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Calling all Marketers: Three Principles to be Effective in 2021

January 15, 2021


Calling all Marketers: Three Principles to be Effective in 2021

A new year is a fresh start for many of us. What’s ahead for the next 12 months? How will the field of marketing evolve, and how will Marketers like us need to adapt?

Of course, it’s not like everything changes at the stroke of midnight on January 1. Many of these trends have been brewing for months or even years beforehand. Still, what will 2021 demand from marketing talent?

1.   More Empathy, More Emotion

For some, Marketing is seen as a career in manipulation. Our jobs are to convince people to buy a particular product or service. We need to tell them why our brand is the best and they should choose it over all else. Cynics suggest marketing is often full of lies, that Marketers are “putting lipstick on the proverbial pig.”

I don’t believe this is true. This belief structure would suggest that consumers are not capable of seeing the truth, doing their own research and making independent decisions. Further to this point, they’re going to figure it out. The truth always comes out and consumers have a voice to share your untruth with the rest of the world. 

The best of Marketers work really hard to find and reveal an emotional truth that consumers consciously may not realize. We’re only making them feel what they felt in the first place—we’re just bringing that emotion to the surface.

If we look at marketing this way, we can see that successful Marketers need a deeper understanding of their customers’ emotions. (If we understand to this level, we should be able to know what our customers need before they know it themselves!)

Marketers need to check in now! 

Data from months ago will not help ensure that the tone of communication will be received in a way that best reflects the essence, values and character of your brand today – January 2021. Consumers are worn out with renewed lockdowns, rising virus caseloads, and the wrong message, perhaps a message of hope may do more harm than good.

We have to always be aware and ready to respond to changing emotional states. As Marketers, we have to be more empathetic and we have to bring more emotion to our strategies. If we don’t, we won’t be able to connect to our customers.

2.   More Creativity and More Risk-Taking

Marketing talent in 2021 will also need to look outside the box more than ever before. While this statement always holds true, 2021 appears in a few short weeks to be more unpredictable and perhaps a more volatile phase of this pandemic. People survived the first wave on messages of togetherness and hope.

As the second wave rolls on and on, those messages already are worn out. People are tired, even angry. Tensions are higher. Messages of “when this is over” or looking forward may seem like the right move. These sentiments could actually upset people who are unsure if this will “ever end.” (It will, but that end may feel like it’s a long way off right now.)

The result? We need to get more creative with our messaging. The simple pivot we all did last March to “we’re in this together” won’t work this time around. In fact, there’s not going to be a single unifying message. That means we need to look beyond what “everyone else” is doing and come up with something unique. What is your consumer feeling? What benefit is your brand providing? There is something unique if you make the investment and get closer to your own best customers.

That might also mean taking more risks. If there was ever a time to experiment, now might be it.

We need to be more in tune with our customers on an emotional level. Taking a risk that ignores their emotional needs will likely backfire on us. We need to deeply understand our customers, where they are, and how they feel at this moment. Then we can find creative solutions that speak to those needs in a unique way—instead of offering platitudes like “when this is over.”

Looking at New Channels

Right along with creativity and risk-taking, we should also keep new communication channels in mind here. Maybe this is the year we make the leap to streaming ads on Spotify and podcasts. Maybe it’s the year we finally launch that blog or start our TikTok account.

Adopting a new channel is definitely a risk. It can also challenge our creativity. In turn, we may need to adjust our messaging.

Again, if we keep our emotional understanding of our customers near at hand, this isn’t quite the challenge it first looks like. We need to be mindful of what our audiences expect both from us and the platform they’re on. Do they care if we’re doing the latest viral TikTok dance? If that’s part of our brand, then sure. It may also read as inauthentic, particularly if that’s not what our customers want or need from us.

New channels should always align with the brand’s core—our purpose or essence. That’s the best way to make sure we’re actually addressing what our customers want or need from us. When we work from our roots, we can be sure our messages are actually lining up with what our customers want to hear.

3.   Feeling the brand, living the brand

It’s easy to think that marketing no longer takes smart and intuitive talent. After all, we live in a world where you can toss something up on TikTok and people will gravitate to it. Carefully devised marketing strategies or plans may seem not to have a place in this environment.

I felt that way reading about Gymshark’s success on TikTok—who needs talent? But that’s not it, actually. The difference is that we’re seeing a shift in the talents Marketers need to be successful. And one of those talents is one I’ve always rooted for—that deeper understanding of our brands and our customers. Not just crunching the data, but feelingthe brand, living the brand.

Marketing more than ever needs people with a talent for understanding our customers on these deeper emotional levels. We need people who can advocate internally for them and communicate these messages through a wide variety of channels and do it in an authentic way.

Marketers are an incredibly important asset to all teams. Skill requirements continue to grow with the evolution of digital marketing, but a few will always remain the same to be an effective marketer. 

The key is to never lose sight of the importance of open-ended conversations with your best customers. This helps you feel where they are at. And then if you add the behaviours and the numbers, the why and the how—you will have the right touch to be an effective marketer during these uncertain times. 

So, more than ever, in 2021 we must remember to start with the why!


Here to inspire and create conversation!

I am a business person who has excelled in driving a competitive edge through marketing, strategy, innovation, building irresistible brands and unlocking the genius that exists. I am writing is inspire or create new consideration. If you have ideas or questions that you would like me to put a pen too, I would be delighted.

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