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The trends that will dominate the social space in 2021

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Trends 2021

Saying that 2020 has been a tough one is stating the obvious. It’s a year we will most definitely tell the kids about when we are grey and old. What has been most interesting, however, is the shift in advertising and social media. Strategies have done a 180 degree turn overnight, annual marketing calendars thrown into disarray and a focus on consumer behaviour has taken centre stage.

Consumers have been interacting with brands and consuming content in new ways, meaning trends that no one could have predicted have emerged and are here to stay. Audiences are also keen to be engaged and take on a creative challenge set by brands, but they also want more in return. They want to know that brands actually care and in return for this proof they will pay you with their loyalty.

With brand building being more tightly wound with brand purpose than ever before, we have taken a look at what’s to come for 2021 and how brands have the opportunity to flourish in this space if they act fast.

1: Remixing is here to stay

Remixing is where user-generated content takes existing formats, ideas or templates and recreates them to express a user’s own personality or ideas. If you didn’t at least attempt a TikTok remixing trend this year then what were you doing?

Heba Sayed, strategy leader at IBM Cloud and AI, has predicted that: “User-generated content will be the ‘crown jewel’ for great brands in 2021. The best pieces of content will be the ones marketers don’t create, but instead facilitate. At a time where consumers’ lives have changed dramatically, they look to people, not brands, for inspiration about products and services that fit within their new lifestyles post Covid-19.”

With TikTok and now Instagram Reels on the rise, there is a big opportunity for brands to provide audiences with the tools to chime in and create content under branded hashtags. By getting content creators to influence the consumer with a fun and engaging challenge, brands embed themselves within the creative.

2: Reveling in the nostalgia

As Covid really started to hit home, we saw an influx of nostalgic content. Naturally, people wanted to remember better times and connecting with positive memories helps people disconnect from their current struggles. When brands connect with that positive memory, they are then able to build an emotional relationship with the consumer. This is because when the audience feels good, they will then associate your brand with that feeling.

According to a recent study completed by Talkwalker and Hubspot, mentions of keywords on social media related to nostalgia increased from around 13m to 24.4m; an 88% increase.

A perfect example of how to do this effectively is Gucci’s 2020 Christmas Gift campaign. It imagines a holiday party in an office with a retro 90s setting. This example presents an event which is unfortunately nonexistent this year but still allows the consumer to feel a sense of normality with a luxurious twist. It’s playful and entertaining, which currently audiences desire.

Going into 2021, brands should look to use nostalgia and emotion to engage audiences but strategies need to work around uplighting memories or escapism. Adding in loneliness or a ‘we’ll meet again’ song to the mix will not send out the message you think it will.

3: Social causes and conversations

Socially conscious marketing will be key for 2021 and brands will have to engage more with topics such as mental health, inclusivity and justice. If they don’t, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Vikas Chawla, co-founder of Social Beat, DigiGrad and Influencer.in, stated: “With an increased focus on well-being of self and society, the relevance of brands giving back to society and environment has never been higher. Audiences are also connecting more with brands that have a cause or stand for initiatives that they relate to and this trend is going to grow even further in 2021.”

Messaging will need to focus on the brand's mission statement to really gain consumer loyalty and this will need to be delivered with authenticity to effectively connect with younger audiences.

Relationship and expectations: what consumers are expecting of brands in 2021

Overall, it’s clear that consumers care and are starting to be a lot more vocal about their wants and needs from brands. Brands need to go above and beyond to make an impact moving forward and based on a poll by Forbes in 2019, 88% of consumers want to support brands that have social causes aligned with their end product or service.

According to GWI’s Connecting the Dots report, 72% of consumers said companies behaving sustainably was more important to them because of Covid-19. The pandemic really put brand purpose to the test and consumers expect more than just large donations or prosaic statements. Consumers want to see that brands actually care. Therefore, businesses looking to grow need to align with their customers’ values in ways that are authentic and sustainable.

What content is appropriate for today's environment?

A brand that really stuck out this year was KFC and the quick U-turn it had to make after the pandemic butchered its original campaign idea. After months of working on a 2020 strategy, the whole thing was scrapped because of its slogan, Finger Lickin’ Good. Unfortunately, that message in 2020 was just not going to do. The iconic slogan was replaced with a tongue-in-cheek strategy that gave the creative an uplifting twist thanks to messages like: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.” And: “Wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’.”

It even set audiences a challenge through influencers, asking them to come up with a temporary replacement. What was so great about this activation was that no matter where you were in the world the message still applied, unifying everyone. Brands are expected to think fast in order to avoid backlash and this will still be expected moving forward. Consumers are looking for that support from brands through these tough times.

With January creeping up on us there is a clear understanding that the consumer is king. Tacky I know, but with a looming mental health crisis and 31% feeling like they are able to turn to social media for help with their mental wellbeing (GWI), brands need to think about the type of message they are putting out in the world more than ever. And as KFC has proved, the strategy might change but there is a serious opportunity to rise above the rest and build loyalty like never before.

Ellie Owen, strategy manager at Tailify.

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