Trends 2021: The Future of Marketing Institute Identifies the Top Trends

By: Kimberley Henderson, Contributing Author

The expression, “the future is now”, could not be more applicable than it is to the growing marketing trends anticipated for 2021. Not only are these digital trends already in play, but they are growing and becoming more influential. They also raise questions about privacy and security. Dr. David Rice, Executive Director from the Future of Marketing Institute shared three top trends that you should pay attention to as both a marketer and consumer – artificial intelligence, computer-generated imagery influencers and augmented reality.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In 2021 you will see that AI continues to be the overriding technology that will impact everything. That includes how we conduct internet searches, what recommendations we receive for products and entertainment and the level of service we receive from digital voice assistants like Google Home, Alexa and Siri.

AI allows data to be collected second-by-second to target people with ads, and this will be more prevalent next year through various sources including Google+ and Alexa. Rice shared an example where you may cough within earshot of your digital assistant and start seeing ads for cough syrup on your other digital devices. Not only does this level of invasion on one’s privacy seem shocking, but it crosses a “creepy line” for many consumers.

Along these same lines, but even more up close and personal, is technology that targets ads through facial recognition and emotion recognition. For instance, emotions can be read on the user’s face in real-time using a camera and digitalization. If the technology senses one is sad or depressed, the user would receive ads for the thing that makes them happy, based on what they have clicked on in the past. In 2021, many companies are looking to benefit from this type of digital ad placement that is driven by AI.

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) influencers

According to Rice we can, “expect to see a big increase in CGI influencers”. Even though these virtual influencers are not real people, they have almost three times the engagement rate of real influencers, according to a HypeAuditor study. According to research conducted by Rice and his team, “many followers don’t know these influencers are fake and it is often difficult to determine the real versus the fake influencers”. One attractive and “real-looking” influencer is Lil’ Miquela who has 2.8 million Instagram followers and has promoted luxury brands such as Prada. Some of her photos appear to be created digitally, while her other photos look real.

L’il Miquela’s profile describes her as a “change-seeking robot”, while other virtual influencers do not disclose that they are not real people. Because influencers can have so much impact on the thoughts and feelings of followers, the non-disclosure of an influencer being “fake” becomes a potential ethical dilemma that we as marketers need to consider when linking influencers to our brands.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Due to the global pandemic resulting in people staying home more often, we can definitely expect to see more and more augmented reality (AR) in 2021. According to Wikipedia, AR is an, “interactive experience of a real world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer generated perceptual information”. It has been around for a long time, but has only recently has it been adapted for the mass consumer market.

It is used by many retailers like IKEA, allowing people to see how furniture – such as a sofa – will look and fit into their home. A more recent example has been seen in the cosmetic industry, with L’Oreal’s virtual beauty tool allowing people to test out makeup and hair colours in real time before purchasing them. A third example of AR is the ASOS virtual catwalk app that helps users visualize 100 ASOS design products by pointing their smartphone camera at a flat surface where models virtually appear.

Augmented reality has boosted many brands because it truly enhances the consumer’s experience by allowing them to “try before they buy” and gives them a more personal shopping experience wherever they are comfortable. Although brands like L’Oreal promise to not store user’s images, privacy and cybersecurity is still a concern for many companies and consumers. You can read more about these trends and others in the Institute’s Future of Marketing Magazine published by the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Canada.

We want to hear from you! If you are already using the technology mentioned here as part of your marketing tactics, or if you are planning to implement them for the first time in 2021, tell us in the comments box below. We’d also be interested in hearing your perspective on the ethics and privacy issues related to these trends – either as a marketer or a consumer

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