The media and marketing trends that could impact 2021

The media and marketing trends that could impact 2021

Following an extraordinary year, we asked our team of multi-platform experts for the trends impacting how we engage with consumers in our Covid-altered world.

Following an extraordinary year, we asked our team of multi-platform experts for the trends impacting how we engage with consumers in our Covid-altered world.

February 3, 2021
2021 media and marketing trends

Turn back to our January 2020 round-up of media and marketing trend predictions. We didn’t know then that a global pandemic would soon alter every aspect of our lives. But many of the themes held true. Authenticity, trust and e-commerce were important in January 2020; and they’re pivotal to every brand’s approach in 2021.

Following an extraordinary year, we went back to our interdisciplinary team of experts (including a few new team members). We asked them for a media and marketing trend that could have an impact on our new Covid-altered world; one in which digital consumption habits have accelerated by five years.

To engage today’s consumer, SJC pursues a multi-platform approach. We believe in print and digital, traditional and cutting-edge across all channels. Our round-up of trends, then, is truly multi-platform. Magazines, mobile, social media and virtual events are a few of the themes we touch on. Here’s a quick glance:

SJC 2021 media & marketing trends

We’ll be diving deeper into these trends over the course of the year (including specific research, tips and best-in-class examples). Sign up for our newsletter to get the insights right to your inbox.

Read on for ideas to engage your audience in 2021 (hopefully a year that isn’t quite so extraordinary).


2021 media and marketing trend Jacquie Loch

The pandemic vaulted digital adoption forward five years, and mobile content consumption rose in every brand category. The direct-to-consumer path to purchase now requires multiple types of mobile-first content. This includes at every stage, from inspiration to product information to sales conversion.


2021 media and marketing trend Dave Dolejsi

You can never go home again – that is my prediction.

Covid pushed businesses and retailers to an accelerated and unprecedented rate of technology adoption. The change demanded new forms and volumes of content to support it. It also impacted how consumers engage with technology and consume that content. Faced with an inability to physically experience products in store, consumers have learned to navigate a new customer journey – one that is purely digital.

There will be a time this year when people can once again return to in-store shopping, but I don’t think consumers will abandon the online experience, nor do I think they will even go back to pre-Covid levels. Consumers have gotten used to the conveniences and personalization of shopping online. They have learned new ways to inform themselves as they make their buying decisions, and they are no longer bound to shopping behaviours we once thought were cemented in our psyche. This new normal will continue to demand large volumes of content to support the demands of the digital consumer.


2021 media and marketing trend Amanda Eaton

Retailers learned to adapt to Covid restrictions in 2020 by shifting their focus to a more seamless customer shopping experience. This new norm will continue to evolve into 2021, with retailers offering more engaging and personalized customer service in-store and integrated shopping experiences online. Tools like e-newsletters, live chat and how-to video content are more important than ever and will continue to be used to help break the barriers to purchase and create brand loyalty.


2021 media and marketing trend Lynn Chambers

Environment and context will matter more in 2021. With the disruption of media in the U.S. where fake news has permeated all media, consumers will seek out information sources they can trust. High-quality journalism is more important than ever.

Leading Canadian media brands provide a brand-safe environment for advertisers across all media platforms. Leveraging the trust our audiences have with our brands helps bring more credibility to an advertiser’s message. There is much more value for an advertiser to have their ad appear in an environment that is brand-safe – where associative content actually enhances the chances of the ad to be noticed. Brand recall is 59 per cent higher when distributed through a premium publisher and integrated digital content has 22 times higher engagement than display ads.

In 2021 we will also see more examples of media brands influencing the influencers. High-quality magazine editorial influences public opinion and consumer habits. Editors tap into the leading trends and make them accessible for readers. Editors’ experience, expertise and insights make them an authentic source of influence with an audience that already trusts and values their recommendations.


