It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a year that no-one will forget – the good, the bad and the ugly. While the world has been in turmoil it has impacted every aspect of our lives – how we work, rest, play, connect, communicate, shop, entertain and more – not just personally, but for brands and marketers as well.
Every year drives change as new trends, events and technology emerge, and we’re constantly learning, innovating and adapting as we go. In 2020 we have had to adapt faster and with less planning and time than we have needed to do in generations. This has lead us to some great new thinking, unexpected new behaviours and trends, and wonderful examples of content, strategy and campaigns – all of which provide some valuable lessons and interesting trends that we’re expecting to see carried forward into 2021.
The guiding principle that we expect to see more of is the expansion of conversational marketing.
A little more conversation (AI marketing)
Conversational marketing is, simply, engaging customers through conversations—chatbots, social messaging, groups, calls, building relationships through personalised, one-to-one messaging and content, and more. This trend first emerged in 2018 and, while some brands have been moving more and more toward it, the pandemic has brought conversational marketing to the forefront. It is highly adaptable, so you can alter your messaging quickly to meet varying situations or consumers, and technology and digital and social platforms are starting to catch up with the potential it creates. With more AI-powered solutions, omni-channel conversations with hyper-realistic chatbots now possible, brands can have personalised, engaging connections with many different audiences, on an enterprise scale.
Marketing is a two-way street. Brands can no longer shout one-size-fits-all marketing messages and content across all channels and platforms, and expect to achieve their goals. Instead, we need to be truly listening to consumer needs, adapting to and embracing trends, facilitating conversations and connections, building relationships and generating leads, engagement, traffic and sales, based on being as real as the people who make up our audiences.
Throughout 2020 many brands took to reassuring consumers that we are all #inittogether. Brands set out to build trust and show how authentic and understanding they are. While many released some great, unique content, it’s fair to say that not everyone truly nailed the brief. As is obvious in the below video, brands wrote scripts and messages that sound heartfelt, used beautiful footage with peaceful sound tracks and created slick and highly produced content (even though it’s all really well cut stock video and music). No matter what brand or category it was from, the goal was to connect with consumers to reassure them of the brand’s authenticity, place and support, but too many brands sacrificed this by creating content that looked, sounded and said the exact same thing – turning the pandemic into not much more than a buzzwordy marketing opportunity.
So, if this isn’t what being an authentic part of the conversation that 2021 demands looks and sounds like, what does Conversational Marketing really look like?
Content and Tone Of Voice
One of the most heartwarming trends we’ve seen grow throughout 2020 is brands across many categories connecting with audiences by showing their humanity, or reflecting ours, in their content. They joined the conversation by contributing value, and showing they are part of our every day lives. They let people lead the story, not the brand, and the emotional connection that creates is powerful.
One Voice Children’s Choir
Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris
Colgate – Smile Strong
Audiences want to trust that what they are buying into is what they are actually getting, they want to trust that the brand or product truly delivers on their needs because they truly understand them. Trust arises when what’s represented and promised is what’s delivered. Messaging should be transparent, relatable and real, and delivering on those messages should be consistent and reliable. Shifting focus from audience demographics to audience values and lifestyle is one way to establish greater trust.
The whole working from home thing — Apple
TAB – Requiem for a Pie
Genuinely participating in the conversation, not simply contributing to or starting it, is becoming more and more important for brands. Facebook has been prioritising and improving the experience in Groups, because they know that’s where audiences are connecting and communicating most, online gaming, platforms like Twitch and TikTok are all founded on the principle of participation, and brands are beginning to experiment with campaigns and influencer partnerships in them as a result.
Participation is engaging with consumers on a more personal and real level. It’s going beyond acting like a brand, reactive responses and passive activities like writing online reviews, giving advice to fellow customers and creating highly produced, branded content.
It’s actively being in the conversation, and being real in what you say and do.
WHO on TikTok
Burger King UK – Order from McDonalds
Ocean Spray – TikTok UGC
Ocean Spray Reacts to TikTok Content Creator – https://www.thedrum.com/news/2020/10/07/ocean-spray-finally-reacts-viral-skateboarding-tiktok
Purposeful – Campaigns and Content for Good
With the increased focus on social, political and environmental issues across the world throughout 2020 – such as Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Feminism, Covid-19 and many more – there’s been a big increase in the number of people advocating for these causes, as well as opening up big conversations around mental health, social issues and human rights. As a result, many brands have also started standing up for what they believe in on social media and sharing content for good.
Self Aware marketing is the ‘reverse psychology’ of the marketing industry. It’s centered around satirical or ironic adverts that poke fun at themselves, other brands or the concept of advertising in general. While traditional marketing campaigns aim to hide the fact that they’re trying to promote products or hit sales targets, self-aware marketing campaigns do the opposite by putting ‘the sell’ front and centre.
Done well they represent what people truly think, show personality, stand out from the crowd in a positive way and connect on a personal level by adding value – relatable humour that makes people laugh.
3 Social Media Content Trends
MEMEs and GIF’s
Memes are big amongst younger generations, with 55% of 13-35-year olds sending memes every week. Over the last year, that number has grown. Mentions of memes increased over the last 13 months, from 19.8M mentions in August 2019, to 24.9M in July 2020 (+26%), with a peak of 28M during April 2020. Users turned to them for engagement, humour, information and escapism while under lockdown.
NEW #ReDefineHemophilia #socialmedia campaign by @RocheCanada targeted to patients. Completely within the DTC guidelines. See, it is possible! Details, links and images: https://t.co/1Zjk4W2ZSb#pharmaceuticals #biotech #pharmamarketing #socialmediamarketing #Memeophilia pic.twitter.com/jYvhqr2UGF
— Nat Bourre: Medical writer + translator (@NatBourre) December 4, 2019
Voice Assistants – Google Home, Alexa, Siri
The new wave of digital natives — from millennials to Gen Z — are set to use voice commands first and foremost. Forget swiping and scrolling, this generation is conversant in commanding and has little tolerance for digital experiences that can’t adapt.
Almost six in 10 (58%) said to get the latest news, followed by entertainment inquiries (53%); events (40%); transport information (37%); restaurants (34%); health (31%); travel (30%) and retail (29%). It’s clear the audience is ready to speak — they’re just waiting for brands who know how to listen.
Businesses that can learn to listen to this generation’s voice commands will have a head start on their competition.
Learn More About Voice Adoption
The Continued Growth of Short Form and Vertical Video
Short form and vertical video has been around for some time now, and while SnapChat may have started the trend back in 2011, over the last couple of years it has seen mainstream adoption across all the major social media platforms – from TikTok design around the format to Linkedin adopting stories in 2020. Videos, stories, reels, no matter what we call them, vertical, short form video has cemented it’s place in the content mix, and must be considered by brands in all content planning.
These short video platforms may sound challenging for some brands, but even healthcare brands are able to leverage their unique style and power. Check out the hashtags associated with a therapeutic area of interest: Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, lung cancer, diabetes. The reams of irony and absurdity you encounter will give you a new and very earnest perspective on what life with any of these conditions is like.
Remixing the new user-generated content
Last but not least, user-generated content will evolve to include remixing. Remixing is the art of taking existing formats, templates, or ideas, and recreating them to express a user’s own personality or ideas. According to Talkwalker, it is on the rise through apps such as TikTok and Instagram Reels. The trend is only just taking off, the study added.
There will be more co-production opportunities in the future, with brands providing templates for users to base their content off. This will enable more organic connections between companies and consumers.
The marketing industry can expect 2021 to bring even more opportunities for remixing, with brands engaging with new audiences and creating additional content that stands out from the crowd.
content marketing, marketing, social media