If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that we can’t predict the future. In that spirit, enjoy my attempt to predict the future! Here are key trends I expect to be relevant in 2021 (in no particular order):
1. TikTok– It’s a moving target and takes time to understand, but the potential for our industry is incredible. Creatingshort, fun, compelling stories…it’s like it was developed for promo. I’ve just recently started creating content on thisplatform and it’s important to give yourself the space to experiment. Your first video will suck and that’s okay!
2. Clubhouse– I just joined, and I’ll admit - I don’t understand it yet. But it feels like it might really blow up. I think the magic is in the fact that you need to be invited or approved by your connections already on the app. GENIUS. It taps into a very special spot in our brain that we should always harness as marketers: the idea of scarcity combined with our innate craving to be part of the group.
3. Meme culture– This has been around for years, but we were all reminded of how mainstream it’s become with the recent (and highly entertaining) explosion of Bernie meme. SanMar had one of my favorites. We can expect to see more companies engaging in topical memes.
4. Playful color– I wrote an article in November about tie dye and still see this very much trending in the promo industry and retail. I’m especially loving the more subtle one-color wash dye. Color is such an important way to express mood. Also, whether you do it consciously or not, it’s likely you tend to gravitate to certain colors (like jewel tones) that look good on a webcam/video.
5. Excelling from home – 2020 was reactive. 2021 is about showing up and putting our best face forward. Invest in lighting accessories, sound equipment, backdrops, etc. If you dressed up and did your hair/makeup for meetings pre-pandemic, consider doing it in the virtual workspace as well (Good news: it doesn’t mean you need to ditch the sweatpants!)
6. Impactful packaging– Most products are now shipped to your doorstep. Your packaging not only must be functional, but emulate the emotion, messaging and impact an in-person exchange might’ve had.
7. Sustainability– I believe that this will be the biggest transformational trend that will continue to change our industry in the coming years. Luckily, it’s happening gradually and organically enough to give suppliers, distributors and customers time to adapt.
8. Self-Care– this is a broad idea and looks different to everyone. Essentially, it breaks down into habits, philosophy and lifestyle. Whether its mental or physical, we can apply this into branding messaging, approach and product selection. From a work standpoint, we might see more people take time off to enjoy with family and friends – especially once vaccine distribution increases.
9. Home goods– if consumers are spending most of their time at home, promotional products and messaging needs to be positioned for this. Focus especially on items used in the kitchen, home office and backyard.
10. Elevated Personal Protection – I never want to see another 3-play mask again (although we must endure a while longer). But elevating to face coverings and hand sanitizer that are not only functional, but beautiful is important.
11. Hybrid events– just because in-person events are getting back on the calendar doesn’t mean we can abandon virtual. Consider print and promotional product applications that help make this a smoother tie-in.
12. Wanderlust (late 2021)– if all goes well, we should all have access to the vaccine before 2021 is over – fingers crossed it’s sooner than later. We will likely see a spike in branded bags, travel accessories and tech. And I think people will be ready to go all out.
It might be tempting to cherry pick this list to determine which are most important or most relevant to your business. The truth is that they are all more interconnected than we think. To be an effective marketer, we must analyze at a bird’s eye view so that even if we aren’t actively engaging in one platform, idea or trend that at the very least, we understand its importance.
What do you see in your crystal ball?