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Marketing Trends for 2021

Marketing / 10.20.20 / By Jon Alhart

This just might be the one 2021 marketing trend piece you read that won’t mention voice search marketing. Sorry, I can’t get there when most of my time is spent yelling “Alexa, music off!” or—to answer a question from my daughter—“Siri, how old is Santa Claus?”

Santa is roughly 1,748 years old, by the way. Quite the jolly old bird, indeed.

Anyway, let’s get to the marketing trends of 2021. Honestly, anything with 2021 instead of 2020 is exciting enough on its own.

Diversity and Inclusion

This shouldn’t ever be a trend. It should be simply how we conduct our daily lives. But I'm putting this here—as #1—because it's an area more companies need to embrace. And guess what? It’s simply good business, as well. VAB took a look at hundreds of advertising campaigns across 50 brands and found that those tied to diversity and inclusion drove more business success. Nike’s “Dream Crazy,” which debuted in 2018, is still generating success and record-breaking sales into 2020. D&I has to be a core part of your brand. Your business operation. Your marketing. Your daily life.

D&I includes making sure your digital properties—especially your website—are accessible to everyone. Established by the World Wide Web Consortium, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a roadmap for how to make your website more accessible to all. At Dixon Schwabl, our web developers use software that can quickly diagnose what you need to get done to meet guidelines. Chances are, your site has at least 20 errors.

Pivot Quickly

If COVID has taught businesses anything, it’s the importance of being able to pivot quickly.

Mattress Firm is one company that “pretended to be omnichannel” but was really siloed in its marketing. Because of COVID, the company was forced to fully integrate its ecommerce with its marketing plans in just 2-3 months, instead of the 2-3 years it had planned on. That gave Mattress Firm the ability to measure more than just how advertising impacts foot traffic to its stores.

Then there’s the “splash” that Nathan Apodaca—420doggface208 on TikTok—created when he filmed himself enjoying Ocean Spray while riding a longboard down the road to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. In response (and in short order), Ocean Spray gave him a brand-new truck full of cran-raspberry flavored Ocean Spray juice. Then Mick Fleetwood even joined the party!

Even TikTok quickly turned around a TV spot that aired during the NBA finals and is running during Major League Baseball playoffs—in addition to a number of other media placements.

Capitalize on the moment.

Virtual Events

Musical artists like Fleetwood Mac have had to stop their tours this year and conduct virtual concerts instead. Same goes for marketers. In 2020, the number of organizations planning virtual events has doubled. According to Intrado, 78% of marketing leaders plan to increase their budgets for virtual events. Looking for the keys to planning your next virtual event? We have the resources:

- Webinar: Using Virtual Events to Keep Connected

- Case Study: MCC Gold Star Gala

- Connect with Our Virtual Events Team

IT-Marketing Bond

I mean, I got along with Director of IT Randy Zajonczoski right away when I realized he drove the same green car Frank Drebin does in the Naked Gun movies. But if your IT department isn’t regularly communicating with your marketing department, it’s time that bond gets forged. Some questions you should be asking:

- What technology are we currently using in our marketing technology (martech) stack?

- What gaps are we creating with our marketing campaigns that we need to fix by further unifying the technology we're using?

- Is there technology we need to add?

- How do we govern the operations of all of our marketing technologies to ensure they align, are efficient and drive growth?

According to Salesforce, 77% of marketers share common goals and metrics with sales teams. You need your marketing to bridge across all parts of your business—from IT to sales right on up to the C Suite. It’s why we have a marketing automation team at Dixon Schwabl that can align your marketing and business systems, like your marketing software with your CRM.

[Check out our Marketo-Salesforce Integration Guide.]

Look to the Cookie, Elaine!

Much like Elaine in Seinfeld, Marketers need to look to the cookie. In this case, lack of cookies.

