Six totally realistic marketing predictions for 2021
From drunk shopping and sponsored souls to the rise of 'menimism' and the advent of 'out out of home' advertising, Culture Editor Amy Kean cracks open her fortune cookies to see where the industry in 2021 is most definitely headed.
At the beginning of every year I’m asked to write some predictions - things that will definitely happen - in the world of creativity, media and tech.
Who am I kidding? No one asks me to do this. I write them because I need to. I am compelled (as if possessed) to add my voice to the swarm of accurate and groundbreaking prophecies that fly in front of our noses, into our ears and mouths, then out of our asses when January comes around again. You didn’t hear this from me *winks* but there’s rumours that big change is afoot in advertising this year. In response to the painful simplicity of our profession, it’s about to get much more complex.
In response to the painful simplicity of our profession, it’s about to get much more complex.
For example, all communications strategies will - from next Tuesday - be written in Latin. It makes sense: only 15% of the marketing workforce went to state school, so why cater for basic linguists? All those dense, 100-slide strategic documents of riddles and complex shapes; random allegories about American baseball teams; abstract references to Nietzsche, and Apple’s WHY need to be less accessible, not more. And I, for one, welcome this new complexity. 2020 was a walk in the park! With only one other person, of course. Walking two metres away.
Above: Amy Kean's predictions for this year take the biscuit. [Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash]
My methodology for predicting marketing trends is proprietary. And different, every year. Tarot cards are a no-brainer. Sometimes I’ll ask a forest-dwelling psychic to read my palm. Other times, I’ll use hieromancy - a divination ceremony using sheep entrails - which gets very messy. In 1984 I asked the rock band Queen to write me their marketing predictions as a song. They gave me a single-minded response (Radio Gaga) but they weren’t wrong. Audio ad-spend increased by 4.2% that year.
Maybe Aunt Bessie will be renamed Uncle Bessie for 24 hours, and we can look forward to numerous ad campaigns telling us to “let men be men”.
This January, I bought a pack of six fortune cookies, and what you’re about to read are the detailed messages contained therein. Luckily, each of them was freakishly relevant to the creative industry in 2021, and they will all definitely happen.
It was only a matter of fucking time. If, like me, you were stunned by the large number of International Men’s Day events that took place on 19th November 2020, you’ll be enraged by 2021’s developments. In recent years, ‘man brands’ like Gillette attempted to tackle toxic masculinity, which is good. But in 2020, Nivea created an entire campaign for International Men’s Day. The ITV1 show Loose Women also had its first ever all-male panel to celebrate the day, hosted by Marvin Humes. International Men’s Day has become A THING. Is that appropriate? I’ll let you decide.
Thanks to this big, commercial green light, in 2021 we’ll see a new type of manvertising that demands society treat men with respect. International Men’s Day in 2021 will become a landmark day of ironic backlash, a reason for revolution and chance for our patriarchal systems to finally get the attention they deserve. BRANDS WILL REJOICE AT THE CREATIVE POTENTIAL (maybe Aunt Bessie will be renamed Uncle Bessie for 24 hours) and we can look forward to numerous ad campaigns telling us to “let men be men”.
Above: International Men's Day 2020 saw a socially distanced all-male panel on the usually all-female Loose Women.
Instagram knows me better than I know myself. It knows that on any given day I am willing to buy 24 sachets of soluble anti-ageing collagen mix, a portable disco ball, an optimistic jumper in size XS that says ‘DON’T EVEN’, and a flamingo shower curtain. IT KNOWS. Instagram can also easily assume that my mood in lockdown was erratic and boozy. And you know when I buy the most stuff? When I’m drunk.
It’s the e-commerce opportunity that’s staring us in the face. Intensely. Like a woman on her second bottle of wine.
I’m not alone. According to a survey from March 2020, Brits spend £4.46 billion every year on pissed purchases. It’s the e-commerce opportunity that’s staring us in the face. Intensely. Like a woman on her second bottle of wine. 2021 will be the year of dropping. That’s right. Drunk shopping. ‘Boozehounds’ will become your favourite target audience, and 11pm on a Friday night will be the perfect time to shift your shittest stock to vulnerable vodka gluggers. Dropping will become a cultural craze! A way of life! A sport at the 2022 Olympics!
Above: Dropping, aka online shopping while drunk, will make 'boozehounds' the core market for many.
3. Brands just wanna have cults
Communities are old news. In 2021, brands want worship, and for consumers to have unhealthy attachments with their products. “Build us a cult. We want a cult”, will say the brief from every client to every agency. “With as few fatalities as possible, of course… but… do what you have to.”
