Comperemedia 2021 Omnichannel Marketing Trends: How’d we do?

September 9th, 2021 | Comperemedia News

As we enter the fall, the big question enters all our minds: How spot-on were our 2021 Omnichannel Marketing Trends? Ok, maybe not everyone had this thought, but as the purveyors of marketing trends for 2021, we wanted to know if our predictions were spot on, or if we led our readers astray. In January, our team predicted a year where video platforms would take over, brands would target fandoms, local would be big, and brands would sell values instead of products.

In retrospect…we nailed it. Sure, there were some bumps in the road (looking at you, Peacock), but 2021 became the year where many brands adhered to the new rules established in 2020. And the result was a very video-based, celeb-focused, localized, and value-driven year. Let’s get into it.

All in on Video

As we predicted, video has thrived in 2021, especially as the pandemic drags on and people and companies continue to use the format to forge personal connections. Video as a marketing channel is especially crucial in financial services, which has seen a 10% year-over-year increase in online video marketing spend in the first half of 2021. Some of the top creatives (by spend) in the sector came from fintechs, such as Credit Karma and Cash App, which have been especially strong adopters of the channel to establish themselves in an increasingly crowded landscape.

Meanwhile, traditional FSIs have also continued to invest heavily in online video, with Capital One and Discover on top in terms of financial services online video spend during the first half of the year. While Capital One reinforced our expectation that animated videos would be popular, Discover proved our point about the importance of pre-roll ads.

Sometimes, getting consumers connected to video meant going off-screen. Disney+, for instance, stood out with an innovative direct mail campaign that enhanced the viewing experience. And Peacock dominated its peers in podcast advertising.

But things weren’t completely rosy for Peacock. While we were mostly on point with our video trend, there was one big miss: the Olympics. Viewership was down 42% compared to the 2016 Olympics, signaling a major missed opportunity for NBC and its streaming service, Peacock. While NBC could have used the event to drive viewership via Peacock, it instead left viewers struggling to know which sports were on when and, thanks to the time difference, skipping watching altogether.

Fandom as a Cultural Currency

Celebrities were a keystone of many brand awareness marketing campaigns in 2021 as brands opted to connect with a consumer base through the influencers and celebrities they love. While celebrity endorsements are not a new marketing strategy, brands used celebrities in new ways to boost authenticity and position the celebrities as approachable figures involved with the brand, rather than just a spokesperson.

Some brands utilized famous couples to capture the attention of viewers through a relatable dynamic. For example, Cheetos’ Super Bowl ad leveraged Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher’s relationship, as well as the people’s love of the song “It Wasn’t Me,” to generate buzz.

Another celebrity phenomenon involved “hiring” celebrities to become a part of a company, such as Jennifer Aniston and Vital Proteins, Taco Bell bringing on Lil Nas X as their Chief Impact Officer, and A$AP Rocky becoming Klarna’s CEO for the day. At the core, these are simply celebrity partnerships, but these brands positioned these celebrities as not only fans of their product, but as influencers to the business and its corporate decisions.

Of course, we would be remiss if we did not bring up McDonald’s continued use of celebrity meals in 2021, like BTS and Saweetie. We referenced McDonald’s success with Travis Barker and J.Balvin in 2020, and McDonalds expanding the celebrity meals shows that this more personalized approach is successful in reaching audiences through the celebrities they love and want to connect to.

Go Small or Go Home

Even though pandemic restrictions were lifted beginning in the spring, it was clear that local efforts were still top-of-mind for many brands.

Amazon continued to make small businesses the focal point of its 2021 Prime Day, even allowing consumers to pick what regions of the US they wanted to support local businesses. Amazon introduced small business support for its 2020 Prime Day, and its continuation of the strategy proves going small is still a priority for the huge retailer.

Supporting small businesses trickled into many product strategies, especially within financial services. Square recently announced two strategic moves to benefit small business owners: its business banking services, aiming to reach under-represented business owners, and its acquisition of Afterpay, which will enable Square to provide BNPL for merchants. Other large banks, like Capital One, launched new business banking cards in 2021 to capitalize on the evolving and growing needs of business owners.

Even telecom thought small: T-Mobile launched a new campaign in 2021 to reach rural Americans to provide quality internet. This “Hometown Initiative” featured Florida Georgia Line, customer testimonials, and a broach-reach approach to ensure its brand was well-known to an underserved market. Director of Telecom Insights Emily Groch noted T-Mobile’s broad reach approach had long-term goals of reaching potential future rural customers, as “an urban customer today could be a rural subscriber tomorrow.”

Lastly, many financial services brands aimed to prep business owners as the Paycheck Protection Program ended in 2021. Many brands notified business owners well ahead of time of the changes and prepared them for the next steps. Brands used a variety of consumer-facing channels, like email and owned social media pages, to let business owners know of PPP updates and what to do once the program ended.

Reasonable Responsibility

Early in the year, some brands stepped back from Super Bowl marketing to put their money to use on more pressing causes. Budweiser, for instance, did so to funnel the money it would have spent on a national TV spot—$5.6M—on vaccine-awareness efforts. Instead, it ran an online video ad (another example of All in on Video!). Budweiser wasn’t alone in its vaccine-related marketing; Krispy Kreme, for instance, got the word out by offering a free doughnut to anyone who shows proof of vaccination.

In March, we saw financial services companies take to owned social channels to disavow hate crimes committed against Asians and Asian-Americans. While this wasn’t exactly equivalent to embedding values in products, it was, at the very least, a way to take a stand.

Netflix took a unique approach to the issue, complementing its exemplary social media accounts with a national TV campaign that called for the kind of equity and equality the company is all about on Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere. This stance is evident in Netflix’s product itself: its content library, from which it frequently highlights diverse voices.

Other companies also worked their values into the products–or at least the marketing of those products. In June, Visible ran its #ProudlyVisible campaign to support Pride, asking people to define their personal version of family—and help the brand promote its flexible Party Pay family plan. Discover promoted its long-available Pride-theme credit card design, showing how identity can be baked right into its physical products. And Aspiration ran a paid Facebook campaign that outlined how banking with it would get money to social causes.

In retrospect

If we could, at this point, add a trend to our roster of 2021 Omnichannel Trends, we might focus on individuality and customization, which we’ve seen in tailored marketing from Spotify that highlights individual listening habits. We’ve also seen it in financial services in particular with the launch of Citi’s Custom Cash Card and Bank of America’s Customized Cash Rewards card.

Or, letting the pendulum swing the other way, we might focus on simplicity: While personalized rewards can be great, many people are looking for a way to earn that requires less thinking—as evidenced by the ever-growing 2% credit card landscape; simplicity makes an appearance elsewhere, too, as evidenced by the straightforward value proposition of the many buy now, pay later brands.