Winning Trends for 2021 in Tech, Design, and Content

Rachelle Kuramoto
Rachelle Kuramoto
VP of Brand & Content
Published Jan 18, 2021

Nine trends to consider as you build your marketing strategy.

Have a seat in the way back machine for a second. This time last year, what trends did you think would stick? Let’s start our 2021 trend report by considering a few trends the pundits predicted (for giggles and cringes). 

  • Facebook is out, and Insta is the playground of the hip youngsters
  • Online audiences prefer chatbots to people, but emails get more personal
  • Hard yes to video and voice
  • Content, content, and more content
  • Interact, interactive, and more interactive

This list is just a sampling. And obviously, we saw many of those predictions come true. But we all know what the crystal ball didn’t show. The lesson? Nobody is truly prescient. But we can be prepared. And so, here’s Dragon Army’s contribution to the ‘what to expect in 2021’ trend bank. 

Here’s why it’s different and worth your time — it has breadth. It connects the dots between economics, technology, design, and content to paint a complete picture. We hope this insight will help you as you firm up plans for 2021 and take a long view of the opportunity horizon.

Trend Category One: Marketing in 2021

Let’s start with the general marketing space. Here’s what will matter: value-based pricing, agile thinking, consolidation, and transparency. The world remains unpredictable as we cross into the new year. That means budget cuts or at least extra-careful spending for many brands. 

With so much interaction moving online, digital efforts and content excellence are line item priorities. While 73% of CMOs report that they plan to spend more on content in 2021, brands also say they have less to spend overall. Every dollar must go further. 

Bottom line: Build and rely on a careful, efficient, measurable strategy

The myriad of unknowns also has heightened the need for agile thinking. If we learned anything in 2020 (and we’ve learned a lot), it’s that the landscape can change on a dime. Companies that have positioned themselves for resilience and competitive leadership have a framework for thinking strategically, resources to remain operational, and the flywheel for developing, deploying, measuring, and iterating at warp speed.

Bottom line: Study the horizon, think strategically, solve problems quickly, and adapt to market needs and expectations rapidly.

With heightened financial accountability and agility comes a move to consolidate. Some brands are bringing work in-house. Others are consolidating agency lists. Dragon Army pays meticulous attention to our partners’ needs, the actions of their competitors, the trends in their markets, and the demands of their audiences so we can invest carefully in being the best single source of support possible for each partner. 

Bottom line: 2021 offers even more opportunity for rich, lasting partnerships that thrive on transparency, accountability, empathy, and honesty. 

Trend Category Two: Design, UI, & UX Connect Us

Here’s what we know for sure — virtual is meaningful. I’ll kick off this 2021 trend with a segment of one case study: it’s been more than a year since my husband, kids, and I have been in the same room with my in-laws. We are used to spending a few weeks every year with them. And while we miss their hugs, we may actually be closer to them than we’ve ever been. At the start of the pandemic lock-down, we set up a weekly Zoom “Grandparent Happy Hour.” Now, every Friday, both sets of grandparents and my family catches up online from our homes in Georgia, Florida, and Colorado. We’ll keep this special ritual after the world opens again. 

The appetite for tools that can support immersive virtual connections and experiences is large. Besides the human connection piece, on-screen, video, and virtual face-to-face connection build trust. Prospects are 131% more likely to invest in a brand they trust. If you have SMEs in your organization, encourage them to share their insight in a video or chat platform.

Bottom line: Think outside traditional interaction mechanisms to see how virtual engagement can improve how we engage.

We’re not just connecting and communicating with one another differently. We’re using our technology in new ways. Attribute it to a need to talk to someone (anyone), a heightened desire for touchless transactions, or something else — voice search is on the rise. Right now, 55% of teenagers use voice search daily, and in 2021, the expectation is that we will do half of our searches without a screen or keyboard. 

Bottom line: Get creative with what you can transform with voice or gesture-based technologies and look into Voiceflow and VUI creation software.

Simplifying technology engagement for audiences isn’t limited to moving to more voice and gesture. Over the past year, we’ve seen a major Marie-Kondo’ing of web and app design and content. Brands are going minimalist, honing in on clean and delightful images and streamlined copy.

Remember, what’s simple for the user is not necessarily easy for the brand. Creating experiences, design, and content that delights, engages, and converts your audiences takes intimate understanding of the customer and their journey.

Bottom line: If you don’t have it in house, enlist the help of designers and writers who care about your customer journey, understand design systems, and have the skills to create premium experiences and tell compelling stories.

Trend Category Three: Content Connects Us

Storytelling as a means of building a connection with someone is as old as time. If we’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s that human connection is everything. The economic upside is that 71% of consumers want to buy from brands that share their values. For companies with a strong mission and stories of how they’re doing good in the world, that’s an opportunity for growth. 

Bottom line: 70% of companies plan to tell more stories about the good they are doing in the world in 2021. If you’re not one of them, now’s the time to update your content calendar.

And if you want to take that content to the next level, personalize it. If you’ve noticed anything from this trend article, it’s that we’re hungry for personal connection and we’re turning to our digital platforms to find it. Never forget that we fall in love with brands like we fall in love with people. It’s all about relationships. In 2021, 50% brands say they plan to produce even more content designed to create personal connections.

Bottom line: If you aren’t already personalizing your content, you’re among only about 10% of brands that aren’t. (Danger zone.)

Think about content like dating. At the top of the funnel, you build reputation and attract with stories about why they should like you. As you get to know one another better (mid-funnel), content gets more personal. By the time you reach the bottom of the funnel, you’re closing the deal with personal connection.

Keep in mind that your ‘bottom of the funnel’ may be on social. If you sell online, make sure it’s connected to your social platforms. (Grease that funnel, baby.) Also remember that 67% of leads come from organic search. Just like in dating, the words you use and where you connect with someone matters a lot.

If your content plan reflects the best of you, you SEO game is on point, and your social media strategy is rigorous (themes, schedules, channel role and purpose, audiences), the right people will find you. And find you interesting.  

Bottom line: Connecting your brand through storytelling demands honesty, strategy, and insight into your formats, channels, audiences, and outcomes.

One last note. Even the best SEO and social media strategy can’t help you if you’re not playing nice with Google. In September 2020, Google announced it would switch to mobile-first indexing. The deadline to have that in place is March 2021. (Thanks, Google!) If you haven’t already done a mobile audit to ensure your website is working correctly, kicking off 2021 with one would be an excellent idea indeed. It’s a simple process that can make a big difference. (We can help.)

We hope this 2021 trend list inspires your ideas, questions, and innovations in this fresh new year. Need some guidance or a plan to get started now, whether with content, design, or development? We’re here for you.