Ten campaign trends to take into the new year

Amongst everything else, 2020 has completely disrupted the campaign and communications landscape. Whilst some companies and channels have experienced lightning fast acceleration, others are having to completely reconsider their offering to stay relevant. 

Reflecting on this year allows us to think ahead to some potential key trends for 2021.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year, however, it’s that nothing is predictable, so it will be vital to keep a close eye on how these progress as the world continues to change.

1. More of the same channels

The trend: marketers want more of tried and tested social channels

Hootsuite’s Social Trends survey of over 11,000 marketers found that 61% intended on increasing their investment in Instagram, followed by 46% on Facebook and 45% on YouTube.

Despite the hype over TikTok, only 14% of respondents intended on increasing their investment on this channel, indicating that the firmly cemented channels are still the most attractive to marketers, potentially due to their broader reach and advanced targeting capabilities. 

Impact for government:

Core established channels will continue to be key for digital communication.

2. Preparing for a cookie-less world

The trend: advertisers will be preparing for a cookie-less world

Google announced in early 2020 that they will stop the use of third-party cookies in Chrome before 2022. 

Impact for government:

Advertisers will be developing new forms of measurement, with a major focus on first-party data. We’re likely to see more smart alternatives to targeting that avoid cookies altogether: contextual targeting, time-based targeting, and using syndicated and custom audiences, for example.

3. E-commerce becomes social

The trend: the rise of e-commerce and social shopping.

According to IBM’s US Retail Index Study the shift from physical to online shopping has been accelerated by 5 years as a result of the pandemic. Furthermore, changes in consumer behaviour, the need for businesses to have a stronger online presence, and investment from the platforms suggest that shopping via social channels is set to increase and become a bigger part of customers’ purchase journey. 

Impact for government:

Whilst we aren’t selling products, it’s important to think about how this might affect where audiences will be consuming media. A campaign which may have previously been best targeted via out-of-home may become more relevant online. It will also be interesting to see whether this influences audience reach and engagement on social platforms.

4. Social purpose

The trend: brand activism and social purpose

2020 saw social issues brought to the forefront such as #BlackLivesMatter, #StopHateForProfit and climate change. Brands are likely to want to prove they are genuine in their intentions to be a supporter or ally, which may take the form either in messaging, activism action, or choice of media investment.  

Impact for government:

This is clearly significant for Government owned messaging, but it might also open up opportunities for new brand partnerships who are looking to engage on meaningful topics.

Hand holding mobile with Digital Trends 2021 on screen

5. Scheduled scrolling

The trend: People are attending scheduled digital events

Platforms have evolved to function in new ways, such as Twitch and Netflix launching ‘watch parties’ and TikTok hosting a digital fashion month featuring live streams of fashion shows such as Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. Rather than opening an app sporadically, people are beginning to schedule time on social and online for specific moments and events. 

Impact for Government:

Understanding how audiences are using their time online is key – there may be new opportunities when a scheduled event could present a good way to engage citizens, or reach people around other existing events. 

6. Community spirit becomes digitalised

The trend: People are digitally engaging with their local communities more

Coronavirus (COVID-19) encouraged people to engage more with communities more online through WhatsApp and Facebook groups, and local community app Nextdoor increased 80% from February to March globally.

Even as lockdown has eased, these spaces have been repurposed to organise neighbourhood watches, or simply to keep in touch. This brings an opportunity for brands to celebrate and invest in local communities – for example, Heineken has been using digital channels to crowdfund and keep independent venues afloat 

Impact for government:

Consider opportunities to engage communities for localised messaging, and keep aware of how other brands are communicating in these spaces. 

7. Battling misinformation

The trend: a continued challenge of fighting misinformation

The events of 2020 combined with the increasing ability of artifical intelligence (AI) saw a huge need to counter disinformation and misinformation online. Within the global pandemic’s first weeks, discussions on Twitter were hit by as many as 45% contributions from bots. 

Impact for government:

Government, public and private sector brands should prepare to continue to be targets of misinformation and have a plan for counteracting it. Our often quoted Rapid Response Unit is already a world-leading example of this.

8. Fun and games

The trend: gaming

UK gaming population grew 63% during lockdown, with gaming platforms also evolving to accommodate broader audiences. Fortnite introduced a mode for hanging out instead of battling, and Twitch launched Watch Parties.

Platforms such as Twitch which are already catching the eye of advertisers are likely to gain even more traction. Some brands are starting to use gaming platforms more creatively, such as Singapore’s Sentosa Development Company who created its own in-game island in Animal Crossing for players to explore. 

Impact for government:

These platforms have great potential to reach the younger audiences that are the key for many campaigns.

9. Fond memories

The trend: nostalgia

When lockdown hit, mentions of keywords related to nostalgia or remembering the past, shot up from a baseline of around 13 million mentions to 24.4 million (+88%). Connecting with positive memories from the past helps people disconnect from their current struggles. 

Impact for government:

Connect that positive memory to your campaign and that sense of positivity will build an emotional relationship with your audience. This could mean drawing on older people’s experiences and memories to motivate them to act in the here and now on say climate change. 

10. Influencing with purpose

The trend: Passion and purpose lead the way for influencer marketing

In 2021, Millennial audiences will continue to become increasingly socially conscious. Therefore, whether it is for social justice, sustainability, climate change or health initiatives – purpose-driven campaigns will resonate with influencers who will be happy to participate, even on a non-commercial basis – if they share the values of the initiative.

Impact for government

The major challenge is selecting option leaders who are authentically passionate about the purpose of the campaign and will be 100% sincere in communicating the message to their audience.

The choice should not be based on the number of followers or engagement rate. Known for their remarkable ability to authentically engage with their followers, micro-influencers will thus become an essential part of a brand voice and marketing strategy in 2021.

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