In 2021 savvy marketers will continue to embrace creative ways of connecting with consumers to build awareness and drive demand through online touchpoints and digital insights in their campaigns. And with the absence of large events and in-person gatherings, restricted, by year’s end we could have smaller events with much richer digital integrations based on the learnings from 2020, says Cohesity CMO, Lynn Lucas.

In everything, digital must be the channel, according to Capacity Digital CEO, David Karandish. “The traditional workplace is dead. We can’t assume business will be done in person, in the same location anymore. The definition of ‘availability’ is also shifting and people are unplugging from the matrix a bit,” says Karandish.

This makes adaptability a key factor yet again in 2021. “Things will continue to be in a constant state of flux and, as leaders, we need to focus on how marketing can be a catalyst for change to maintain growth,” Showpad chief growth officer, Marissa Aydlett, tells CMO.

Based on these imperatives, we explore the major ingredients that will help drive digital marketing success in the New Year.

1. First-party data

Ogilvy head of experience technology, Jason Davey, sees digital marketing strategies shifting to prioritise first-party data as the looming cookie crisis gets real (despite some delays). It’s for this reason he sees customer data platform (CDP) vendors enjoying a meteoric rise as multi-channel data collection, attribution, curation and decisioning becomes more accessible and affordable.

“As a result of lots of effort in integrating data across digital channels in 2020, we will see a further increase in the use of virtual agents by brands, assisting customers in a conversational shop assistant-like interaction to traverse the complexities of modern life from changing phone plans to buying your next car,” Davey predicts. “This will, in turn, put more emphasis on CMOs to determine the ‘tone of conversation’ for their brand.

“All this data will continue to drive the hyper-personalisation trend, with more interest in predictive data analysis. Digital twin computing will become the standard way to predict real-world data impacts in a virtual world simulation.”

Also expecting a shift to first-party data is BlackLine CMO, Andres Botero. “With Google Chrome ending its support of third-party cookies in 2021, digital marketers will need to shift from reliance on third-party data for audience targeting and campaign measurement to a new model – improving the way they collect, manage, and activate their first-party data,” he says.

“In addition, marketers will want to partner with publishers that have obtained first-party data through legitimate and privacy-centric collection methods. Publishers have an opportunity to prove the value of their first-party data to brands while figuring out how to scale through programmatic advertising.”

The marketing chief notes brands are getting excited about the ability to unify first-party data sources into a single customer view in a CDP, although the platforms don’t necessarily do everything a marketer expects them to do.

“The collection, management and activation of first-party data can be facilitated with current marketing technology, for example, CRM, marketing automation and identity resolution platforms for reaching people across email, the open Web and CTV. The opportunity to improve how first-party data is used may reside with the existing tools in a marketer’s stack rather than by implementing new tech,” Botero says.

HubSpot head of marketing A/NZ, Kat Warboys, believes the demise of cookies, as well as the challenges COVID has brought with it this year, has made it imperative marketers find a new approach. The key is being able to adapt the way they advertise to how consumers like to buy.

“We’re seeing a shift in strategy, with marketers using first-party data and contextual advertising to create personalised and relevant content for consumers,” Warboys says.

“In 2021, the secret to delivering better advertising lies in marketers’ ability to unlock the data at their disposal and leverage it to deliver hyper-relevant messaging and a unified buying experience. At HubSpot, we call it ‘CRM-powered advertising’.”

As well as enabling marketers to create more relevant, engaging ads for prospects by providing them with up-to-date customer data, this approach is about automating ads based on live CRM data and accessing reliable reporting based on holistic customer data.

“Relevant and timely messaging is the key to grabbing consumers’ attention, engaging them, and guiding them throughout the entire buyer’s journey,” Warboys says.

GoDaddy senior marketing director Australia, Suzanne Michell, has seen how the past 12 months have been the catalyst for huge insights-driven changes in the digital marketing landscape. “It’s a trend I expect to continue in 2021,” she says.

