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Mobile marketing: 5 of the top trends from 2021

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By The Drum Team | Staff Writer

December 30, 2021 | 6 min read

As part of our Best of 2021 series, The Drum’s journalists have been looking back at some of the biggest stories of the year. Here, we revisit our Mobile Marketing Deep Dive.

Despite a year in which audiences were less mobile than ever before, mobile marketing itself continued to develop and shift. Here we look at some of the highlights from our Mobile Marketing Deep Dive.

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What were the biggest trends in mobile marketing in 2021?

1. Social commerce breaks through

After years of development and expectation, 2021 was the year social commerce actually stuck with consumers. Even when brick-and-mortar locations weren’t shuttered or operating within limited capacity, the shopping experience has been dinted by pandemic fears.

Social commerce channels on Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok and especially Instagram have matured, though, allowing retailers and brands to reach consumers where they are, rather than fret about where they aren’t, Jellyfish’s Stephen Warrington noted back in June.

As MediaCom head of social practice Kevin Chan put it in October: ”The rapid evolution of social commerce will continue into 2022. More users will become accustomed to more ingenious formats and there will be an abundance of shareable content that will capture their imagination.”

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2. Challenger networks prick cell network giants

In the competitive cell network market, dominated in most markets by a handful of massive players, anti-establishment tactics have paid off for newer entrants such as GiffGaff and Mint Mobile. It’s proof that consumers still respond well to punchy messaging and the chance to side with the underdog, providing of course that prices are also under the average, even in a utilitarian sector such as mobile coverage.

Aron North, chief marketing officer at Mint Mobile, told us how it has managed to break through in the US by leveraging both price and promotion. It has been aided greatly in the latter by its association with actor Ryan Reynolds, who owns both Mint and its agency Maximum Effort. ”Having an owner also be an owner of your agency, and having your owner’s business partner run the agency, has revolutionized the agency client relationship because our broad strategic vision is aligned... it gets cascaded throughout that agency and everybody is aligned on where we’re going,” said North.

Similarly, GiffGaff chief exec Ash Schofield emphasized the importance of his brand’s ”strong sense of self” as it works to ”disrupt” the UK mobile market.

3. 5G becomes a USP

At the same time, though, established cell networks such as T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have all been pushing 5G as the next great differentiator for mobile customers.

The technology is at the heart of more and more of AT&T’s brand communications, senior vice-president Jennifer Van Buskirk told The Drum. Its competitors are finding ways to link this previously dull-sounding development to everday use cases, according to Kristin McHugh, Verizon senior vice-president of marketing activation: “We know the best education is tangible use cases that showcase what Verizon 5G can do. We showcase how to implement the technology and bring it to life, and market it to the right audiences through best-in-class partnerships.”

4. Influencers hold more power with platforms

With the emergence of TikTok as a major force in social over the last two years, competition for influencer and creator talent between platforms has gained heat. It’s why platforms such as Clubhouse and Triller (which tried to supplant TikTok by courting the opinion of Donald Trump) tried to pry popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio, away from rivals by paying them up front.

While those efforts decidedly failed, the bigger platforms have begun paying creators to ensure their loyalty and exclusivity. It has meant influencers – or at least, some of them – now hold more power than ever before, relative to the companies that host their content. Chris Sutcliffe wrote about Instagram’s plans in this area back in June.

5. TikTok emerged as a viable advertising channel

Bytedance’s golden goose has been the biggest tech story of the entire pandemic. But in 2021, the platform began encouraging small and medium sized businesses to advertise to its millions of users, following the same path that transformed Facebook from a Palo Alto tech company into an imperial Silicon Valley power. Lisa Friedrich, head of small business at TikTok, told The Drum about how the platform had developed a runway from organic social to paid content for SMEs in spring. Expect further developments in this space.

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