Superficial commitments to movements or half-hearted endorsements from influencers can quickly become toxic for a brand. 

Virtual Customer Engagement Is on the Rise 

The final, ubiquitous trend from 2020 is the rise of virtual customer engagement. Spurred into further prominence by the COVID-19 lockdowns, customers find, learn about, and purchase goods and services online more than ever before. The rise of Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms also boosted the market for webinarsvideo advertisements, and even virtual trade showsShort videos are best suited to success in the TikTok era in which we live. Whether distributing a PSA, featuring a product through an unboxing video, or showing customers engaged with a product, short-form online video content is here to stay. 

Ultimately, marketing is about effective communication with your potential customers. It is crucial to listen to your target audience’s wants and needs to craft the best solution for your product.