“Mass adoption of CRM systems this year will enable platform businesses to enhance their targeting and user experience capabilities in the months and years ahead. Deeper insights into customers increases targeting abilities to provide greater accuracy and more personalised customer engagement. This can help to drive smarter marketing, increased growth and better overall user experiences.”

2. Privacy will disrupt adtech

A year ago, a privacy prediction might have been more focused on regulation. Today, we are seeing the tech giants taking the lead on privacy by limiting cross-site tracking – Apple through its strengthening ITP and Google with the promised sunsetting of third-party cookies.

“Once these measures are in place, regulation can almost stand down completely because the tech will make it near impossible to violate related regulations,” claims TrafficGuard COO and cofounder, Luke Taylor. “For adtech, this means disruption. Some businesses that rely on tracking mechanisms to provide services and data to advertisers such as retargeting companies, data companies and maybe even some DSPs, won’t be able to operate.”

Taylor also sees new types of tech evolving to help marketers measure performance and this could see them even shift the ways they measure success. “If they haven’t started yet, marketers need to be testing these new tools and measures while they can still track and attribute conversions to verify effectiveness in this current, trackable environment,” he says.

In terms of advertising, marketers will need to gain a better understanding of context to guide their future strategies and put more emphasis on creativity to cut through when their audiences aren’t as targeted as they once were. “Advertising will need to work harder when it’s not as targeted,” Taylor continues.

For Adswerve president and CEO, Clint Tasset, embracing a privacy-first culture will be an executive priority. “We can expect to see the ad industry follow the footsteps of Big Tech’s self-guided push to become more privacy-focused, especially in light of progressive consumer data privacy regulations like the GDPR and CPRA. The momentum around greater consumer privacy in the public and private sectors is reaching critical mass.   It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ an industry-wide privacy framework will arise, but ‘when’,” says Tasset.

“Businesses need to ask themselves if they want to ride the wave or let it take them under. To prepare, they’ll likely need to restructure their organisations and rethink their existing processes to embrace a privacy-first culture.”

Rising privacy requirements will bring about the renaissance of contextual targeting, according to Integral Ad Science country manager A/NZ, Jessica Miles. “The usefulness of data will be limited by the death of cookies. If you have all this data about the individual but no way to activate that data in digital environments you might be better off not having it at all,” she says.

“There will be an increasing reliance on contextual targeting as a proxy for the audience. However, contextual targeting in 2021 will be more sophisticated than ever before. With cutting edge technology, we can now ascertain the sentiment and emotion of an article, interpreting the content the way a human would. With these increased capabilities, we’ll see more advertisers take advantage of both context targeting and avoidance to drive additional value and greater alignment in their digital marketing.”

Off the back of this, advertisers will start to substitute that audience data with contextual intelligence rather than having to support all the data management and privacy regulations that go along with capturing and leaving personally identifiable information,” Miles adds.

Criteo A/NZ commercial director, Colin Barnard, agrees one of the paramount initiatives for the advertising industry is the development and adoption of a future-proofed solution for online identity that isn’t reliant on cookies or large tech players with vested interests.

“This affects the entire industry – advertisers, publishers, adtech partners and consumers, so everyone is invested. In 2021, we’ll see more industry collaboration towards new identity solutions,” says Barnard.

Index Exchange regional MD, Adele Wieser, says while personalisation is nothing new to the industry, the way it continues to deliver personalised marketing will require a pivot with the impending deprecation of third-party cookies next year. “Though challenging in the short-term, the death of the third-party cookie is an opportunity for marketers to build closer, more meaningful relationships with consumers as well as publishing partners,” Wieser says.

“Working in tandem, trusted marketers and publishers can utilise first-party data to provide scalable, addressable advertising opportunities, underpinned by consent and control. As a result, brands will be able to engage with the right audiences, at the right time.”

3. Consumers will own their data

We live in a world today where data is king. “The holy grail for every organisation is to have a single customer view – a platform where they can store millions of different data points about their customers that can be viewed in one place,” says Cheetah Digital VP go-to-market APAC, Billy Loizou.

