Predicting the future feels especially daunting after the year we’ve just had. However, there are trends and topics that I expect to drive color marketing in 2021. The following five are important:
The future without cookies
A fundamental change for online advertising is imminent. Google’s industry-leading browser, Chrome, will no longer support third-party cookies by early 2022, which will significantly change the way digital ads are targeted and tracked. However, even among knowledgeable digital marketers, there is considerable confusion about how campaigns are affected.
2021 offers marketers a final year to learn about and prepare for the impact of the future without cookies. The most important action is to improve access to and effective use of their valuable first party data and ensure that agencies have a clear plan for placing and measuring campaigns after the change.
Continuation of the Covid assessment
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reportedly said, “We’re not going back to the same economy – we’re recovering, we’re going to a different economy.”
A central question for all companies is therefore: Which new customer behavior and expectations will persist and which will recede? Getting the answer right is an integral part of effective resource allocation.
We currently have clues to act on. Case in point: How many restaurant brands, from Chipotle to Red Lobster, believe the increased use of home delivery will continue, so are investing in “ghost kitchens” that only offer pickup and delivery. After the pandemic, business leaders need to have clear eyes as they evaluate their previous projections and decide whether to proceed with the appropriate priorities or adjust to unexpected realities.
Ad spend by the following buyers
The pandemic surge in e-commerce and the associated impact on advertising budget allocation is likely to continue. As Amazon, Walmart, and other gamers have attracted more buyers, they have also expanded their ad sales business. According to eMarketer, advertising on ecommerce platforms rose 39% in 2020 and will grow another 30% in 2021, representing 13% of total digital advertising spend in the US.
Measurability helps drive this change. According to an April 2020 study by Catalyst and Kantar, advertisers believe that leading ecommerce websites offer better measurability of ad ROI than many other digital ad types, including social media ads. In addition, ecommerce websites know a lot about their customers. This is key to ad targeting without relying on third-party cookies.
More brand-to-brand collaboration
Encouraged by successes like McDonald’s partnership with Travis Scott, deep-pocketed marketers will re-focus on celebrity collaboration. We’re also likely to see more business-to-business partnerships, such as Adidas working with Lego and Allbirds. Unexpected partnerships between corporate brands draw media attention, generate social buzz, and enable cross-marketing to customer bases – with no celebrity advertising fees, which plays a good role in a time of hard-to-measure customer attention and tight budgets.
Increased action on social issues
Much has been written about the growing consumer desire for brands to take a stand on social issues. This interest spans generations, but is most consistently driven by Gen Z. They are currently 5 to 24 years old, and more of that group is joining the workforce and their voice is getting louder than ever – both as consumers and as workers. No previous generation has asked so much of its employers to demonstrate a corporate conscience. Brand marketers will feel compelled and inspired to get their organizations to take meaningful positions on social issues.
This mindset will impact a number of initiatives and produce more programs such as the Partnership for HBCUs, which will be integrated into the recently launched collaboration between Peloton and Beyonce.
Change never stops, much of it opens up new opportunities. Now is the time to make the most of what is to come in 2021.