Marketers from Uber, TSB, Direct Line and more share key trends for 2021

Marketers from a host of brands highlight the trends that will impact marketing and their role next year.


Keith Gulliver, head of brand, content, transformation and social, TSB

“Mass personalisation will become more of a reality. Although I cringe when I hear it because it feels like one of those things I’ve heard over and over again for so many years and no one has ever effectively delivered it, it feels like from a tech point-of-view it’s there. Now, it’s more about how culturally do you deliver it effectively?

“So many businesses are on the edge of that and committing investment, you’d be silly not to be thinking about that because they are not insignificant investments. The brand will have to demonstrate the value of it.

“That drives the shift in capabilities and skills required in marketing. It might be a cliché as well but we are getting to more of a tipping point in the timelines of that.

Marketing is in a powerful position, we’ve just got to use it in a slightly different way.

Keith Gulliver, TSB

“We’re also seeing a shift in how marketing cuts more across an organisation and influences it, rather than sitting in its silo and delivering what it delivers. We have touched on it in TSB as we see a shift in purpose and then product and service; the more of that the better. But it needs that marketing person on the executive board as a point of influence, otherwise it won’t happen.

“Those are four things as an industry we’ve been talking about for quite a while and finally we’re there with the tech and there’s no reason not to get on with it now, it’s within our gift. It just takes people to think slightly differently, to think less about their role in marketing and more about their role in the business and how you can transform businesses.

“That’s the more interesting challenge and where marketing can play an important role because ultimately that interaction with the customer is essential for any business. Marketing is in a powerful position, we’ve just got to use it in a slightly different way.”

Trends 2021: The value of value and opening up marketing

Kerry Chilvers, brands director, Direct Line Group

“We have to keep that momentum from last year, and the ability to adapt and pivot and innovate based on where we head because there are still so many unknowns.

“With that, one of the challenges is understanding true customer sentiment and true changing customer needs, to filter the short-term changes driven by circumstance from the longer-term structural changes that have different implications for how we respond.

“In the category, the focus on brand when there is pressure on sales [will be important]. As an industry, how do we avoid that short-termism. From a brand and business point of view it is damaging, and it is damaging for the [insurance] sector.

Richard Huntington, chief strategy officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

“It’s been a year in which brands have understood their duty more than their purpose. It’s been more instinctive and visceral and I’m hoping that is an enduring thing that carries on – moving mountains in moments – because when things had to happen they did happen and a lot of organisations got their ‘doing stuff’ mojo back.

Marketing gets responsibility when it takes responsibility.

Richard Huntington, Saatch & Saatchi

“Businesses will need to face into value, not specifically price but do consumers value your brand and your category? There are two places you want to be during a recessionary environment, either a treat or essential.

“And then marketing being useful. Where marketing rose to the challenge it made a real difference this year. When we were able to frame things for organisations around what was going on in people’s lives and respond to those changes, marketing became more muscular, where it has the right to. Marketing gets responsibility when it takes responsibility.”


Thomas Ranese, vice-president of global marketing, Uber

“I do think brands are going to continue to lean into purpose. The brands that have, that really did show up for people, will be rewarded for the long term. That hasn’t been lost on me and the entire industry is talking about it.

“I think we’ll also go back to more real-world marketing. IRL is going to be more important. One of the things that excited me about coming to Uber is we’re actually in the physical world. We show up at the airport when you need a ride off your flight, we show up at a concert to help you get home.

“So, how do we create more experiences back in the real world when it’s safe for people to connect again? Frankly, I think the world is going to be craving that.

“How do we potentially rely a little bit less on digital marketing and a little bit more on real-world marketing and actually show up in the world so we can help people celebrate that we can connect again?”

Trends 2021: Adopting a two-speed strategy and embracing failure

Conor McKechnie, vice-president of marketing, Cytiva

“I’m going to make a prediction that is a wish. Because of the pressures on marketing as a discipline, because of what Covid has done, I think more than ever now there is less time, less credence and less patience with the shiny whizz-bangs that marketers sometimes are seduced by.

“The best response marketers and marketing as a discipline can have to the challenge of the last year is to do a really good job of the basics. You can do that within the context of all the new shiny things, but you can’t say things like ‘marketing is dead’ and ‘social is the new black’ and ‘it’s all virtual reality’. You know, pick a buzzword.

“I don’t know whether the prediction is the death of the buzzword and a return to really good first principle, solid, thoughtful marketing that does what it’s supposed to do, rather than make a marketer look all shiny and clever.

Nishma Robb, ads UK marketing director, Google

“It’s not about returning to what we had, it’s about reframing something new, not just in a work environment but also in a personal one.

“It’s exciting thinking about how we’re going to reshape the future. There’s a real sense of a need for joy and optimism, but done in the right way. If things are really tough, as we anticipate that they will be, how as a marketer can you bring some of that optimism to people? I think you’ll see those nuances in creative, not a one-size fits all approach.”

Olga Puzanova, UK and Ireland marketing director, Spotify

“The things that we’ve seen this year, those themes around community and connectivity, will still be integral to anything we do in 2021.

“I also think that lots of brands will start investing in research on consumer behaviour, because the relationship with content and brands has changed, and brands need to change with it. The right tone of voice, being playful, staying innovative through everything that’s going on, is really important. You have to listen even closer to your consumers and stay relevant.”

Trends 2021: Refining agility and bubble trouble

Anna Greene, vice-president of brand, Gousto

“Optimism, entertainment, a greater focus on brand purpose will be the things that drive the industry next year and really move us on to the next chapter. There are a number of macro trends and the shift to online growth is just one of them.

“Increasingly, we’re going to see people’s need for convenient solutions and a greater focus on health and wellbeing, as well as a desire to fill the void of entertainment – a loss that we’ve all really felt this year.”



    Leave a comment