However, Loizou questions if the industry got it wrong, with trust at an all-time low and consumer data security issues at an all-time high following data breaches and new regulations. He imagines a world where the consumer owns their data and has a single brand view, where they can store all the different data points brands have about them in one place.

“You control and manage a profile of all your information and decide what data can be used for marketing and targeting purposes,” he explains. This model changes how businesses start paying for advertising, instead of paying media agencies and social giants they pay the customer.

SlickText CRO, Brian Wilson, sees this leading to permission-based campaigns becoming more normalised throughout all marketing channels. “You know customers actually want those notifications and touchpoints because they opt in for them, creating a greater marketing ROI while connecting you with your core audience, says Wilson.

“It will also become increasingly important to keep lists as up to date as possible to maximize ROI and adhere to compliance mandates. Blasting as many people with non-personalised messaging just doesn’t work anymore. Brands are smarter and using smarter, more intelligent channels, like SMS,” he says.

4. The reinvention of email

Email is a foundational aspect of marketing and a primary channel for communicating new offerings, promotions and perspectives designed to entice potential customers into engaging. And it’s been even more critical during this past year.

“Since the beginning of COVID, there has been a shrinkage of channels due to the shutdown of face-to-face events, phones going unanswered in empty offices as employees are now working from home, and commuters no longer listening to advertising or seeing billboards designed to steer our desires. This change steered marketers to email at an intensity that has never been seen before,” says Attivo Networks CMO, Carolyn Crandall. “Even the historically sacred LinkedIn has become an overused tool for solicitation as vendors fill our message boxes.”

2021 shows no sign this will change any time in the first half of the year, related to marketing’s dependency on email and online marketing – potentially even longer as people’s interest in safety outweighs the benefits of in-person activities.

“In 2020, savvy marketers either had or quickly began investing in the right tools for obtaining and managing a viable database, a marketing automation system, the right content and the ability to make sure all of their hard work actually hit their target’s inbox,” Crandall says.

“Assuming these tools are in now in place for tracking and ROI analysis, marketing needs to look more closely at the buyer’s journey and experience. This will include a hard look at the prospect’s experience based on what they engage with and when.”

This should then lead to an assessment of content and a plan that provides fresh and relevant information and perspectives so optouts don’t occur, Crandall says. “Integrated channel plans will also need to go beyond email and include search, website, social media and other third-party advertising and content syndication sources,” she continues.

“Having hyperawareness on an engaging buyer’s experience will be critical because with one opt out, it becomes game over for proactive email outreach and you may be left with only a phone option that rings straight to voicemail.”

With the rise in reliance on email will come a greater imperative to ensure security and adopting a zero-trust approach to email security. In particular, multi-factor authentication will be a must for 2021, according to Valimail vice-president of standards and new technologies, Seth Blank.

“This means all parties must first confirm their identities through email and then a second time through texts to their phones or preferably with codes from an authentication app or hardware security token,” Blank says.

“Currently, only some of the biggest companies that send the most emails have multi-factor authentication in place. But these extra levels of security should be built in from day one. If they aren’t, people don’t want to go back and do extra work to protect themselves and their companies from risk. Security as a whole is a hard thing to talk about because most people don’t care about the implications until it is too late and a data breach or phishing attack is upon them.”

5. Connected channels

Modern marketing know incorporating multiple channels within campaigns is much more effective than simply putting all your resources into one channel – even a versatile channel like SMS, says SlickText CMO, Meg Scales. The marketing chief predicts we’ll see channels and varying tactics continue to cross-integrate in the coming year.

“For example, channels will adopt services like loyalty programs to better connect brands with customers through a variety of strategies within just one platform. Also, a customer interaction in one channel could trigger a personalised, automated sequence in another, creating data- and behaviour-driven campaigns many are unable to produce currently due to a lack of time, money and expertise,” she says.