2021 media and marketing trend Clarence Poirier

Thankfully, there is a definite trend toward readers being more aware of the news sources they read. There is also an increase in the value placed on trust that started before the pandemic. This leads to an increase in the number of Canadians who are willing to pay for sources they trust. About 1 in 3 Canadians indicate they are reading more news than two years ago (Vividata, Fall 2020). Simultaneously, the number of Canadians that trust traditional media has declined by 8 per cent (Reuters Institute, May 2020). More consumption, less trust. A problem, but not surprising given the times we are in.

As a direct result, the willingness to pay for information is increasing – by leaps and bounds. Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, we saw a 35 per cent increase in the number of Canadians who feel “it is important to pay for information to feel truly informed” (Vividata). With the current global political unrest and roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines, the trend is not going away any time soon and hopefully becomes permanent. It speaks to the importance of truth in professional journalism. It also demonstrates the value Canadians have for quality information they can trust. Of course, this bodes well for SJC-Media!


2021 media & marketing trend Nadine Araski Silverhthorne

Two examples of our magazines sharing an inclusive perspective that is reflective of all Canadians: FASHION‘s #FASHIONforall launch and Chatelaine’s Tracy Moore cover feature. Most people think of magazines and newspapers solely as print products, but what they really are is a compendium of ideas and information – how Canadians think, eat, shop, vote – things that matter.


2021 media and marketing trend Doug Kelly

While many of the changes in business practices last year were a direct result of Covid-19, some innovations will stay with us even after the pandemic lifts. Among them will be the continued growth of virtual conferences.

Rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless employee hours organizing and hosting multi-day in-person events, many organizations will scale back and replace them with an in-person and virtual option, or opt to go online entirely. Virtual conferences last year were able to pull in large number of attendees looking for new ideas, industry trends and some welcome interaction with their contemporaries. They were found to be both helpful and convenient. While the days of large in-person annual conferences are not over, we have been presented with a viable option that can be staged several times a year.


2021 media and marketing trend Jason Maghanoy

It’s true, we are Zoomed out. But not because of screen fatigue.

We’re Zoomed out because the content sucks. It’s your 80th meeting. The panel is led by a person who’s terrible on stage IRL. The call is frozen because the speaker’s Wifi doesn’t work in their basement.

I have a Zoom chat with my family every Sunday at 4:30 p.m.  I tune into it like my favourite show because it offers real connection. It’s Zoom that’s actually compelling (which is funny considering, well, it’s a family Zoom chat). So want to win at Zoom? Mirror what works when you spend hours with the people you care about the most.

Get a ring light and a better Wifi connection (to start). Be authentic. Lose the scripting. Get into arguments if something makes you mad. Talk about human things because what makes us human transcends the channel we’re on.

In the end, make Zoom encounters as fun, educational and shareable as your favourite shows. It’s another meaningful touch. It’s a new way to help your customers experience your brand. And the best is when it’s real, you know?


2021 media and marketing trend John Gagliano

Our world is unarguably digital. But print grants three particular benefits that make if an effective – and even now, unique – medium to reach your audience.

First, trust. With the abundance of misinformation online, we turn to print knowing its content has been carefully considered and verified. Consumers trust information that comes from traditional media like print versus search engines, owned media, and especially, social media (Edelman 2020).

Second: touch. When a walk to the mailbox can be an event in itself during homebound times, content you can touch – whether it’s a favourite magazine subscription or piece of direct mail – is likely to be noticed (and appreciated). Print leads to better memory and recall, the neuroscience research shows.

And finally, time. A consumer who sits down with a piece of print is making a conscious decision to spend quality time with that content.

While the start of the pandemic led some brands to pause their print communications, we saw first-hand many clients return to print after witnessing a noticeable decline in engagement. Opportunity and creativity await for brands that recognize print’s unique attributes as part of their marketing mix.


2021 media and marketing trend Alison Jones

Spending more time with books, a habit developed during the reduction in non-essential travel and activity, will likely continue in 2021. Sales of trade books finished the year up over 2019 with print book sales up 8 per cent and ebooks up 16 per cent. Children’s book sales were up over 20 per cent in some categories including activity and puzzle books.

2020 has been a year like no other, and we think 2021 will be much of the same. The impact on consumer behaviour is noticeable as we have seen great shifts to online shopping and the growth of private brands due to the economic pressures. The resulting effects may be long-lasting for some businesses.

