Adams & Knight Marketing Blog
POSTED BY: Marc McFarland

Digital Marketing: 5 key trends to guide your efforts in 2021


Digital marketing will become even more critical — and more complicated — in 2021. Here are just five of the biggest trends — and their most likely implications — that you’ll want to keep in mind as you refine your advertising, content marketing, paid media, video marketing, and social media plans for 2021.

Trend #1: Moving to a “cookieless” environment
The data privacy movement is driving a “cookieless” environment — and that will dramatically impact the way you’re targeting audiences through digital channels. Right now, a lot of data used to target digital advertising is gathered through cookies, e.g., what sites you’ve visited, what you’ve purchased online, and what you’ve searched for. 
Implications: While cookies will still be around in 2021, already sites are asking people’s permission to gather their data and more people are “opting out” of this collection. Eventually, without this cookie-gathered data, you’ll need to consider the following shifts. 

  • Pivot from behavioral to contextual targeting — so that rather than targeting the type of person you want to reach, you’ll need to leverage new strategies for placing ads amidst the type of content those prospects are likely viewing.
  • Consider more site-specific digital advertising — returning to the practice of buying space on sites directly from their publishers.
  • Factor in new ways to use your own customer data and explore offline targeting options to build an online audience.

Trend #2: Leveraging 5G networks to expand mobile advertising options
The shift from 4G to 5G will create a new spectrum of possibilities for mobile marketing — as this technology will move data 1,000 times faster.
Implications: With this faster technology, your team will be able to:

  • Create/test more interactive ad units that are more engaging/differentiating.
  • Create/test more short-form videos that are in high demand.
  • Improve ad performance on mobile given reduced lag times. 

Trend#3: Satisfying the demand for more robust, varied content marketing
Both B2B and B2C audiences are opting out of ads and leaning in for more relevant and authentic content. 
Implications: This means marketers are going to need to shift to more opt-in than push-out methods of communicating. Here are just a few steps you may want to factor into your plans:

  • Use more native advertising to contextually target our audiences in environments that matter most to them.
  • Build an even more robust content marketing engine to fuel and feed digital channels with relevant content contextually or natively placed.
  • Increase mobile advertising given how much more time people are spending on their smart phones and mobile devices.
  • Continue to leverage site-direct digital channels where audience consumption has grown, and you are able to pinpoint your audience’s interest and align appropriately.

Trend #4: Personalization = differentiation
Personalized experiences are no longer a nice-to-have, they’re a must-to-create. In fact, eighty percent of digital audiences are more likely to take action when they are presented with a personalized experience.
Implications: Consider options for personalizing your outreach.

  • Build more detailed audience personas based on real insights about your customer preferences, interests and behaviors.
  • Dynamically tailor what your audiences see based on where they’re coming from, so they see different messaging depending on the ad or content that is driving them to take action. 

Trend #5: Video consumption is growing with no end in sight
The increased adoption of video-based communication and 5G advances in smartphones, tablets, streaming services has resulted in a new era for video marketing . . . punctuated by giant leaps in consumption.  
Implications: Consider both traditional and emerging means of maximizing your video distribution.

  • Reconsider how you’ll use video in every stage of your marketing funnel — and what information you’re currently conveying through words can be better communicated through video.
  • Rethink your mobile advertising to take advantage of the fact that there will be new opportunities mobile in-app ads.
  • Plan to distribute more short-form video through social media as a way to stand out in the expanding social ad universe and take advantage of the popular story ad format that has been adopted by SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and YouTube. For B2B, consider that 31% of professionals are now watching LinkedIn Live videos for learning opportunities, a trend that has grown during COVID.

These key trends will certainly pave the way for new digital marketing opportunities in 2021. We’d love to help you leverage these new opportunities for your brand! 



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Marc McFarland
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