• Blog
  • Jan 15, 2021
  • By Cam Sivesind
2020 Marketing Trends Review – Who Could Have Predicted?


We weren’t far off with our prediction of performance marketing trends for a year better known for its disruptive nature.

No one could have predicted what was in store for the world in 2020. The pandemic ravaged lives and continues to do so, though vaccines are providing hope that 2021 will help place COVID-19 in the rearview mirror and life will eventually get back to “normal.”

Many businesses, particularly restaurants, did not survive the loss of business and continual closings; others adapted and managed to squeak by; still others, like Zoom, were thrust into the spotlight and capitalized on the new remote-working landscape.

As we release our annual trends in marketing performance piece for 2021 – looking ahead to what will influence marketing in the New Year – we always like to look back at our previous year’s predictions to see how we did.

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How Our 2020 Marketing Trend Predictions Performed

We scored 2.5/3 with our trends piece released in December 2019. Our predictions were:

  1. Virtual assistants would play a vital role in the customer journey;
  2. Streaming services would continue to grow in popularity and gobble up more ad spend; and
  3. Radio, a leader in marketing attribution, would inspire digital channels to look to multi-touch attribution to provide impartial data and insights of their marketing performance.

1) Virtual Assistants: To no surprise, virtual assistants (VAs) and at-home voice-command devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home continued to grow, with more and improved devices continuing to be released. VAs are a critical touchpoint in the customer journey, and impartial multi-touch attribution helps track them. Chatbots help answer frequently asked questions, and live support can jump in if the chatbot is unable to give an answer with detail wanted by consumers.

  • Prediction Grade: 50% – While we were spot on in predicting the growth of VAs and other AI technologies, they didn’t have the revolutionary impact we were predicting in 2020. Marketers are still working on deploying multi-touch attribution to help capture the data from all of these fairly new marketing touchpoints.

2) Streaming: This channel continued its meteoric growth in 2020 as more people cut their cords and the number of users who have never had a cable subscription in their life grew. People want their content when and where they want it – and fast. Ad spend on streaming services continued to rise, as marketers worked diligently to reach trendsetting Millennials and Gen Z users who stream TV, movies, music, and gaming on their host of devices.

  • Prediction Grade: 100% – This one was too easy, as it was inevitable, and it will remain a trend for 2021 (if you can even call it a trend anymore). One thing is for sure, successful marketers made sure they employed multi-touch attribution so they could capture marketing performance data across streaming services and across devices to accurately track customer journeys.

3) Radio: No pun intended, but radio indeed turned up the volume on marketing attribution, leading the way for other channels to use attribution to measure the effectiveness of their reach. What’s interesting is that radio has been a leader in using marketing attribution to measure the “lift” its offline channels provide to businesses and their other marketing channels. Even more fascinating is that broadcasters who were early adopters of attribution as a tool to measure that lift realized that it was time to evolve and use multi-touch attribution to not only measure its own channel effectiveness but measure how broadcast performed in comparison to all other channels.

No one could have predicted the curve ball 2020 threw out, but most marketers took the challenges in stride, made the best of it, and look forward to the playing field leveling out in 2021. Regardless, by arming themselves with data and insights, courageous marketers will increase conversions and improve top-line growth. Here’s our predictions for 9 trends that will affect marketing performance in 2021.

For a broader perspective on marketing trends for 2021, check out this article from the Forbes Agency Council.