15 Top Marketing Trends To Keep An Eye On In 2021

How well an agency capitalizes on marketing trends can make or break it, so keeping an eye on the latest is essential to get ahead of the competition. From simpler strategies, such as influencer and micro-influencer marketing, to larger, more complex methods, such as automation and the state of digital marketing overall, all of these elements are important for agencies to understand.

What are the defining marketing trends of 2021? What sort of marketing and advertising will be the most popular in the coming year, and how can an agency leverage its knowledge around these trends? 

Fifteen professionals from Forbes Agency Council weigh in below on the trends they see taking over marketing in 2021, so agency leaders can learn about them before they become standard practices.

1. Digital Transformation Continuing

Digital transformation will continue to be a focus in 2021, as companies realize that we may never go back to “business as normal.” Companies across every industry will continue to lean into digital technology, and the way we operate will also continue to change. Agility in all facets of business, especially marketing, will be a key to success. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

2. Consumers Going Numb To Digital Ads

Consumers are numb to digital advertising. We have been in front of screens, locked in our homes, for most of 2020. Brands need to think beyond this go-to media format to reengage with their customers in unique ways. Out-of-home advertising will be a very effective format to achieve this once the vaccine is available, as people will be rushing outside and will be more aware of their surroundings. – Skye Suttenfield, Seen Media Group


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3. Accelerated Adoption Of Automation

By far the largest marketing trend we are seeing for 2021 is the accelerated adoption of automation. In 2020, marketers had to make do with less and so needed tools that would allow them to carry out all their normal tasks while saving resources. However, even as budgets return to normal, expect to see marketers continue to embrace automation to improve efficiency and produce results. – Jeremy Fain, Cognitiv

4. Growing Focus On Meaning And Purpose

Meaning and purpose are the marketing trends that allow companies to transcend transactions. Knowing your “why” helps differentiate you from the competition and stand in an authentic place. That attracts customers. Coming from a place of purpose will drive marketing to new heights and bring customers better suited for what you have to offer. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

5. The Rise Of Programmatic Advertising

If paid advertising is part of your strategy, then programmatic advertising is your best-friend marketing trend for 2021. With insight into real-time reporting, finite targeting options, enhanced fraud protection and detailed budget spending optimization, there are many reasons to make this trend a top focus. – Timothy Nichols, ExactDrive, Inc

6. More Social Selling On LinkedIn

Many people still underestimate the power of social selling on LinkedIn and, more importantly, the quality of leads you’re able to generate via paid ads. Yes, CPCs are high compared to Facebook, but you’re paying for quality. Most decision-makers are on LinkedIn, and even more so in 2020 and 2021. If you’re not showing your face there, you’re definitely missing out. – Tim Rath, YOYABA GmbH

7. Influencer Marketing Getting Even Bigger

Influencer marketing is going to be bigger than ever. When you collaborate with the right, target-audience influencers, it still reigns as king of content when it comes to leveling up your brand reach. – Sophie Bowman, Business Owner Society

8. The Death Of Cookies

Cookies will be dying. As Google Chrome begins to sunset cookies, and other tech companies like Apple follow, there will be a new push for marketers to use alternative mechanisms for targeting. Facebook is pushing its audience, others will rely on SSO (Single Sign-On) authentication, and other options will emerge. Stay current on cookie replacements so you don’t waste your paid ad budget. – Damon Burton, SEO National

9. Growing Importance Of Direct Mail

Direct mail is growing exponentially. People are spending more time than ever at home, and businesses are tapping into this with physical touchpoints, such as postcards. As the founder and CEO of a direct mail tech company, I’ve seen this firsthand. Our 2020 numbers are record-setting. Expect to see more ads in your mailbox in 2021. – Joy Gendusa, PostcardMania

10. Sustained Focus On Building Brand Advocates

Building brand advocates has been and will always be the most effective and affordable marketing strategy. We trust influencers and our peers before we trust any marketing message. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge

11. New Alternatives In Social Media

A major trend I expect to see in 2021 is growing disdain for Facebook and for how much many companies are relying on it. Exploring alternatives in the social media world is going to definitely be trending. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. More Focus On Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels will be a major trend, without a doubt. Reels are at the forefront of the Instagram algorithm, and so much so they have implemented the Reels icon as the center of the app. Make sure you are creating Reels over standard videos when possible, as this will be key in order to make sure your content is being seen by as many of your followers as possible, ultimately growing engagement and shares of your content. – Olivia Ormos, OO & CO

13. Short Videos Remaining Popular

I think short videos with quick edits will continue to gain popularity worldwide. The trend, initiated by TikTok and adapted by Instagram, will continue to move up the popularity scale, and not only among the younger target groups. Its power cannot be underestimated, especially from a business perspective. – Markus Hetzenegger, NYBA Media GmbH

14. Live-Streaming Wars

2021 is poised to be the year of the livestreaming wars, with audiences tuning into streams from gamers, musicians, influencers and more. To stand out, marketers should leverage live streams with natural e-commerce tie-ins. For example, livestreamed fashion shows or unboxing videos can include links to featured items; brands can sponsor virtual festivals—the possibilities are endless. – Ricky Ray Butler, BEN

15. The Rise Of E-Commerce Purchasing Capabilities

I expect to see a rise in e-commerce purchasing capabilities. We all saw how quickly e-commerce picked up in 2020, but we also saw a wide variety of services adapt to the digital landscape, and in turn, e-commerce purchasing options. Gyms providing digital sessions, telemedicine appointments and personal wellness consultations over Zoom all need an e-commerce solution to take full advantage of this uptick in digital reliance. – Bernard May, National Positions



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