2021 Marketing Trends

A Year in Review

This year, the marketing industry didn’t take things too seriously. Don’t get us wrong. It’s not like brands gave up. Marketers didn’t throw up their hands and quit this year. Not at all. Everyone unanimously decided that they needed a break from the stuffiness and heaviness that we felt last year. And the 2021 marketing trends reflect this.

We’re all out here just trying our best. 2020 forced us out of our comfort zones. 2021 was the year that we all adapted and discovered new comfort zones. No, this year wasn’t the most revolutionary for the marketing industry. But the influential trends were inspired by our collective search for optimism, a little escapism, and a sense of normalcy.

2021 on Wooden Blocks on Aqua Background


Y2K Revival

This year, brands tugged at our heartstrings with a new wave of nostalgia. Early 2000s-inspired designs popped up everywhere in 2021. Those of us who lived it know the signature look of the ‘00s well.

There’s no denying that bold color was everywhere, patterns were mixed, spacey holographic was a must, and cluttered designs were standard. The world was obsessed with the internet, all things futuristic, and the newly emerging digital culture.

Now, the early 2000s look in all its tacky glory has inundated pop culture and design. We spotted callbacks to Y2K trends in photography concepts, music videos, packaging, social media posts, and even full-on product campaigns. Some people love the tackiness; others hated it the first time around. Either way, it feels normal and approachable, sort of like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.

“The nostalgia trend is nothing new, but it’s been exacerbated during the global pandemic when people have spent more time indoors, rewatching their favorite movies and boxsets,” said Julia Fernandez, content marketing manager at Envato. “Nostalgic branding is familiar, comforting, and safe–and who doesn’t want a bit of that right about now?”


Videos in Web Design

Over the past few years, digital marketers have preached the importance of using videos on websites and social media. This time around, videos are used for aesthetics. They’ve become part of the actual web design instead of just a way to explain a service or display testimonials.

It’s more about their company culture than it is about products. It’s about getting creative with their website and showing off their personality.

We must admit, this is one of our favorite 2021 marketing trends. This year, we stumbled across plenty of cool websites with videos worked into their designs. We loved the look, which is why we changed up the site’s homepage.

“Video content and web design create this powerful synergy capable of mesmerizing the visitors, sparking interest, and building trust,” said Ogi Djuraskovic, founder of First Site Guide. “Video takes over the online sphere at a rapid pace. The projections tell us that this trend will continue during the following years. Adding a video to a website is no longer an idea based on a hunch but based on data coming from multiple sources.”


Video Structured Data

This year, Google made it easier to optimize videos for search results. They introduced two new types of structured data markup. Essentially, this code gives search engines more information about your video content. Creators can now manually tell Google about a video’s specific timestamps using Clips Markup.

Four Smartphone Screens Demonstrating Google Video Schema Results

“While Google tries to automatically understand details about your video, you can explicitly provide information, such as the description, thumbnail URL, upload date, and duration, by marking up your video.”

Google Search Central

These segments are then shown in search results. That way, people won’t have to scrub through a video to find relevant content. Instead, they’ll be able to click on the right segment directly from a “Key Moments” timeline featured underneath video results.

But if you’re unable to label segments for all your hosted videos, you can use Seek Markup. With this code, Google Search uses machine learning to analyze your videos and automatically determines relevant segments for you. Then, they create a “Key Moments” timeline based on what their algorithm characterized as notable.


Branded Memes

It’s hard to stay positive when you’re bombarded with social media posts about the pandemic, politics, and world news. Sometimes, you just need a lighthearted distraction, which is why we love that so many brands kept it casual in 2021.

We saw a major influx of branded memes across social feeds this year. Small and niche businesses quickly jumped on the trend. Big names followed suit. Companies known for playful marketing fully embraced branded memes this year. Even companies that previously kept it strait-laced, like worldwide tech giant Cisco, are now using memes.

Popular brands like Target, Netflix, and Dunkin’ flawlessly worked them into their regular social media schedules. And at this point, Slim Jim is exclusively posting memes on Instagram and has amassed 1.3 million dedicated followers they’ve nicknamed the “Long Boi Gang.”

When done right, branded memes humanize companies. They show that businesses have a sense of humor and are relatable. Branded memes don’t have a call to action attached to them. Branded memes simply exist for entertainment, shareability, and online community building.

Meme of Target and Starbucks Errands


Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements got a much-needed refresh. Over the past year, we’ve seen a wave of big names promoting very regular, mundane products. Luxury goods like perfumes and cars are out. Budget-friendly is in.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is now part-owner and the spokesperson for Mint Mobile, an inexpensive cell service. Basketball star and sports analyst Shaquille O’Neal became the new face of Papa John’s. Actress and comedian Amy Schumer landed her weirdest role yet as Hellmann’s mayonnaise fairy godmother.

And 2021 proved that these celebrity endorsements work. Over the summer, K-Pop group BTS partnered with McDonald’s to launch an exclusive meal. It included Chicken McNuggets, fries, a Coke, and two limited-edition dipping sauces. Even though the bulk of the meal consisted of regular menu items, some US stores saw quarterly sales increase by as much as 25.9 percent because of this 3-week promotion.

The Uber Eats campaign with Lil Nas X and Elton John brings a sense of self-aware humor to the “rich celebrity, cheap product” concept. This fall, a series of commercials aired in which the two singers wait for their shockingly average Uber Eats orders while in a lavish mansion. Surrounded by Rococo furniture, they do flippant things while waiting for their sandwiches and fries, like lounging in a couture suit of feathers and riding a coin-operated horse in the middle of a golden grand parlor room.

What's to Come

The 2021 marketing trends were all about getting comfortable again after a very uncomfortable year. But trends have an expiration date, so the marketing industry might be due for a shakeup. Think innovation, growth, and excitement. We’re not proclaiming that 2022 will be a life-changing year, but we’re certainly looking forward to whatever has in store for us.

2022 Marketing Trends: Our Predictions

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2021 Marketing Trends: Our Predictions

Basically, proving that we’re psychic