2021 Trends Revisted

How did we perform in our 2021 trend predictions? Let's take a look.

Societal Trends:


What we said - We no longer have the fear of missing out, we have the fear of going out!  We are living much more remote and distanced lives.

What happened - While vaccines have allowed people to return to more normal lives, many are still cautious, as seen in footfall levels, which still have not returned to 2019 levels.  Many lockdown habits seem to have stuck, meaning continued use of services like Zoom Netflix and Deliveroo, and new companies have emerged - like Weezy and Gorillas - that will deliver groceries on demand, often within 10 minutes.  Cash use is also down permanently, with more and more people opting to pay by card.

Right?  Yes!

The Donut Problem

What we said - Working from home means that fewer people are travelling into the centre of towns and cities, creating a donut shape, with implications for media and retail

What happened - People are still avoiding city centres.  Research by TUBI, a London Underground app, claims that only 20% are back to working 5 days a week in the office.  Circulations of physical editions of newspapers have fallen, especially for titles most associated with commuting.  There is also evidence that some people have relocated to get more space, with an expectation of fewer commuting days per week.  There were some examples of local focus in retail, with companies like Nike taking a more community-focussed approach to their stores. 

Right?  Half right - We expected more local marketing initiatives

Connected Lives

What we said - The number of devices in our homes (& on our bodies) is growing fast; brands need to find ways into the new ecosystems and consumer habits

What happened - More people used more devices for everything from entertainment to fitness to healthcare.  Peloton continued to grow beyond the lockdowns, with its subscriber numbers continuing to rise, and diversifying into clothing and even gaming.  Connected fitness even made its way to the Olympics, with apps like Zwift powering virtual events in the lead up to the Tokyo Games.  Even pets became connected - Fi’s smart collar will track your dog’s activity and location and even sleep patterns. 

Right?  Yes!

Respecting Privacy

What we said - Consumers' need for privacy is growing, and some brands are actively marketing on their privacy credentials

What happened - Apple doubled down on privacy, with the launch of iOS 14.5, restricting tracking within mobile apps, and even preventing email tracking.  However stories about tracking did not harm the uptake of apps like TikTok, and Tesla’s new personal car insurance - being trialled in Texas - makes a point of using drivers’ own historic data.  Google pushed deeper into privacy, but had to postpone its plans to move beyond cookie-based targeting while it finds new, AI-based approaches that will satisfy regulators and other companies.  Big data hacks continued to get into the news, again increasing public concerns. 

Right?  Yes!

The Great Divide

What we said - The world has never felt more divided.  Brands need to know where they stand and how to communicate this.

What happened - The world still feels very divided.  Culture wars still rage online, and vaccines are proving a new battle ground, with services like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube having to devote resources to moderating and taking down misinformation.  Sport emerged as a new battleground, with for example very divergent views of athletes like Naomi Okaso and Simone Biles’ health issues.  The final of Euro 2020 showed that hate speech is still a problem online.  However brands took more prominent public positions than before, helping to make support for issues like climate change and water use more mainstream.

Right?  Half right.  We expected the divide to decline, but there is no evidence of this

Media & Technology Trends:

The Camera’s New Life

What we said - Distanced life has accelerated the use of both augmented reality and QR codes, which use the phone's camera

What happened - Camera-based technologies have grown, acting as an easy link between physical and digital worlds.  AR has grown to 1.5 billion monthly users, according to data from Snapchat and Deloitte.  Snapchat also claims that over 100m are using AR for shopping.  Lots of new uses are emerging, including virtual try-ons for clothing, and an Amazon hair salon in London let people see their hair in new colours.

QR codes seem to be more ubiquitous than ever, and finally being used in the West for anything from Covid tests (an easy way to send people’s mobile browsers to exactly the right place), to under recipes in newspapers to add ingredients to a shopping basket.

Right?  Yes!

Screen-free Media

What we said - Digital audio is also growing fast, for example podcast listening, and targeting can be similar to digital video

What happened - According to IAB Europe, digital audio was the second fastest growing digital ad medium of 2020, after video.  Podcast listening is continuing to rise, and while the buzz for live audio apps, created by Clubhouse at the beginning of 2021 has fallen away, it feels like only a matter of time before people find unique reasons to go live, particularly as other platforms like Twitter and Spotify have joined in.  Audio commerce is also potentially on the rise, with new features ‘Alexa, what are my deals?’.  A recent report from Juniper research predicts that voice spending on TV platforms will rise to $500m in 2023.

Right?  Yes!

The Decade of Paid

What we said - More people are paying for content, which means that high quality ad inventory is falling

What happened - The paid content platforms continued to grow; Netflix now has more than 200m paying members, and Disney+ more than 100m.  Platforms like Twitter started to experiment with paid services, and more content like podcasts are being monetised with subscriptions.  NFTs emerged as a new way to monetise, creating a secure way to sell anything from art to access to content, to in-game assets to super-users. 

Right?  Yes! 

Responsible Media

What we said - It's not just about brand safety, it's also about societal safety - ad spend should not fund bad people.

What happened - Brands became more conscious of where their spending was going, and who it was funding.  Many tried to do good with their spending, for example Coca Cola’s proposal to spend a set percent of US media budget on minority-owned channels.  Tech platforms took a much more responsible approach to moderation, partly as a result of pressure from advertisers, with action being taken against harmful content and misinformation, particularly around the pandemic and climate change.

Right?  Yes!

The Metaverse

What we said - Gaming is evolving to a much more social place, with the potential to be the main social media for many.

What happened - Facebook took a big step into the metaverse, with Mark Zuckerberg predicting that it would soon be seen as ‘a Metaverse company’; currently Facebook has 10,000 staff working on related projects including VR and AR.  Platforms like Fortnite and Roblox went from strength to strength, with more users and more brands getting involved.  Some companies are now actively building a metaverse presence, including luxury brands like Gucci, organisations like Nascar, and personalities like Snoop Dogg.  More companies stepped into gaming, including Netflix, who bought a gaming studio, and Peloton, which is testing on-screen games as an alternative way of exercising to group classes.

Right?  Yes!

Social screening

What we said - People are watching together online, but separately, within Twitch, Facebook and elsewhere      

What happened - Data from Viacom in May reported that 57% of Americans who stream had ‘co-streamed’ in the previous year, and planned to continue.  New services added it as a feature, including iPlayer, and Amazon’s ‘Explore’ service, where users could take live virtual city tours with local guides also allowed people to take part with friends.  The desire to share collective experiences is also a major motive for using live audio apps like Clubhouse; some of the most popular rooms are for people watching live sports events together on TV, or holding discussions as soon as a fixture ends.

Right - Half right - It is happening, but does not seem to be growing

Connecting the Dots

What we said - The tech giants are consolidating their power by integrating their different businesses together

What happened - The tech giants have made further moves to integrate their services, even though they risk more attention from legislators around the world.  Facebook made it possible to hold cross-app group chats across Messenger, Instagram DMs and WhatsApp.  Amazon launched its first TVs, integrating Alexa voice controls.  New platforms like Netflix and Peloton are adding features like gaming to expand their own stickiness as walled gardens.  & Disney made a Simpsons/Star Wars crossover short to promote Star Wars Day (4th May 2021).

Right?  Half right - Tech companies are still doing this, but with an eye on regulation.

Total - Eight and four halves - so 10/12

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