This increased connectivity across tech, especially related to shared data, has provided a new way for businesses to meet and exceed customer expectations, according to SevenRooms senior VP, Marybeth Sheppard. “In 2021, it’s no longer enough to offer customers multiple disparate touchpoints. Instead, to capture and retain loyal customers, businesses must offer streamlined, personalised and meaningful experiences across all channels,” says Sheppard.

“For businesses in 2021, we’ll see a more fully connected experience across the customer lifecycle – whether tailored to a consumer or business customer, or new or existing clientele. There will be a greater need for connectivity, fluidity and balance between professional and personal. The businesses who will be most successful will have a balanced blend of empathy, authenticity and social responsibility, which will be communicated through all aspects of their communications.”

With digital advertising becoming increasingly competitive, Code3 executive VP of commerce, Greg Wolny, sees an urgent need for brands to leverage demand-side platforms (DSPs) to move up the funnel and engage with customers as they are in the research phase. “It’s no longer enough to only have Amazon Sponsored Product Ads, for instance, to get in front of shoppers before they purchase,” says Wolny.

“In today’s landscape, brands need to invest earlier in the shopper journey to educate them on why their product is superior. Brands are also responding to increased competition by expanding to social media and other marketplaces. Doing so improves efficiencies and insight into consumer behaviour beyond a specific channel.”

6. Experimentation vs. certainty

“Optimisation isn’t just perfecting what you’re already doing, it’s constantly refining the whole process, including personalisation, experimentation, CMS and ecommerce, and introducing new elements based on what you’ve learned,” says Episerver CMO, Kirsten Allegri Williams. The marketing predicts experimentation will come to the fore in 2021 as part of an ongoing process of optimisation.

“Keep the preferences of consumers in sight during all these processes, retail executives are relying more and more on agile platforms – and that’s where an optimisation-led mindset comes in,” says Williams. “Adjusting to today’s environment means continuously building new experiences that can meet the expectations not only for consumers as they are today, but as they will be tomorrow. Moving fast has its benefits, but it can’t yield long-term results without dedicated optimisation.”

In 2021, we’ll also see digital marketing move from ‘certainty’ to ‘probability’. “Driven by the increasing drive towards protecting consumer privacy, there is an upheaval underway that is changing the entire data infrastructure of digital marketing,” says MiQ Digital COO, Paul Silver. “This is shifting us away from traditional deterministic solutions that rely on identifiable consumer data towards more probabilistic methods, that use aggregated – and, thus, anonymous – datasets.

“The big players are all making moves in this direction. Chrome’s privacy sandbox, Apple’s SKAdNetwork, the emergence of clean rooms such as Ads Data Hub, Amazon Marketing Cloud and the arrival of open web platforms such as Infosum. All of this points to one conclusion: Marketers should get comfortable with aggregation rather than precision.”

Silver sees this having big implications for how we plan and buy. “The view of a single customer or event will inevitably start to be more fuzzy. But there are also major opportunities for agile companies to rethink the notion of data-driven marketing, by working with partners who can provide the behavioural analytics and activations needed to thrive in this new era of data,” he argues.

7. Content’s reign isn’t over

If content is King, in 2021 context will be Queen, says Cheetah Digital CMO, Richard Jones. “Having a more detailed understanding of your customer, from zero-party-based interests to a more detailed view on customer interactions makes next-generation personalisation all the rage,” he says.

“Applying machine learning and analytics to your personalisation strategy will allow marketers to drive efficiency, effectiveness, automation and optimisation.”

Content marketing will remain a key priority in 2021, but there will be a sharper focus on storytelling, for both B2B and B2C organisations, predicts Nintex head of marketing, APAC, Eileen Tan. “2020 has been a turbulent and disruptive year for many, and the amount of digital content has exploded exponentially since the world went into lockdown, and still remain in various stages of home isolation around the globe,” she says.

