7 Content Marketing and Design Trends to Follow in 2021

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By Laura Rives — Jan 14, 2021 11:00 AM

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Content marketing and design strategy in 2020 was a race of grit and adaptability. Who had the vision to predict changes in visitor journeys and buyer behaviors? Who could pivot from well-laid plans to execute new ideas? And it’s likely we’ll continue to thrive through these challenges in the coming months.

So, just how much will things change in 2021? How can you set yourself up for success in an evolving landscape? While predicting the future might feel like a quaint endeavor at this point, it’s certainly worth a shot. Here’s a list of trends we think will shape the ways in which we engage with audiences and how they experience our brands.

Humanity in Brands

Most marketers have shifted to a digital-first strategy, increasing noise in the space and exhausting audiences with information. To stand out, we need to focus on building trust, adding value, and creating human-focused content. It should be helpful, authentic, and, above all, empathetic.

It’s important to get granular with your audiences’ needs to show that you understand the broader context of their situation. Perhaps you provide a new way to think about something, show your commitment to the community, appeal to their emotions, give a break from the norm, or prove your dedication to publishing consistent quality content.

Finally, it’s important to consider how work / life boundaries have blurred. Traditional sales and marketing techniques that are purely transactional may not work as well now as they have in the past. Instead, one-on-one conversations that go beyond topical pain points are what it takes to appeal to consumers. 

Rise in Lo-Fi Content

It’s widely written that video is the most important marketing trend for the next five years, and that video is the most-prefered way to learn about new products and services. Check out these stats:

  • 70% of consumers say that they have shared a brand’s video. (Wyzowl)
  • 72% of businesses say video has improved their conversion rate. (Wyzowl)
  • 65% of executives visit the marketer’s website and 39% call a vendor after viewing a video. (Forbes)

But keep in mind that not all video has to be highly-produced, expensive brand videos that live on your corporate homepage or YouTube channel. You can effectively drive engagement by getting out there, being in the moment, and starting a live broadcast on Facebook or other social media channel. Showcasing office / campus life, behind-the-scenes tours, and streaming events are great places to start.

In fact, considering the explosive growth in mobile use, live and 1:1 videos can share the same information as a piece of long-form content that readers don’t want to consume on a small screen. 

And while imperfection is okay, even welcomed, don’t forget to make your content accessible. Check out this blog post to learn more about making live streams accessible.

More Intimate Events

In today’s age of Zoom fatigue, hosting a high volume of webinars and virtual events may not yield the conversion results you’re targeting. Instead, consider more intimate virtual events that cultivate connections and involve people in the conversation. 

In 2020 we saw a lot of events that either satisfied attendees or sponsors - not the perfect combination of both. This year, we’ll likely see smaller, more focused events that enable people to get to know one another in a different format.

Personalization Based on Geolocation and Pageviews

To stand out this year, you need to personalize your marketing messaging. Consider these stats from Epsilon:

  • 80% say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
  • 90% claim they find personalization appealing.
  • 50% of consumers even say they’re willing to hand over their personal information, so long as you use it to benefit them. 

Even if a fully-baked personalization strategy is on your long-term horizon, there are techniques you can implement today for a few quick wins. Delivering targeted content to a visitor based on where they live can boost engagement and overall happiness with your site. For example, showing visitors a list of locations in their area versus requiring them to scroll through a long list can increase satisfaction and lower bounce rates.

Similarly, inferring a user's intent based on the pages they've viewed—and serving up relevant content—is a great technique to increase time on site and engagement with your content. And like personalization based on geolocation, it does not require extensive planning or historical data to be successful.

To see how this is done in Clive, please request a guided demonstration of the product.

Focus on Inclusivity and Functionality

This year, marketers need to have a keen focus on inclusion and be deliberate about creating functional content. Furthermore, we should continue to expect individuals to evaluate brands based on how its views align with their own, especially around social justice issues.

For many organizations, this means taking a hard look at your messaging to make sure that it’s not just a representation of your brand, but also a representation of your audience. Expect consumers to ask “Is this brand like me? Do we share an underlying set of values?” 

Additionally, while meeting the content consumption needs of everyone is the required minimum, it’s time to make all individuals feel equally welcome and supported by your organization. This includes people with disabilities, non-native English speakers, BIPOC audiences, and more.

Realistic and Interactive Design Elements

When it comes to web design, expect to see a rise in popularity of animations, 3D objects, and geometric designs like shapes, floating objects, and visible grid lines.

Create immersive experiences through the use of foreground and background imagery. Use micro-animations, interactive elements, motion, and scrolling-based transformations to boost engagement with your digital assets. Similarly, quizzes, games, polls, and surveys can create fun online experiences. 

Just remember that over-use of animation and parallax effects can cause disorientation in some viewers, so use them with constraint and intention.

A State of Minimalism

Not necessarily new for 2021, minimalism is a trend that will continue to reign as one of the most popular styles among web designers. Limited color palettes, white (or dark) space, and a focus on functionality make minimal designs so memorable. 

Expect to see:

  • Muted, yet contrasting, color stories
  • Dark mode
  • White space
  • Illustrations
  • Full-height homepage heros

Minimal design, when done right, is powerful and significant. It can also highlight important issues, concepts, or calls to action that might otherwise be overlooked.

Wrap Up

2021 is going to be a great year for marketers and will undoubtedly shape how we approach content marketing and design for the foreseeable future.

While we should probably expect more to do with a shrinking budget, now’s the time to showcase the importance of content marketing and how it contributes to a company’s bottom line. In time, more executive commitment will mean bigger investment in content creation and operations.

At Hannon Hill, we’re excited about all of these trends, and we’re also looking forward to experiencing human-like chat bots, augmented reality, visualized data, and improvements to mobile interactions. It’s an exciting time and we can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store!

Photo of Laura Rives

Laura Rives
VP of Sales and Marketing
  laura.rives@hannonhill.com

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