Top Trends 2021 – Now & Next
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As the second pandemic year, 2021 was characterized by resilience, reprioritization, and reactions. Americans made shifts in their lives to prioritize better work/life balance, time with loved ones, and overall wellbeing. Beyond mere acknowledgments in 2020, values were supported with more tangible actions. Environmentally sustainable behaviors have become more mainstream, and brands are making moves for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in response to consumer demand. While the real world began to reopen more than the previous year, the virtual world also expanded with the broader adoption of NFTs, attention for cryptocurrency, and the introduction of the metaverse. The trends of 2021 have varying projected staying power, but all are likely to continue into the start of 2022 and many will shape the long-term future.
Brands as Citizens (Now – Near Term)
As a convergence between the existing trends of demand for business good and a rise in localism, we are now seeing brands engage as community members. In addition to the pandemic, 2021 brought local community-specific natural disasters and violent tragedies, giving businesses both big and small the opportunity and imperative to act. Consumers are looking to businesses to have a positive impact on society, starting in their own backyards, and are rewarding those who align with their values.
- 73% of global respondents believe brands must act now for the good of society and the planet. – Havas Media Group
- 80% of small businesses maintained or increased their level of community involvement, regardless of location or business type. – Aflac
- More than 2 in 5 women under 40 want to buy from companies that use a percentage of their profits to help local communities. – The Harris Poll
Implications: Brands across industries have an opportunity to act for the betterment of society, starting in their own local communities. Allowing employees to volunteer time, sharing corporate philanthropic gifts, being a good employer, operating with strong values, and stepping up in times of crisis are a myriad of actions that allow brands to surpass their business objectives and be seen as positive contributors in society.
Great Reprioritization (Now – Medium Term)
After a continued rollercoaster of unemployment and health concerns, Americans are doing more than just quitting their jobs, but are reprioritizing their lives and acting on their own major shifts. During this shuffle, job vacancies delay society from a rapid return to pre-pandemic growth. However, whether starting businesses, adjusting to a more flexible work arrangement, or simply focusing more on bettering themselves and others, the great reprioritization is a sign that positive change often happens amidst major disruption.
- Close to a quarter (23%) of employed Americans plan to quit their jobs in the next 12 months. – The Harris Poll
- Around half (49%) of Americans report that they are prioritizing a better work life balance. – Ipsos
- 81% of Gen Z and 86% of Millennials say the pandemic has made them re-evaluate what is important in their life. – Kantar U.S. Monitor
Implications: During this time of reprioritization, brands can reach new consumers as they are forming habits, with greater odds for behavioral shift. Organizations who face staffing challenges can use this as an opportunity to restructure and provide innovative solutions to serving consumers and employees. Brands who are flexible, and appeal to shifting consumer priorities will come out of this societal shake up as winners.
Sustainability is in Style (Now – Long Term)
As climate change continues to be a looming concern over society, consumers are increasingly welcoming sustainable practices into their lifestyles. Once niche behaviors, buying electric vehicles and participating in sustainable fashion practices are just a few of the eco-friendly choices that are in style and broadly accepted. Vegetarianism is also gaining traction as an environmentally conscious lifestyle in the high-end foodie space signaling that it is here to stay.
- 66% of all respondents express some anxiety about how climate change will affect them personally, rising to 72% of Gen Z. – Wunderman Thompson
- Already half (51%) of US adults would consider buying an EV. – The Harris Poll
- The secondhand market is projected to reach $77 billion by 2025 — up from $36 billion in 2021 — and is growing at 11x the rate of the broader retail clothing sector. – Yahoo! News
Implications: As environmental sustainability continues to gain importance in society, brands can do their part to limit negative impact and contribute to positive change. Many consumers’ values, lifestyles, and preferences are shifting to be more eco-conscious, opening opportunities for brands to adjust their offerings to align, or take supporting actions that appeal to consumers’ demands.
Inclusion in Action (Now – Long Term)
As an ongoing effort to improve society, diversity, equity and inclusion will remain imperative themes in our culture for years to come. Far beyond the early days of DEI work being seen as bonus initiatives, equitable and inclusive solutions that represent all people are now seen as foundational in brands’ offerings. As a result, brands have shifted from a phase of avowals to actions and are redefining cultural norms.
- Luxury brands are re-inventing themselves to appeal to younger and more diverse audiences: Tiffany’s new campaign with Beyonce and Jay Z is geared towards younger and more diverse consumers with familiarity highest among African Americans (66%), Asian Americans (67%), and Millennials (72%). – The Harris Poll
- 52% of corporate directors support tying executive compensation to DEI goals. – PwC survey via Fortune
- “Target’s Teaming up with Diverse and Women-owned Businesses to Reimagine Beauty and Personal Care Products.” – Target Corporate
Implications: Brands are in a position of influence when it comes to addressing societal inequalities. Organizations can take action by hiring diverse employees, building inclusive cultures, and partnering with organizations that further DEI goals. Marketers have the opportunity to show diverse representation in their advertisements to reduce stigma and improve media equality. Brands should pay attention to the unique nuances and intersectionality of their audiences, be empathetic, and employ inclusive offerings and messaging to align with their needs.
Digital World and Social Currency (Now – Long Term)
After experiencing a home-bound world in 2020, our culture is adopting a more limitless world through digital technology. Digital assets such as NFTs and cryptocurrencies continue to gain popularity while gaming platforms and social media companies build out the possibilities of virtual worlds and the metaverse. Brands can look for ways to get in on the action and reach consumers in a meaningful way digitally and in real life.
- A vast majority (75%) of parents of kids aged 3-9 say they have more screen time now than they did last year. Gaming platform, Roblox, is one of the most popular. – Morning Consult Data in Axios
- Nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers reported investing money in cryptocurrency during the first half of the year. – Business Wire
- 7 in 10 (70%) Gen Z and Millennials are interested in interacting within the metaverse (vs 32% of those over 40.) – The Harris Poll
Implications: As society spends more time online and the digital world becomes a hub for social interaction, brands have the opportunity to be a part of these conversations. Social media continues to be fully embedded into lifestyles, and new platforms open additional connection potential. Whether through gaming, NFT’s or the future metaverse, brands who participate in interacting with their consumers through these channels will be able to continue forming connections.
For trends of 2021 and beyond that are tailored by industry, please see our Top Trends of 2021 – Now and Next reports for Healthcare, Higher Education, and Travel.
This content was created as a collaboration amongst the BVK Insights Team.