“We have been absolutely inundated with information, and compelling content will be critical to cut through the noise in the market. Storytelling marketing will allow organisations to connect and engage more effectively with customers and prospective clients. Customers are looking for a personal and emotional connection when making their purchasing decisions, and a story that resonates strongly with them will help organisations establish that initial connection.”

The marketer expects to see marketers developing more customer stories that will be heavily utilised, with more supporting ‘bite-sized’ content that can be easily consumed, such as quotes, short videos, blog posts and more. “Compelling storytelling should also underpin all other marketing activities for a seamless end-user experience, from building personas for solution marketing through to personalised content for ABM campaigns. Good storytelling never goes out of fashion and I believe it will be more important than ever in the new year.,” she says.

In complement to this, Forrester analyst, Stephanie Liu, expects to see a significant an increase in loyalty and retention marketing.

“Consumers have already seen an uptick in messages meant to reassure them on how brands are protecting customers and employees amid a pandemic. In 2021, these reassuring messages will continue as brands vie to remain top of mind (and top of wallet) for customers, many of whom will be more selective in their spending as economies slowly recover from COVID-19 impacts,” says Liu.

8. The rise of QR code marketing

No one cold have predicted QR codes would take off in 2020. It’s just one many things about the year of COVID that have change.

“New shopping habits, consumer wishlists and work commitments have all shifted and been formed. Just look at QR codes,” says Sandbox Media CEO, Luke Sullivan. “The unpredictability of government decisions and impacts of a cookieless world are huge. While we all wish we had a crystal ball, the unpredictable nature of 2021 is an incredible time to take some calculated risk and get ahead. Don’t let the analysis cause paralysis. The start of the decade starts in 2021.”

QR codes are on the rise because they provide consumers contactless delivery, pickup and payment options – necessary for our current public health protocols. Brands should use this adopted consumer habit to their advantage by tracking engagement via their advertising and marketing tactics, says CallRail VP of marketing, Palmer Houchins.

“For instance, marketers could use QR codes in 2021 to track engagement via product packaging, direct mail and OOH ads to mirror consumer behaviour and better understand what’s working and what’s not. This will put additional information about products and services in the hands of consumers and help marketers improve their strategies in the future,” he says.

Kaimera chief strategy officer, Stewart Gurney, isn’t as convinced QR codes will hang around, but they will have a lasting legacy. “Five years ago, QR codes were a hot topic for advertisers, despite the fact 60 per cent of people didn’t really know what they were and penetration sitting at around 13 per cent, we started to see them everywhere,” says Gurney.

“Whether it was codes on pack on actually embedded into advertising, QR codes were starting to appear in droves around us. Then they disappeared. Consumers refused to get on-board, putting QR codes firmly in the ‘too hard’ basket, allowing them to sit unscanned and underutilised. COVID has changed all that.

“2020 was the year that millions of Australians finally got on the QR code train creating familiarity with the technology – and more importantly- lasting behaviour,” he says. “However, I predict the QR code’s moment of glory will be short lived, disappearing in line with changing restrictions and legislation.”

Yet Gurney says the familiarity and the behaviours around using your phone to access greater utility and information will remain. He sees this as a great opportunity for things like Google Lens or augmented reality platforms, and brands, to tap into this behaviour.

“We’ll usurp the clunky QR code and continue to get consumers scanning and unlocking layers of content and information,” he says.

9. Predictive marketing

Several other industry pundits see Gen Z paving the way in shaping predictive technologies and personalisation in 2021 and beyond. Gen Z has the highest expectations for these technologies in the future, with 84 per cent believing all software and websites will incorporate digital learning and AI capabilities within the next five years, says WP Engine A/NZ country manager, Mark Randall. Nearly eight in 10 of Gen Z believe biometrics will also see increased adoption over that time period,.

“Gen Z is also more enthusiastic about leveraging new technologies like voice to power digital experiences than any other generation, so we expect marketers to follow suit by increasing their investments in voice and visual search optimisation,” says Randall.

