The year we entered the ‘Upside Down’. It has changed us all in ways we’ll still be identifying a decade hence. What has stood out is the creativity this destruction has wrought. And the way we’ve become protective of one another, of ourselves and the small rituals that bring normalcy to our lives. 2021 will be about brands really listening to what we need. Here are 10 of the biggest trends we can expect (most of the below are adapted from the Accenture Interactive and Fjord 2021 Trends Report, unless stated otherwise):
1. There’s talk this pandemic may have accelerated the metaverse. Fluxtrends’ Dion Chang believes the further synchronising of our physical and virtual lives sparked a profound ‘lifestyle audit’. He describes a ‘forced migration’ into the metaverse – defined by Google as a ‘collective virtual shared space’. For example, 80% of us are now OK with having a robot as a therapist. Amid this metaverse, we’re trying to find new ways to find meaning.
2. Dealing with displacement: Home is now a place of work. It’s also our gym, cinema and school. According to Accenture and Fjord, we’ve experienced profound ‘place displacement’ and ‘activity displacement’. We have Zoom weddings, school lessons, pilates, doctors’ visits and dates. Then there’s community displacement. We do things alone, in tight-knit circles, or online.
It’s hard to say what’ll stick when the pandemic passes. But brands are needing to come up with more innovative ways to remain relevant and reach us in our homes. Some of our clients pivoted particularly well. Sanlam launched the inaugural Sanlam Cape Town Virtual Marathon. Boschendal collaborated with designer David Tlale to unveil his Autumn/Winter 20 Collection via a spectacular digital showcase.
3. It’s all about experiences: From March 2020, Google searches for ‘step by step’ and ‘for beginners’ how-to videos went up by 65% year on year. ‘DIY’ searches rose by 80%. We’ve baked the banana bread. Cultivated our sourdough cultures. Self-improvement seems to be an antidote to boredom. So, what’s next? Brands that can create enriching experiences will win the battle for our attention. Contagious believes this will be the year of the ‘Virtual Experience Economy’ – a massive increase in virtual products and experiences.
4. Celebrating home-grown heroes: Never have we celebrated our healthcare professionals and other frontline heroes so much. In 2021, we’ll continue to pay tribute to these exceptional individuals and we’re likely to see some heart-warming campaigns come out of this.
5. Doing something new: The pandemic has prompted many people to take the leap and launch a small side hustle. Overseas, someone started a new Zoom dating app for students called OKZoomer, which quickly amassed 20 000 members. Patreon went from 150 000 paying fans to 200 000 in March 2020 alone. Our new behaviours have generated new business opportunities. It’s up to savvy entrepreneurs and brands to spot these.
6. Seeking out alternative platforms: One interesting example to emerge is doctors using TikTok to promote mental health messaging – check out the MDMotivator. For brands, it’s about how to get creative on new platforms. Hootsuite found Instagram added more new users than any other social media platform between July and September 2020. Its advertising reach in the first quarter was also three times higher than Facebook’s. Livestreaming of events took off – we saw this with our G-Star RAW global ‘Stay at Home’ catwalk campaign.
There are massive opportunities for brands that can smartly adopt social commerce.
7. We don’t want polished and perfect: Hootsuite found that many brands are leaning heavily on user-generated content (UGC). On the topic of co-creation, consider how to give your audience tools to become makers themselves. Nike launched a shoe personalisation project which proved tremendously successful. Create a platform and let your customers play… and use the data you glean from this to improve your service.
8. We’re at home for the long-term… maybe: There’s a lot of talk around employers providing WFH benefits and care packages. Fringe is a new lifestyle benefits platform that has a menu of ‘pick and choose’ perks for employees to select from, including Uber Eats and Headspace.
9. Everything ethical: 2020 was a year of Black Lives Matter and other profound movements. A major take-out is for brands to be sensitive and mindful. And to keep quiet and listen a lot of the time. Speaking up for the sake of joining a conversation can be cringe worthy. Activism must be authentic. Not opportunistic. It comes down to knowing your purpose.
10. We revel in rituals: And now so many of these have been taken from us. So, we’re developing new ones – from evening walks around our neighbourhoods to weekly Zoom quiz nights with our families. Brands that meaningfully help us do this will win our loyalty
In 2021, brands that will triumph are those that listen to and understand what people are asking for. Amidst all this uncertainty, we’re all seeking comfort and connection.