Each year around this time, those in the communications industry see tons of trend reports. Some are marketing-focused, some highlight new tech, and some anticipate consumer habits. Compiling these predictions is the best way to see which practices are going to continue to be relevant as we strategize for the rest of 2021. There’s one, we can say for sure, that’s going to stick around. I bet you guessed it — it’s influencer marketing!
A recent HBO documentary by Nick Bilton, Fake Famous, painted a picture of influencers as “all fame-obsessed, unemployed wannabes.” This depiction received backlash from many industry execs. “Can we call them what they actually are? Digital publishers, content creators, photographers, art directors, stylists, copywriters. These are people who have created digital brands and voices from the ground up, said Jess Hunichen, co-founder of Shine Talent Group. This view of the influencer profession is more popular than Bilton’s and shows the symbiotic relationship between brands and influencers. Each entity performs its own function, but are naturally dependent on each other to realize a shared vision.
With any relationship taking that next step, there are new expectations.
Forecasters at Lawless Studio think that brands are going to “expect talent to have more input into creative direction, and for talent to take a more active role in media distribution and community engagement.” Cemented credibility as trendsetters and communicators means that, along with more autonomy, influencers can expect more scrutiny. Brands need proof that their message is being received — perhaps a dee-dive into the faces behind the followers. Influencers’ expectations when brought into a campaign revolve around their most valuable asset: audience. If brands want their influencers to perform well, they need to make sure influencers have a stellar, bot-free engagement rate, a unique point of view, and the tech-savvy to grab the ball and run with it. However, that doesn’t means brands can expect influencers to thrive one their own. Whether it’s analytic support to help foster engagement or creative support to make sure content thrives, influencers need to trust that brands have their backs and the backs of their followers.
But hey, 2021 won’t be all about influencers.
Here are a few other trends experts are buzzing about…
In 2020, we saw the possibilities of virtual events. From the NBA restart to Sony’s underground stunt with Playstation, brands have proven that they don’t crowds of people to see a great ROI. Why? Because virtual gatherings are, by nature, cheaper. Brand exposure has far fewer limits when access to the brand is not limited by location or transportation. This year we’ll see more development teams diving into AR (augmented reality) as a way to bring consumers into exciting digitized. experiences
Despite health and safety concerns that continue to loom over experiential marketing, there is a resounding desire among brands and their audiences to get to meet up face-to-face again. Even though we crave being outside with others, people are more attached to digital experiences than ever. Most likely, this is due to COVID’s effect on our technology dependence. At the very least, 2021 will bring us opportunities to reinvent what experiential looks like.
Since Mark Zuckerberg sat in front of the U.S. Senate, tech-savvy consumers have only increased demands for brands to collect data collection. If brands are going to compile user information, consumers want them to be informed. “This is not just a matter of brands meeting consumers where they are; it’s about brands telling them what they want, when they want it,” says Sherene Hilal, SVP of Bluecore. The trade-off here is collection for customization. Smart consumers know that companies are looking at purchasing habits, personal information, and social media engagement. They may as well analyze it to anticipate their audiences next move. Luckily, social media technology is providing brands with more effective methods to predict consumer needs. Facebook and other social media platforms are making the path from discovery to purchase seamless, allowing consumers to use apps they already spend time on as a one-stop-shop.
Speaking of social media, that’s where we’ll see another trend play out: inclusivity. Audiences have been pushing inclusivity more and more each year, with one study showing that 29% of shoppers are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity. This touches all aspects of a brand, from the products they develop to the influencers they hire, to the accessibility of their content. For example, if a brand releases a campaign whose prized post is a video of a product being used set to music, those with visual impairments are cut out, and consumers won’t stand for that as a community. At this point, jump on the inclusivity wagon or you’ll be dragged behind it.
We all know that 2020 has been rough. From day-long Zoom calls to wiping down groceries, we could all use some things to look forward to. Well, just you wait… 2021 is looking up.