When it comes to making predictions around predictive technologies, Truescope co-founder and CTO, Michael Bade, believes the future is predictable. “Into the future, the use of predictive technologies will be used to support communication planning by forecasting outcomes around a business announcement or particular event, based on the analysis of historical information,” he says.

“Predictive technologies provide professionals with the essential data insights and the confidence to make and back their strategies. Combining AI and recommendations, the predictive technology will, for example, enable teams to be alerted to trending social activity relevant to an organisation or brand before a story breaks -giving you time to craft the right message.”

10. Universal IDs

Hand-in-hand with the demise of the cookie and rise of first-party data is the concept of new people identifiers. For Verizon Media A/NZ director of brand innovation and marketing, Anny Havercroft, consumer centricity will evolve as the digital marketing industry and adtech reaches a new level of maturity. This will see a new generation of unified identity solutions such as ConnectID harmonising the way brands approach consumers and create a more consistent brand narrative across channels and platforms, she says.

“There will be improvements to audience messaging and targeting, which will be paramount to advertisers’ ability to provide customers personalised offerings following the loss of cookies in 2022,” Havercroft says. “Programmatic’s expansion across channels beyond ‘traditional display will see omnichannel platforms serving across media channels, creating a smoother brand story for customers and improving measurement and attribution for advertisers.”

In 2020, marketers have come to realise that identity management models are outdated and fail to account for greater privacy-by-design. “With the impending demise of third-party cookies only a year away, players such as The Trade Desk are pioneering promising approaches to Unified ID 2.0 – a universal ID based on voluntarily provided encrypted email addresses. Like all the walled gardens, the open web is looking towards a single sign-on to survive,” says Aqilliz CEO, Gowthaman Ragothaman.   However, Ragothaman cautions that such ID solutions must be designed with longevity, underscored by open-source principles, privacy-enhancing mechanisms, interoperability, and compliance.

“Any universal ID will need to address a fragmented landscape of data protection frameworks. Data provenance will be critical, ensuring transparency of how data has been used within the digital media supply chain once consent is obtained. Having an ongoing record of all processing activities will be essential, should audits arise. Admittedly, walled gardens have the advantage of being able to maintain and provide this record, hence ensuring compliance,” he says.

And to do this, the industry will need to encourage independent and neutral governance. “Rather than relying on industry bodies, I foresee a growing acceptance of emerging technologies that place the trust in tech alone, limiting the need for manual intervention,” says Ragothaman.

11. The end of growth hacking

With all this maturity around digital technologies and data-driven marketing, 2021 could see the end of growth hacking as a tactic for digital marketers.

“This year has seen some major developments in the digital marketing landscape, tech giants selling media inventory become subject to more rigorous regulation and at the same time adtech is getting smarter. Because of this, digital marketers are going to have to learn to not only work within these constraints but also figure out how to stay ahead of the curve and leverage this change,” says Fergus head of marketing, Robbie Dunphy.

“So what does this mean? Gone are the days of making sure your meta description is between 140 and 160 characters at all costs. As search algorithms improve, optimising your digital assets is becoming less and less about trying to hack Google and more about focussing on creating authentic and positive user experience.”

Similarly with PPC and socials, Dunphy also hopes to see the end of ‘growth hacking’. “It seems self-serving ad platform algorithms are finally purging themselves of lucrative but lazy ad creative and favouring campaigns with healthy engagement metrics. Investing in creative and finding a way to say something novel is going to be any marketer’s best shot at delivering returns,” he says.

“But this should really feel like a return to marketing fundamentals more than anything. Communicating an impactful brand promise that is clearly aligned with a strong value prop and a robust business strategy to support it should be the main priority, and that’s nothing new.”

12. The value of authenticity and culture

Another significant prediction for 2021 is that it will be the year brands start taking culture seriously. “Culture has always been important to individuals and while brands have known this for years, many haven’t known where to begin,” says Twitter Australia head of client partnerships, Angus Keene.

