6 Consumer Marketing Trends Brands Must Look Out for in 2021: Data Out Now


StreetBees releases new data on consumer marketing trends in 2021.

As the first month of 2021 Q1 comes to a close, it is important to look back at the trends that defined 2020. Digitization, data privacy, and remote work emerged as the biggest trends of the year as lockdowns, and social distancing restrictions disrupted industries across the board.

So, what does 2021 have in store for marketers?

Trend #1: OOH Is Still Relevant in 2021

A new study by StreetBees found that during the early days of lockdown, advertising spends across traditional media outlets – TV, newspapers and magazines, radio, cinema, billboards, etc. – almost halved. Some brands cut their budgets by up to 97%. In May, it was reported that global advertising spend was predicted to drop by $50bn (8.1%), then in July, this was increased to 9.1%.

But not everyone responded so cautiously – some increased their media budgets, and others simply continued as planned.

Also read: What Will It Take for Marketers To Succeed in 2021? Deloitte Global Marketing Trends Report 2021 Reveals

Out-of-home is not over, but it will be different. Working from home will become a staple for many businesses, and industries that have proved they can replicate the same experience online will continue doing so. This means understanding out-of-home occasions and their drivers will be more important than ever before. It is not enough to know people are going out; it is the ‘why’ that will become the gamechanger.

To coincide with the launch of the PS5, PlayStation ‘took over’ London’s Oxford Circus underground station both inside the station itself and the street-level entrances. Despite the country being in lockdown and the once heaving Oxford Street becoming fairly reminiscent of the opening scene to 28 Days Later, the campaign went ahead.

StreetBees identified three reasons why the PS5 OOH campaign worked so well:

  • It was consistent with Sony’s branding for play stations: In 2013, London’s OXO Tower received a similar takeover to mark the launch of the PlayStation 4.
  • It captured consumer attention better than most traditional ad campaigns: Not only is it one of the few big OOH campaigns of 2020, but it used an iconic location usually teeming with tourists and locals alike – one that is recognized worldwide.
  • It reminded people of what “normal life” looked like: While most people could not visit the station to see the rebrand in person, it reminded consumers that the things we loved before COVID-19 can still exist. It made people excited about when they can once again return to their favorite places and look forward to life post-pandemic.

Trend #2: Brands Will Need To Take a Holistic Approach To Health

Going forward, we could expect to see greater innovation behind foods that are good for emotional wellbeing, not just physical health. COVID-19 saw a significant rise in people struggling emotionally and reaching for foods and drinks to help them through it.

Now that the panic stage of the pandemic has passed, consumers are becoming more mindful of the lifestyle changes they need to make. The demand for foods that are both good for the body and the mind will increase. Brands have an opportunity to tackle this directly through new product development (NPD) and communication strategies.

For example, beauty is not just about improving the appearance anymore; consumers are looking for products that also improve skin health, sleep, and productivity.

This trend will be particularly pertinent for alcohol. Consumers have been pretty divided between drinking more and drinking less – but both of these changes are often driven by health. European markets place a higher emphasis on mental wellbeing vs. markets such as China and India, where the emphasis shifts to physical health.

The increased priority over health is also fueling the no-low trend – meaning a pivot in messaging is needed. There is a level of ‘free from’ fatigue – consumers want to know what is in a product rather than what it is not. So, instead of focusing on the low ABV of the product, brands should be more vocal about the benefits. Whether it is through added vitamins or minerals, or even CBD infusion, highlighting what the product gives the consumer will become essential.

Trend #3: Brands Will Need To Prioritize Category Extensions

While the global pandemic has resulted in several challenges for the consumer world, it has also created a significant opportunity for brands to branch out of their traditional categories and expand their offerings. The global crisis has actually helped speed up NPD strategies and created an environment of greater experimentation. Categories are becoming increasingly interlinked as the lines between usage blur, paving the way for brands to break into new areas.

Also read: The Top Social Media Marketing Trends for 2020

There is a clear opportunity for brands to reposition their existing products and even develop category extensions into the hygiene space. The study found that 79% of those who made changes to their laundry habits plan to continue with them post-pandemic. Similarly, 14% of consumers are paying greater attention to their immune system.

Trends like these should prompt brands to redefine how they approach their communication and new product development strategies.

