We are UNLIMITED. A fully integrated agency group with Human Understanding at the heart.

London, United Kingdom
Staff: 600
Social & Content Strategy
Brand Activation
Brand & Identity Design

and 8 more

Sector Experience

Financial services
FMCG, Telecomms, Technology,
Sport and Leisure
Travel & Hospitality

This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more

New Year, New Noise: 2021 predictions

20 January 2021 16:44pm

The 2021 predictions to back are the ones grounded in genuine

human understanding


The beginning of every year always sees a wave of inspirational trends look ahead pieces. The full-on bombardment of thinking often makes it hard to tell which are grounded in fact, which are just blue-sky thinking and who really is on the money.

There is an even greater onslaught of ‘this will happen’ thinking out there than normal, partly since so many of last year’s forecasts went out of the window at the start of March. Also, arguably, no year in history has been more eagerly anticipated than 2021, with consumers battling conflicting emotions:

· The hope that it will be better than 2020 and a collective determination to make it so

· A nagging concern that it will be just as bad as last year

This makes it only natural for marketers to look even more closely than usual at the body of published trends work: which trends to believe and, more crucially, which to pin their company’s 2021 on? Of course, it doesn’t help when the various POVs are awash with contradictions and vested interests, or when there are so many.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work for marketers, ploughing our way through 30+ of the 2021 lookaheads in the public domain. We’ve added our own expertise, backed by leading edge research, and run the ideas past our gold-standard teams specialising in comms, marketing and digital.

Based on all of that, here is our pick of 10 trends. Five in the consumer space and five in the marketing space to focus on.

5 Consumer trends to focus on

1. A changing relationship with physical spaces, town centres and a heightened focus on the local.

25% of UK urbanites want to move out of the metropolitan areas where they currently live

2. Sustainability: a green (re)awakening – the end of “more”, moving away from “big” lifestyles, contentment with less, reducing waste.

72% of global consumers said companies behaving sustainably was more important to them because of COVID-19

3. A new fluidity. We’ve lost many of the rituals that used to signpost our lives resulting in a sense of collective displacement. We may have replaced them with digital equivalents but over the coming year(s) we’ll see a more proactive emergence of new models and rules.

Microsoft Japan’s experiment with a four-day workweek earlier this year resulted in a 40% in worker productivity.

4. In 2021, we’ll see the emergence of a newly resilient consumer, taking control of their lives, balancing forward planning with an ability to roll with the punches, and innovating their own solutions.

Studies show that consumers are significantly more likely to try new brands when they go through a major life event.

5. Kindness culture and a return to “we” as the new-found appreciation of others will manifest itself in a greater focus on community, helpfulness, kindness, support, and empathy.

39% of those living with friends/roommates are concerned about their mental wellbeing.

5 Marketing trends to focus on

1. Organising for agility and flex. With the economy more unpredictable than ever, and with companies having all of last year’s “pivoting” stories fresh in their minds, organisations will be trying to be “disruption-ready”, setting themselves up in such a way that they can rapidly alter course to take account of any new wind direction.

82% said when brands pivoted to offer new, more relevant products or services it increased their desire to do more business with them.

2. Taking customer experience to the max. The rise of DTC will continue. Brands will shift the bar ever higher on service. The emphasis in delivery will shift from “last mile” to “last few feet” as organisations realise that product handovers represent something too important to trust to time pressured and disinterested couriers.

62% of marketers agreed that they actively consider the impact of packaging and delivery on customer experience.

3. 2021 will see brand purpose get real as consumers demand brands walk the walk as well as talking the talk with firm brand promises or pledges and acts not mere words.

60% of millennials & Gen Z say they plan on buying more from large businesses that have taken care of their workforces and positively affected society during the pandemic

4. The holy grail of distinctiveness: COVID was such a powerful disruptor that it encouraged convergence of product offerings and marketing message channel choice content, tone, and execution. 2021 will see brands making concerted efforts to “refind” themselves and re-express their uniqueness though such high-risk strategies are bound to create both winners and losers.

64% of marketers agree that advertising suffered from a lack of distinctiveness during quarantine, and there is a danger that this will persist

5. E-commerce innovation will surge. 2021 will see innovation in what online retail looks and feels like – we’ll see shoppable social surge ahead, purchasing via livestreaming take off, and efforts to make the online shopping process look and feel more like being in store, start to bear fruit.

In China, a Tommy Hilfiger livestream event attracted 14 million viewers and sold out of 1,300 hoodies in two minutes

Focus on Human Understanding signals, not noise

With so much noise out there, the brands that thrive in 2021 will be the ones that can correctly pick out the ones that fit a consumer truth and offer real longevity.


trends report
2021 outlook