“The significance of culture to consumers is simply too high for brands to ignore now though. It plays a hugely important role in shaping consumers’ purchase decisions and is almost as important as having a positive brand reputation. As we enter 2021, with many of the big sporting and entertainment events restarting – think the Olympics – it presents the perfect opportunity for brands to get involved.”

Keene suggests this could be through event sponsorship, competitions or even simply tapping into the conversations happening around the event. “Leveraging these events and taking a stance will help brands become more culturally relevant and can lead to a heightened influence on purchase decisions,” he says.

“Brands should remember, though, it’s not a one-size-fits-all method. They should be thoughtful in their approach to ensure both authenticity to themselves and their audience. Brands that do this and get it right will go a long way to win the hearts and minds of Aussies.”

Brand authenticity and culture play a significant focus for social media, agrees blueAPACHE head of marketing, Renata Di Stefano. “The greatest engagement from our audience over the past few months has been where our culture and brand DNA are on display,” she says.

“Everyone is striving for happy, light-hearted content and organisations want to buy from a company where their values align, where the marketing spin is not actually marketing, but the brand truth.

“With so much content available online, you only have a split second to engage interest before the visitor scroll past and honesty goes a long way to engaging a following. Getting the right mix of truth in your content, not pushing a product or service rather elevating your brand values will drive the social media tone of voice and this is where you will see the organisations who just say they are something actually have to prove it.”

13. Podcasting come into its own

The opportunities for podcasts has already taken hold this year and these audio content productions are expected to continue to be appealing both internally and externally for more organisations.

Casted CEO and co-founder, Lindsay Tjepkema, points to internal use cases such as onboarding for new employees, board meetings, sales enablement and employee engagement. External use cases may include customer success, complementary commentary to events, or even product troubleshooting.

“Podcasts are excellent tools for these use cases in particular because of their ability to be consumed on-demand and foster a sense of connection between the host and listener,” says Tjepkema.

While podcasting isn’t new, it’s still growing in popularity as media consumption trends evolve and celebrities and industry leaders enter the space. Square head of marketing, Australia, Jessica Cook, notes Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, recently launched a limited-series podcast with filmmaker, actress and activist Rashida Jones.

“Brands can choose to create their own podcasts, like Gucci or Square, or advertise via carefully selected partners,” says Cook. “The targeting and brand positioning benefits of these channels are attractive and can pay dividends if brands align with the right partners.”

14. The right message at the right time

What’s old always becomes new again, and in 2021, the marketing edict of getting the right message to the right person at the right time still holds true, even while channels and methods are evolving.

“Smart brand marketers looking to get ahead in 2021 must deliver the right offerings and messages to consumers in places they are already engaging with brands,” says Wasson Enterprise co-founder and former Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO, Greg Wasson. “Take in-store grocery shopping for example. Consumers make decisions about the products they buy and the brands they support every time they step inside a grocery store. And in 2021, this is one place consumers will frequent.

“Brand marketers need to leverage ‘last mile’ impressions delivered in-store, at the moment of greatest potential impact to sway a purchase. The brands that do this are going to stay relevant in the new year.”

Finally, marketers will need to stress test their plans and operations on the basis that the future is already here. “There are no playbooks for what is coming, which is both daunting and exciting, but the most agile marketers will evolve and seize the opportunities in front of them,” says Essence VP and managing director, Australia, James Graver.

“With marketers facing tectonic shifts in consumer behaviour, market-wide volatility and downward budgetary pressures, 2021 will largely be defined by which path marketers choose to take in response to this, and what questions they ask of their data, technology, processes, performance and, of course, partners to set them up for sustainable value creation.”

Seizing these opportunities begins with uniting your organisation around a culture of experimentation and learning. It means identifying the assumptions of what works in their businesses today, and looking for new ways to prove or disprove these views through transformative capability areas such as data clean rooms.

“It also means defining their beliefs on what will shape the next era of modern marketing, and starting the work now to emerge as forward-thinking, product-driven and mission-obsessed brands,” Graver adds.