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One Year Later: 8 Marketing Lessons

One year ago, our world changed forever. How we market has too. The lessons we’ve learned have profound implications for marketers in 2021.


1. Stand for something.

Nearly 75 percent of Americans believe brands should take a stand on issues important to them. Consumers are increasingly looking to—and choosing—brands for humanity: Those that integrate values into their corporate mission that extend beyond profit and serve a greater purpose.

2. Research in real time.

Now more than ever, social media is a treasure trove of content. Listen carefully and it can define your next great creative idea. By analyzing relevant content and trends, the insights gained via social listening can inform a solid marketing strategy.

3. Don’t panic over data privacy.

The changing digital privacy landscape—including the crumbling third-party cookie—is an opportunity for marketers to foster first-party relationships with customers and prospects, and leverage more effective conversion drivers such as paid search.

4. Make seamless connection priority one.

Even as parts of the world “open up,” the increased amount of time people spend online isn’t just going away. Brands (even traditionally face-to-face ones) will have to continue building relationships virtually in new and different ways that not only help compensate for reduced face time, but also create a brand experience that carries over into the real world too.

5. Optimize for voice search.

While a best-strategies list staple, 2021 may be the year voice search really takes off as consumers who became more comfortable searching on their voice-enabled devices during the pandemic continue to do so. Stay ahead of the curve: Optimize for voice search with longer-tail keywords that reflect how consumers ask questions and make requests. It’s likely that Google will give higher rankings to brands that do.

6. Lean into local SEO.

Local engagement is very important to consumers right now—not just because people feel obligated to support their own communities, but also because they have greater confidence in the quality and safety of familiar businesses. To leverage this sentiment, adopt a more granular geographic digital presence using hyperlocal channels such as paid search, display advertising and social media.

7. Tell a (good) story.

At a time when “doomscrolling”(avoiding negative online news) remains a real thing, storytelling—with empathy and authenticity—across both digital and traditional channels is a proven way for brands to cut through the clutter and engage with audiences overwhelmed by noise and negativity.

8. Go casual (in social video).

It’s safe to say that video—used by over 80 percent of marketers in 2020—will remain a dominant digital creative vehicle this year. Creating laidback social videos (even using a smartphone) for platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels and Twitter’s Fleets delivers the authenticity and connection consumers crave, while taking far less time (and far less money) to produce than high-production video for streaming video or YouTube placements.

Austin Williams is an outcomes-driven full service advertising, marketing, digital and public relations agency, creating ideas that inspire action for clients in healthcare, higher education, financial services, nonprofits and professional services.




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