Trend #4: D2C Will No Longer Be Limited To Challenger Brands

In 2021, more brands will have to pursue new routes to get their products to consumers directly. The past year has shown that businesses can no longer rely on retailers or restaurants to sell their products for them.

Categories like beauty and personal care, alcohol, and pet care will witness a transition in terms of how consumers approach purchasing.

For instance, with consumers finding it difficult to gain normal access to their regular stores and a lot of socializing happening in people’s homes, online and delivery are seeing a surge in popularity as a channel for alcohol. Of course, online adoption varies by market – China is leading the way, with 15% of all alcohol orders coming from online channels.

Similarly, testers may become a thing of the past as the prospect of germs and contamination put consumers off. With the clear benefit of seeing and trying products taken away, more and more consumers will look to buy their items online. This means brands will be expected to translate the full experience in a virtual setting – and that means more than digital makeovers and using VR.

Pet care is one of the fastest-growing consumer segments in the world. And even before COVID-19, ecommerce sales grew by 67% in the U.S. alone. With a new generation of pet parents comes an opportunity for brands. Younger consumers are more likely to scrutinize ingredients lists, meaning ‘natural’, organic, and healthy are a high priority. Heritage brands must be aware of how personal the purchase journey is when it is for our pets. Consumers are more open than ever to try smaller challenger brands based on reviews, uniqueness, and personalization.

Trend #5: Homebodies Will Drive Home Improvement and Décor Growth

Consumers spent more time at home in 2020 than ever before, turning their living rooms into their office, dining room into a school, and the garden their gym. Remote working is now becoming a staple for many traditionally office-based businesses, with 25% of people hoping to continue working from home either part-time or permanently even after the threat of the virus subsides.

This creates a need for optimizing their home environment for this new way of living. 2020 was about adaptation and coping, 2021 will be more about optimization and comfort (both psychological and physical). Currently, only 19% feel their home does not need any improvements to make it more comfortable or practical – and this has stayed relatively consistent over the course of the year.

In 2020, 14% of people added more houseplants since the beginning of the pandemic, regardless of whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural areas. They have been most commonly incorporated into the living room (55%), the bedroom (28%), and the kitchen (21%). Going forward, this will likely increase in urban areas, particularly for those without gardens.

This ‘homebody’ attitude extends beyond furniture – it is rippled into consumption habits, like alcohol. Even as restrictions lift, the trade-down of the premium that home drinking has brought about will persist. As consumers have leveled up the home experience, the on-trade will have to up its game to tempt back drinkers to the same level as pre-crisis. Again, this is an acceleration of a structural decline that has been happening since the 90s – not directly caused by the pandemic.

Trend #6: Needs Will Trump Wants in Determining Consumer Spending Patterns

If past economic slowdowns are anything to go by – as consumers continue to struggle financially, we will see more recessionary behaviors. People will trade down and save money on products they do not connect with emotionally (bread, milk) and trade up to treat themselves more on the things they really care about (snacks, desserts). Brands must do everything they can not to be stuck in the middle of the spectrum – because that will become the ‘no man’s land’ of brands, trying to appeal to everyone while connecting with none.

Also read: Five Targeted Online Marketing Trends That Will Maximize Business

What makes this different from other economic crises is the added health concerns. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Streetbees identified four key groups or ‘tribes’ based on their fear of the virus, their concerns over financial impact, how they are feeling emotionally, as well as how they are adjusting their consumption and purchase behaviors.

As time goes on, the proportion of people adapting and juggling their emotional and behavioral responses with this new reality will eventually grow. However, that will create further tensions between what consumers think and what they actually do.

Bringing It All Together: How Can Brands Win a Larger Share of Consumer Dollars in 2021?

One thing that the current pandemic has shown us is how important technology is for maintaining and facilitating communication, not just for work purposes, but for building real emotional connections.

In the next few years, we can expect to see this progress accelerate, with AI technology built to connect people at a human level and drive them closer to each other, even when physically apart.

Brands should focus on helping consumers both connect with each other and with the brand itself. Now is the time to build a direct and deeper relationship with different audiences on a more meaningful level and transform your understanding of the consumer. Brands must champion the voice of the consumer by capturing unfiltered, authentic real-life experiences.