This year presents an added pressure for brands in the food industry. Coming up December 31, 2021 is the government’s deadline for the new Nutrition Fact Table (NFT) and ingredient listing regulatory changes. These changes require more physical space on-pack and so require design and layout changes as well.

Great package design remains a key ingredient to engage the consumer and inspire online or on-shelf purchase. Whether it’s a private brand or national brand, now is the time to make sure your packaging is meeting all new requirements while effectively relaying the essence of your brand and product offering.


Cameron Williamson 2021 Trends

Covid restrictions and lockdowns have drastically reduced the number of places we visit and the people we see on a daily basis. Because of these constraints, our worlds have gotten smaller, and for a lot of us, community connections have become even more important. Brands looking to engage with consumers during the pandemic need to start thinking more locally. Whether it’s a digital campaign with messaging targeting specific districts and neighbourhoods, or partnerships with homegrown organizations and companies, consumers will be more likely to favour brands that show they are supporting our communities


2021 media and marketing trend Sylvie Lamont

Going green is gaining momentum. The shift to value-based consumers continues. Brands offering transparency and supporting environmental issues will build trust and loyalty with customers. As online retail continues to grow and billions of boxes need to be delivered, recycling becomes serious business. Promoting health and wellness, plant-based products, eco-friendly solutions and adopting green practices will increase as we look ahead to a healthier post-Covid world.


2021 media and marketing trend Sasha Emmons

I think our collective happy place right now is dreaming of fun plans for when Covid is over. Pinterest is the platform that lets us collect inspiration for the future, which is why I think it’s the perfect, non-problematic, optimistic platform for the pandemic. Pinterest reached 400 million monthly active users in 2020, with Gen Z and millennials, key advertiser demos, driving the growth. The platform is innovating with the Today tab to create its own version of a homepage. And the new Shopper Spotlights integrate editorial lifestyle brands. As Pinterest gains audience (and as Twitter and Facebook struggle to navigate misinformation), it will become more and more attractive to marketers.


Bonus content

We also asked our experts for one of their top sources of information and inspiration these days. Here are a few of their responses:

“I’ve been trying to learn and understand more about mental health, since the pandemic has put so much pressure on everyone, says Lynn Chambers, EVP of Sales, SJC Media.The Depression Project‘s Instagram site is a mental health service that has helped me learn the signs of depression (they are not as obvious as you would think) and how to support people who are living with anxiety or depression.Being empathetic and compassionate is now a critical skill of leaders, to help support their team who are experiencing very difficult new challenges due to covid.”


Toronto Life‘s ability to continually renew itself is a study in perseverance,” says Clarence Poirier, Managing Director, Research & Customer Insights, SJC Media. “Yes, Toronto Life has a legacy. More importantly, however, it is very relevant today, both in print and digital.  Connecting with new Canadians is crucial. Immigration is the largest source of population growth. This segment does not have the same historical connection to the Toronto Life brand. That said, Toronto Life‘s print readership with new Canadians – who lived in Canada less than 5 years – is up 54 per cent since 2015.”


“Reading history, particularly during times of upheaval, is illuminating,” says Alison Jones, publisher of Quill & Quire. “The past year I’ve been reading about plagues, the sometimes dubious ways of silicon valley, and most recently, A Promised Land by Barack Obama. The perspective of history can be steadying.”


“I felt overwhelmed by news this year and found myself with way too many tabs open every day that I never could get through,” says Sasha Emmons, Managing Director of Branded Content, SJC Media. “One antidote to this has been subscribing to American historian Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter, which summarizes each day’s events by synthesizing news coverage and putting it all into historical context.”


More reading on 2021 marketing planning:

The 2021 content marketing trends we learned from Global Voices’ kick-off webinar

Seven insights to take away from TL Insider’s Marketing 101 workshop

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Beyond Content is SJC’s monthly newsletter sharing media & marketing insights and inspiration across print and digital. Plus, get hand-picked stories and invites to upcoming events shaping the Canadian conversation from the brands of SJC Media.