2020 has no doubt been a year like no other. The world has seen a pandemic, a turbulent US election, the prospect of Brexit is looming, and we have woken up to institutional racism and inequality.
As one of the most respected PR and comms teams operating across many sectors, we are feeling optimistic about our clients’ industries as we enter 2021 and adjust to the “new normal”. Although it has been a hard year, we have seen positive changes and an increased emphasis on brands being a “good” business. Factors such as sustainability, diversity and transparency will only grow in importance.
We pride ourselves on being one step ahead and keeping our client’s fingers on the pulse of the nation. Back in May, we created our post-lockdown predictions and once again we have shared our thoughts on consumer, media and communications trends for the next year. Read on for our team’s predictions for 2021…
What will the world of social media look like in 2021?
Stacey notes the incredible upswing in digital media consumption this year which is unlikely to drop off. The nation will continue to seek out information and entertainment from social media and other online sources, this includes increased video consumption led by the Tik Tok generation (16-24). Our Head of Digital questions what will be the next new platform to emerge and soar in popularity in 2021? And what will be the next new feature that each of the existing platforms adopt? Maddy suggests that video will become an even bigger part of comms and social strategies with the use of YouTube Premieres – meaning that content creators watch live with an audience, responding to comments in real-time as the video is streamed. This can create a more personable online video viewing experience, and it’s that human touch we’ve all missed so much this year.
Brands will no doubt continue to develop relevant content for their platforms and features that their target audience can engage with, what’ll be key within that content is being open and honest with their audience. As the ethical aspect and sustainability is driven forward by consumers, Naomi believes that 2021 is going to be the year that we demand all kinds of information about health and safety, wellbeing protocols and measures, as well as business processes. This was illustrated by the backlash against Boohoo.
However, social media trust levels are at an all-time low. Our Consulting Director, Sarah comments that there are currently low levels of transparency and companies are not doing enough to prevent the spread of inaccurate, misleading and conspiracy theory ‘news’. She thinks the anti-vax movement could potentially see official government interference in the new year as a matter of public health urgency.
However, the younger generation has less scepticism about the realities of social media and are more invested in it. Brands are using this to their advantage with the introduction of shopping platforms on both Snapchat and Tik Tok, and increased focus from Instagram, according to Phoebe. Also, the heightened digital community aspect has produced unity among Gen X’s with influencer Bronte King creating a positive space of @galswhograduate to bring like-minded women together in the early 20s as well as body positivity and LGBTQ rights having a significant presence on social media.
Will 9-5 ever be the same?
As the vaccine is rolled-out and confidence grows, Rachel believes that we are looking at a reset by mid-2021.
London’s hub of activity has drastically reduced with Tam pointing out that visitors are down 54% in 2020 and work is 100% digital. WFA (Working from Anywhere) is now an option and will be continually present with the presence of “flexecutives” whereby you telecommute to a long weekend, for example The Hoxton’s flexible working space. Rachel foresees a continuous blend of working and leisure routines.
Virtual catch ups and events are now the norm, Katie believes this will create a more productive comms industry. Also, Naomi speculates that live digital events that attract both physical and virtual attendees will continue to boom, especially with VR technology.
Customers really value a great online experience, but typical retail patterns could fail, according to Rachel. There will be an increased emphasis and focus on the local high street. Moreover, coronavirus has pushed passion-led entrepreneurship as many have seized the opportunity to explore new ways to survive and thrive through business ideas that would not have seen the light of day previously.
What is next for the food sector?
Climate change is at the forefront and sustainable choices are everywhere, this includes the continuing battle against food waste, the booming vegan movement and a demand for “slow food” such as choosing local restaurants and opting for an independent restaurant over a chain spot. Phoebe predicts that as an antidote to eating with our household for months on end, the supper club trend will continue to grow with groups such as the Little Blue Door modelling themselves on a house party and encouraging conversation with strangers.
Food tourism is phenomenally popular currently with many local and regional food and drink producers seeing their businesses grow and increased demand from online consumers. How we eat when taking time-off creates a strong emotive link with a place and time. That link can be strengthened through online retail; direct to consumer engagement and of course in taking a product home you can also re-create and extend the holiday feeling at home. Rachel sees this concept growing even stronger as a way of building a brand.
What is next for wellness?
Of course, once we can, there will be a boom in drinking and partying due to the novelty factor with sales of “going-out” items such as red lipstick back on the up. However, after a couple of months this feeling will wear off and we will return to post-growth society, whereby we continue to prioritise wellbeing and emotional fulfilment. Belinda, who works across our wellness sector clients, has placed emphasis on mental health staying at the forefront, linked with the importance of sleep to provide optimum performance. Furthermore, technology’s place in beauty is likely to see more partnerships this year including hyper personalised skincare.
Phoebe has discussed that within the realm of fitness, there will be less of a focus on losing weight but more about the joy of exercising. This may be due to the relief of playing in a team again, or we may choose to exercise for our mental wellbeing with mindful practices of yoga or cold-water swimming gaining popularity away from technology.
What is in store for travel?
Covid-19 has understandably wreaked havoc on the travel industry, having been at a standstill for the best part of 2020. Visit Britain’s weekly consumer Covid-19 tracker on sentiment shows that only 18% of Brits think it will get better by March and subsequently 2.5 out of 4 people feel comfortable taking the risk to travel.
As the UK bounces back and the vaccine is rolled out, Belinda believes that there will be a rise of holidays which are more immersive experiences, soaking up all the culture that we have been deprived of. This was seen by Mr & Mrs Smith’s “enlarge your Paris project” to connect travellers to lesser-known locales. We’re optimistic that this will be among other opportunities for travel and hospitality companies in the coming year. Bring on the revenge trips!
2020 was defined by staycations which is likely to continue with 47% of people still planning to travel within their own country in the medium term. This is increasingly linked to the rise of sustainability in all facets of our life, limiting airplane travel and choosing eco spots.
Environmental and sustainably led choices:
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their social responsibility, perhaps due to the prolonged time with family, which has passed on habits of the younger generation onto the older and more traditional baby-boomers. Rachel believes this is increasingly present across all aspects of our lives, whether that be who we work for or how and from whom we buy, we will increasingly use our “good business lens” to make purchase decisions. Anya predicts that packaging is the next target of the environmentally conscious, with it becoming smaller, 100% plastic-free or recyclable. Examples of this include Surfers against Sewage, whose original and distinctive packaging has been adopted by many. Naomi foresees that for brands to meet this demand, they must create sustainable strategies and stories.
How to communicate and market these trends?
Sarah has forecasted that podcasts will be increasingly popular with advertisers looking for brand partners and creative ways to be part of the content of popular and relevant podcasts. Naomi also believes that this is an excellent strategy for clients as they can position the company as a thought-leader, boosting brand awareness and search engine optimisation.
Katie believes that as the world bounces back, we are ready for attention grabbing activity that will engage customers and media. However, there is no doubt that the marketing and comms industry will have to work together much more tightly with every action strongly considered. Furthermore, Maddy suggests an increased emphasis on moving past traditional measurement tools and more towards monitoring the sentiment and tone of their comms efforts.
One thing that the whole Siren team has and will continue to be passionate about is community. This has only been heightened this year and we will continue to work towards a shared vision with our clients, supporting local small businesses and being ethically motivated.
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