Cult is King (well, leader) regardless of whether you’re working for Vauxhall, Vans or Vagisil. In fact, especially Vagisil.
Why? Because, Peloton. The talk o’ the town. That Peloton has nurtured a passionate community should be filed in the “no shit, Sherlock” drawer of your insights cabinet. Indoor spinning has been a cult since the early days of Soul Cycle. Peloton customers have been described as having a “religious zeal” and thus everyone wants a taste of the fanatic pie. But novelty + status + endorphins + Beyonce = a formula that scientifically cannot fail. It is proven.
Wait and see. In 2021, Cult is King (well, leader) regardless of whether you’re working for Vauxhall, Vans or Vagisil. In fact, especially Vagisil.
Above: Peloton has cultivated a cult-like following which other brands will want to emulate.
4. ‘Out out’ of home
Everyone knows what ‘out out’ is, there’s a stand up routine about it [below], and now Debra posts it as a caption underneath her Facebook photos. You’re not just going ‘out’… you’re going large. Wearing your best dress. Dancing until 2am like nobody’s watching.
According to the UK Prime Minister (ugh!) we’re on the “final sprint” of captivity, so in Q2 2021 its likely the restless ambient creatives will be unleashed.
Let’s apply that to our world. Many creatives I know in the outdoor space were furloughed last year, with most posters and billboards left unseen as our restless population was locked inside. But according to the UK Prime Minister (ugh!) we’re on the “final sprint” of captivity, so in Q2 2021 its likely the restless ambient creatives will be unleashed. Pedestrians, strap in.
Multi-dimensional builds. Optical illusions. Posters that hug you and tell you never to go away ever again. Crazy smells, stupid textures, technicolour acid trips, choirs singing, fake rainbows, the actual Crown Jewels, DOORS TO BLOODY NARNIA. This year, the out-of-home industry will metamorphose into ‘out out’ of home, and I’m ready for the fireworks.
Above: Comedian Micky Flanagan's 'out out' routine will be the basis for some 'out out of home' fireworks.
5. Sponsored souls
In 2021, influencers will start selling their souls. Gender reveal parties? Meh. Pregnancy tests? Small fry. The incorporeal essence of a living being? Yes please. With the devil being an elusive guy, it’s unclear who’ll broker the deal, but we’ll definitely start hearing about it in trade press come Q2. What does this even mean? That every single waking second, every thought, every breath they take, move they make, smile they fake, every interaction with a stranger or loved one, every hope, or fear, every lustful urge and moment of longing will be sponsored by Boo Hoo. Or Nasty Gal.
Gender reveal parties? Meh. Pregnancy tests? Small fry. The incorporeal essence of a living being? Yes please.
There’s money to be made in branded humanity and it won’t be long until every living being becomes a walking, talking commercial entity, each with their own Shopify store and personal merch. I’m not even mocking it. I’m first in the queue: IKEA! Fenty! adidas! You can have my soul. For eternity. At the reasonable price of ONE THOUSAND POUNDS. No, wait. That’s not enough. TWO THOUSAND POUNDS.
Above: Welcome to the earvolution, where shouting loudly is the new normal.
6. The earvolution
If there ever was a trend invented purely for the title, it’s this. So, in essence, it’s the trend most alike all the others you’ll be reading around this time of year. But listen; one of the things that blows my mind in advertising is just how many exciting ways we’ve found to describe and reinvent sound. The medium that’s existed ever since… well, we existed.
In 2021, maybe ads are just gonna scream... in your face. In real time. And we’ll call it multi-decibel, air-piercing experiences.
First it was radio, then it was audio, then it was immersive soundscapes, then it was personalised 4D lobe waves, and now we have access to microphones that enable us to listen to things almost as if we were listening to things in the wild! In 2021 get ready for the earvolution. The year that sound takes over. If you’re cool, like me, you’ll have already received your invite to current-big-social platform, Clubhouse: “a new type of social network based on voice - where people around the world come together to talk, listen and learn from each other in real-time.” In real-time.
I entered Clubhouse for five minutes last week, heard lots of shouting, freaked out, left and then threw my phone at the wall. It was so…. loud! In 2021, maybe ads are just gonna scream. They’re gonna scream in your face. In real time. And we’ll call it multi-decibel, air-piercing experiences. And Cannes will lap it up. And Burger King will invent it. Wanna know more? Keep your ear to the ground.
So, yeah. It’s weird that every single one of these predictions came from a fortune cookie. But, believe me, it’ll be even weirder when every single one of them comes true, as the next no-doubt-just-as-fucking-weird-as-the-last-12-months 12 months unfolds.