As we close out a year unlike any other, things will continue to change in 2021. The staff at Black Twig looked at key areas in marketing and public relations and discuss what we learned and experienced in 2020, as well as an outlook on what to expect in the new year.
This past year, more and more business-to-business companies used creativity and storytelling – which were previously seen as a luxury afforded to business-to-consumer brands – as an effective marketing strategy for their brand. Combined with the rise of political activism around many social and environmental issues across the world, there has also been a big increase in brand activism and corporations taking social responsibility.
Brand recognition and customer loyalty are more important now than ever heading into the new year. Personalization will be key to getting customers to feel a stronger connection to a company’s brand, with customers spending more money with brands that have a two-way conversational marketing approach. Expect brands to loosen restrictions and be more open to outside the box thinking on driving messaging to their target audiences.
-Lauren Freinberg, partner
It’s always interesting to see the colors people search for in stock photography and video. You can tell the mood of the designer or project just from the color palette they chose. Inspirational, happy, melancholy, serious and, sometimes, downright scary.
This has been a very interesting year, and I think the word “hopeful” describes the direction people were looking to go when searching Shutterstock. Champagne, Foruna Gold and Tidewater Green set tone. These colors can be serene, calming and very bold and impactful.
Take a look for yourself, and let us know what these colors do for you and if you would want to be surrounded by them.
– Rafael Gómez, creative director
Looks like some old favorites and some new friends may come out of web design in the new year. Responsive design should remain front and center on everyone’s design list. So many screens. Anyone designing for Apple Watch?
Mobile first design should be priority for a lot of you. Make sure to check your analytics before any web project to ensure you are keeping your target audience in mind. Around 50% of website visits are on small screen first.
With more people shopping online, expect to see enhanced product photography. Bigger, more detailed images to make sure people are getting what they expect. Along those lines, better e-commerce user experience will hopefully make our E-tail lives better.
Some other things to keep an eye out for: Clear navigation, colors (bold and calm), organic shapes, dark mode, calm design (people are looking for less chaos in their lives), using diagonals in the design, gradient color schemes and embedded video.
– Rafael Gómez, creative director
This advice doesn’t cover the incredibly vast spectrum of businesses, but many companies will benefit in 2021 by simplifying their email marketing templates. Many of the 2020’s best email campaigns have succeeded by emphasizing a conversational, friend-to-friend tone. The market is saturated in brand-heavy, gimmicky emails with multiple flashing “click here” call-to-action buttons. The opposite of these in-your-face tactics is what’s actually standing out and attracting attention. As we enter into a new year, look for opportunities to walk back lengthy brand emails and lean into a simpler, more conversational approach. Your brand will feel more relatable and your customers will appreciate a respite from pushy selling tactics.
-Brian Gaffney, consultant
Is your next company event ready to dive into the digital world of event marketing?
In 2021, event marketing will continue to adapt to the current pandemic through more virtual platforms. Switching to a virtual platform offers multiple benefits, but the two most important aspects are lowered costs and increasing audience reach. When looking at the cost for hosting an event, there are variables tied to travel, catering, event space, decorations, equipment and promotion. Virtual events allow for attendees to view the event from their home and speakers or presenters can record or stream their speech from home. This takes away most of the costs associated with planning an in-person event and allows more freedom to spend on promotional efforts and opens the event to attendees who otherwise could not make an in-person appearance. Recording virtual events to repurpose for later use adds little to no cost and can be used in future marketing promotions. Opening the door to a virtual event for your company is an easy way to expand your reach to a greater demographic.
-Kayla Nettles, account executive
Social media has taken on a different role during 2020 and a global pandemic. All platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, have accelerated plans and adapted to user needs in order to cultivate more tools and features to better suit a remote and isolated lifestyle. LinkedIn had a monumental year in 2020. They achieved record breaking numbers in connections, sharing and reskilling. LinkedIn has implemented a new look and, for the first time in the platform’s history, launched a story sharing feature allowing companies and connections to personalize their brand and stay connected during COVID-19. Twitter quickly followed suit and launched their story sharing feature, “fleets,” for their users to stay better connected to their target audience.
For 2021, we foreshadow all platforms making major improvements and upgrades to the personalization, networking and advertising features that they quickly put in place for a rapidly changing year. We could see changes to Facebook and Instagram updating their marketplace and ecommerce capabilities, ultimately allowing brands greater access to the world of online shopping and streamlining the business to consumer connection on social media. I anticipate LinkedIn rolling out and focusing on their virtual event tools and integrating a live-stream feature into their stories. Expect to see Twitter making updates to their “fleet” story feature and finding new ways to personalize the platform, like status updates or indicators and new varication categories. These upgrades will provide more opportunity for virtual event engagement and a way to expand beyond the generic blue check mark.
-Jess Briggs, account coordinator
Local media and television
Whether it be local news or national news, news media in general has taken a hit this year both personally and professionally. That said, there are still stories to be told and relationships to build. Most of us are looking at the new year as a fresh start as we are hopeful to put COVID behind us and share the good news all of our clients have to share. We still need to relay the happenings in the world, but when it comes to local news, sharing what is going on directly in your community and with your neighbors will remain to be the most compelling. So many of us, including news professionals like producers and anchors, have been hunkered down at home exploring their local community more than ever. So, let’s build those relationships with them and tell them what is going on with your local company and the clients you serve. Let’s find some powerful stories that have a visual element that will capture people’s attention. Let’s find the stories that will not only connect to the market at hand but specifically will connect to the town or city you live in and conduct business.
-Stephanie Widaman, managing partner
Radio and Podcasts
Although radio stations have lost sponsors due to COVID, they will still be looking for content in 2021. You cannot fill an entire show and keep your audience without interesting content. This means that producers and on-air talent will continue to have an interest in having sources to interview for their shows. The same could be said for podcasts as well. Although some may not survive the pandemic since they are limited in the number of sponsors that may be available to them, those that will still exist in 2021 will be looking for informative and entertaining guests. This is why it is important to continue to have a pulse on radio stations and podcasts that your clients listen to. Radio or podcasts still remain an easy way to reach them in one fell swoop.
-Andy Teague, account supervisor
The events of 2020 have shaped the way individuals consume media. Trade publications are no different in this respect. More and more outlets are relying on digital content, both in the form of online articles and in their e-newsletter subscriptions to distribute information. However, trade publications still regularly look for good, quality content contributions from industry professionals. Not only does an evolving audience appreciate insight from industry experts, but publications openly welcome receiving this insight to fill its various distribution channels. Audiences will continue to rely on trade publications (in whatever form) to dive deep on very industry-specific issues and trends. This results in a very defined, targeted audience. Building your brand equity and reputation in front of this very targeted audience will continue to be an effective marketing strategy.
-Nick Benedick, partner
Business Development and Sales
Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all solution in trying to acquire new business. However, there are three things I believe everyone should focus on when prospecting in uncertain times like 2020.
First, deal with each contact and discussion objectively. Never assume your prospect thinks the same way you or anyone else does about the pandemic and expect the mindset of your prospect about their business to be different now than prior to the pandemic.
Second, your perspective of the pandemic doesn’t matter. Restrain from pushing your personal narrative because what you think is reasonable may feel like it is coming out of left field to them.
Third, ask questions with empathy, not a sales angle, in mind. For example, how has the pandemic impacted your business and culture? What changes have you had to make? What part of your business are you most concerned with? Are there new opportunities that have come out of this situation?
If you haven’t already made changes to how you are going to think differently in 2021, start immediately! Get ahead of the recovery/new normal.
-Tom Gatti, partner