Marketing in 2021: It’s All Going To Change…Again!


Kate Thunnisen, head of marketing and customer experience, Trint, like many marketers right now, has been struggling with how she’s going to best plan her budget and tactics for 2021 in light of all the shifts COVID and a primarily work-from-home environment have brought. So, she shares her perspective with the marketers as they also tackle some of the same issues.

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean leaf-peeping, pumpkin spice lattes, or the countdown to Christmas. It’s the time when we marketers all make our predictions for what will be different next year.

I’ve been reading these prediction articles for years. I’m no longer surprised by the outrageous claims of “It Will All Be Different Next Year!” In fact, predictions of marketing’s demise – or rise – come like clockwork every autumn. “Brand is dead!” “It’s all about display!” “Digital is dead!” “It’s all about the brand!” “Forget all that – if you’re not on TikTok showing off company banana bread competitions, you’re dead!”

But this year is different. This year, we actually have a valid reason to consider what might be next: 2020 has been a nightmare wrapped in catastrophe inside a tragedy (to misquote Churchill). Just a few months ago, at the height of the pandemic, we were all looking at our Marketing plans, budgets, and teams and – slightly panicked – thinking, “Okay…now what?”

However… I’m here to tell you that in 2021 nothing will be different.

Sure, we’ll need to make tweaks and think smarter. And we can apply the innovation we were forced to create in 2020. But at the end of the day, Marketing fundamentals are just as valid and powerful today as they will be in 2021 – and (spoiler alert!) the year after that.

Learn More: Embodying the In-House Mindset: Expert Tips to Improve Your Agency

Here’s What I Think Will Stay the Same:

Marketing’s goal hasn’t changed

We exist to convince people to consider, evaluate, and buy our product or service. And we’ll continue to focus on that in 2021, looking at all the ways our target market interacts with various channels and formats, hopefully investing in the right ones to grow revenue and brand. We still need to insert our name into a prospect’s consideration set, and we still need to show them how we bring value or offer a solution.

Being customer-centric

It seems fairly obvious and old school, but there are still companies who don’t do this. They come with a product-first point of view, for example. Good marketing leaders and departments know where it all begins, i.e., with the customer. What do they want? What are their pain points? How do they buy? What keeps them loyal? Will they recommend us? All that and more is up to a Marketing group to research, understand and disseminate throughout an organization.

Marketing will continue to be a fully-fledged partner to sales

We are the peanut butter and jelly of a company: no good without the other. I’ve found I’m a much better marketer the more time I spend with sales, whether that’s digging into the metrics around pipeline or sales cycles, listening to calls/attending demos, or getting their feedback on why a piece of content or campaign fell flat.

Learn More: Why COVID Is Driving Companies To Double Down on Digital Experiences

And What We’ll Tweak: 

  1. The advertising we saw during these past few crazy months was…blandly similar. The campaigns or promotions that stick out and resonate had a bit of edge or humor or just tried to be different. I’m not the first to suggest this, but coronavirus has only strengthened my belief that creativity in marketing is as critical as planning, ROI, and metrics. You can do all the infrastructure right, but if your call to action or story is boring, uninspiring, and the same as everyone else, it’s not going to succeed. Also, why bother? Isn’t being original and inventive the reason why we went into marketing in the first place?
  2. There will be more merging of customer experience (CX) and marketing. Don’t get me wrong – these are two separate disciplines with very different skill sets. But as someone who leads both of these teams, I see the value of some cross-departmental learning, sharing, and project work. CX hears directly from the field; they’re almost testing marketing messaging and ideas in real-time. Marketing builds events, campaigns, and promotions for those customers and creates all the content around the product or service (value prop, use cases, guides, tips, etc.) – all of which can help CX. To me, this is a Venn diagram, and the overlapping part just becomes a bit more pronounced.
  3. Why be partners when you can be one team? That could be under one umbrella/leader, but even if that doesn’t happen, let’s have the exact same KPIs and goals. Let’s have representatives (if not everyone) in each other’s update meetings. Let’s think of ourselves going forward as one team, working together towards the same objective.

We’ll see how much of that comes true. As I said, marketing fundamentals will never change or shift in importance. We should always be improving (tweaking!), but my prediction is the teams that focus on this next year will be better than fine. Though, I’m all for some banana bread videos on TikTok.