We all remember back in March when we were hit with a slew of cringe inducing ads that started with “in these trying times”. Many of these ads created an overall negative impression for the brands involved, with consumers seeing these ads as either trying too hard or worse - insensitive. Brands were put in a difficult position where denying reality could come off as out of touch yet thinking of only the short-term could lead your prospects to associate you with a negative emotion. As we look to the future how should marketers begin thinking about their priorities and images as we head into 2021?  

Why Going Negative Doesn't Work 

The cringe reaction many of us feel to the “in these trying times” style ads, is related to how we consume ads overall. On average the amount of time we spend focused on an ad is around two seconds. The primary focus of any ad should be getting the audience's attention, which is usually done through stunning visual elements, which are not commonly found in an ad that starts off with a somber tone. Once you have convinced your target audience to tune into the content, the next step is to elicit an emotional connection. Where many of these commercials went wrong was by triggering a negative or complex reaction off the bat, which risks viewers associating your brand with a negative emotion or becoming completely distracted by the ad all together. 

A few brands were able to successfully navigate this dilemma, with ads that addressed reality, but also put the company in a positive light. One ad that did this particularly well was created by Guinness and it features a white couch on a black background, with the message stay home.

Guinness Advert


By using stunning visuals, to invoke the idea of the brand, while also putting out a pandemic specific message this ad comes off as both socially responsible and positive. The image of a Guinness as something you can enjoy on your couch leaves audiences with an overall positive association with the brand that fits into a larger post-pandemic narrative.     

What Will be Big in 2021 

Today’s marketing leaders are starting to look to their 2021 budgets and deciding how they want their brand portrayed. While we wouldn't go so far as to call this post-covid marketing, today's leaders are starting to think long-term about positioning their brand in the “new normal”, rather than just three months down the road.  


The behavioral patterns of consumers have been forever altered and marketers need to take this into consideration as they go-to-market. While planning for 2020, conducting in-depth research into your customers will be key. In the wake of COVID-19, 76% of people have recently picked up new habits, behaviors and routines, and 89% said they plan on keeping some of their new habits. Previously many marketing leaders, who viewed this as a short-term tumultuous period, didn’t want to conduct research into behaviors that might quickly change. However, getting into the mind of your target audience and their new habits is crucial in putting your brand ahead of the game. 

Demand generation 

In addition to research, email marketing is making a big return. During the pandemic email open rates have increased for both B2B and B2C markets. With in-person sales tactics limited businesses are looking to ramp up their demand generation machine and bring in leads through email campaigns. The amount of emails opened at a desktop is also increasing, indicating more people are consuming content for business purposes, rather than just more personal consumer content usually viewed on mobile. Businesses are also relying on print marketing less and less, especially for B2B sales. What was precisely achieved through a catalog or postcard is now being done through social media such as pinterest boards and targeted emails. As CMOs look to 2021, we will likely see them allocate print media and event budgets into email marketing and martech platforms. 


It should be no surprise that the rise of video will continue in 2021. Already on the rise for the past few years, the move to a remote workforce has made video an even more prominent medium as both B2B and B2C audiences look to consume content at a rapid pace.  In 2020 enterprise views for videos are up by 96%, a trend that has continued past the early days of the pandemic.  Since the competition for video views is accelerating, we will again look to data to keep up with how our audiences are changing. Are viewers dropping after a certain amount of time? Does long-form video content have a higher payout? Only with new data analytics can we understand changing behaviors in video consumption. It is likely in 2021 we will also see the rise of personalization in videos. Now that creating videos requires less overhead cost, the ability to create personalized assets for different market segments is much more feasible.

Overall the key to marketing success in 2021 will be thinking in the long-term. We need to learn from the “in these trying times” ads and begin to focus on the larger marketing trends we are seeing. As both B2B and B2C audiences form new patterns it is important to meet them on relevant channels, with a positive message.

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