Google has announced plans to stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser. With more third-party cookies disappearing (which, by the way, Vice President of Media Services Malorie Benjamin wrote a great blog about), marketers need to do more with the data they own. You need to be clear with your customers about how you’re using their data. You can’t spam them with emails anymore. You can only communicate with them if they decide to opt in. This puts more pressure on marketers to create quality content that helps people vs. spam and salesy ads that blitz them across the digital landscape.

It means owned content is king. The data you own needs to be managed, segmented, monitored and measured. Begin your marketing campaigns with the assets you own—your content, your website—and the audiences you own. Your subscriber list, for example. Then build it out from there. The better you are at collecting data, the stronger your customer data platforms (CDPs) will be, creating a record of experiences every one of your customers has had with your business.


81% of B2B marketers say they've built credibility/trust through content marketing in the past 12 months (source: Content Marketing Institute). Marketing is about much more than driving sales. It’s about knowing how to stay connected with your customers after the sale. Keep communicating with them. Keep helping them. Keep building trust. The marketing funnel is gone. The linear customer journey—it never was. Forget the funnel. Focus on the customer experience.

Holistic View

In a Google and Forrester Consulting study of 750 marketing decision-makers from large enterprises, 84% rate cross-platform analytics as critical or very important. But only 43% have cross-platform analytics tools implemented. To prove marketing’s impact on the bottom line, you need that holistic view. At Dixon Schwabl, we provide these views through Tableau dashboards that bring together a number of difference sources, such as paid media platforms (Google Ads, Facebook, native), website (Google Analytics), marketing automation (Marketo) and CRM (Salesforce). Bringing everything into one view makes it easier to find connections and tell a better story. You need that analysis, that view, because each platform tells stories in a different way. Here's how one of our data/analytics team members put it in a recent Teams chat—fitting, since it’s 2020.

"I never try to compare Marketo to Google Analytics exactly, as the way each one reports is unique to its platform. For instance, a click on an email could be clicking on the link to the landing page provided, the logo to the homepage or the unsubscribe button. Then, sessions in GA are based on that user’s website entry page, which could come from anywhere. Then, add in the possibility for the users to not allow cookies and now you can't even see if they actually came from the email specifically. Because of these nuances, it's best to use a specific platform for its intended reporting purpose."

So use the specific platform for its intended reporting purpose, then bring all of your platforms together into one holistic view that helps you truly analyze marketing’s impact on revenue.


This one seems to always make it on the Top Marketing Trends list. Track your online activities to your offline sales. Track your traditional initiatives, like direct mail, to your digital marketing—kudos to Bob Charboneau, who wrote a great blog showcasing an example of this with direct mail. There are many ways you can set this up. What will you need? An ad tech pro in your media department. IT support. Maybe a web developer. And a strategist leading it all.

Here's an example: With Facebook, you have to ensure you've set up a connection between the sales data from your physical store locations and Events Manager. With Events Manager, you can connect a data source from anywhere your customers interact with your business.

Just eight trends, huh? I feel like I should get to 10 here. I really do. But it's 2020, so I think enough is enough. As Fleetwood Mac would say, we're Never Going Back Again. Here’s to 2021!

Ready to Develop Your 2021 Marketing Plan?

Many of our clients are asking, how do I create a strategic marketing plan with so much uncertainty? A strategy isn't a wish list, set of goals or objectives. It's a clear roadmap. A plan to get there. And as 2020 has shown us, you need to be nimble to evolve your strategy as your industry—and the world—changes.

If you're in 2021 planning mode and would like to learn more about how Dixon Schwabl can help, let's talk.

Jon A 7547 3024x2130 RT Duo RGB

Jon Alhart

Jon unites people and resources, piecing together the full marketing puzzle to drive impact in emerging digital spaces. He’s a graduate of Ithaca College and is certified in Advanced Google Analytics, HubSpot Inbound Marketing, Google Ads Search and Marketo. And he wraps all of that in 20+ years of nonprofit, sports, events, financial services, healthcare, retail and telecom experience. Including giving his time to Baden Street Settlement.