Makers of the Future | Brand Marketing with Mill VP of Global Marketing Mark Hardy

Mark Hardy gives his insights into the lessons brands have learned in 2020 and what we can expect to see from major marketers in 2021
Thought February 3, 2021

What lessons have marketers learned from 2020 that they will take into 2021?
2020 was a disruptive year for all businesses and their marketing teams – with sudden lockdowns in many countries, brands and consumers had to react swiftly to new restrictions. Adaptability and agility were key. This will have changed the planning cycle in client-side marketing departments with more focus on short term objectives and reactive, real-time marketing rather than longer term brand strategy. As customers stayed at home, the role of digital and in-home entertainment platforms boomed. I see this continuing well into 2021 as the uncertainty continues. Brands now need to think about how to stay relevant when consumer habits and motivations have shifted so dramatically. Virtual experiences have never been so important as brands look for ways to build and maintain remote communities around their content.


What creative trends do you think we’ll see in the new year?
Consumer aspirations and needs have changed– whilst we might all yearn for an overseas holiday or big night out the reality is brutally different. This creates a thirst for distraction and community amongst consumers. Life online demands more surprises to stay entertaining and relevant. I think we will see more and more en masse virtual experiences across many categories – virtual music events or festivals, AR shopping experiences, virtual learning, hyper-personalisation of content and media. This is really exciting for creatives and developers as there are huge opportunities to push the potential of real time technologies and deliver game-changing community experiences. I think high quality virtual events will stick around long after the pandemic is over.


How do you see digital marketing evolving to meet new consumer habits?
I see brands putting more focus on their digital marketing and content platforms to create richer, more open-ended experiences, especially within entertainment, shopping and communication. These three categories especially have faced many hurdles and rapid change over the past 12 months and have been forced to rethink how they operate. Add to this improved CRM and real time personalization to ensure customers stay close to the brand and feel respected for their loyalty.


What impact do you think the advent of new technology such as 5G will have on the advertising industry?
We will all be consuming more short and medium form video than we ever have. On the go streaming, super-fast downloads and increased accessibility will make small screen video central to our daily media diet.

Brands will be looking for ways to deliver good quality content whilst also optimizing the characteristics of small screen delivery. The benchmarks of quality with audiences will change as expectations evolve. Personalisation, timeliness and relevance will be the success factors in delivering maximum audience engagement.


After a tumultuous 2020 – What role do you think CSR will play in brand messaging moving forward?
I feel a new sense of community and kindness has grown from the pandemic, as people’s worlds have slowed down and simplified. We are more aware of our neighbours and local communities and have had time to watch, read and learn about new things. Awareness for wider issues such as the environment or sustainability has also increased and many of us are considering how we can be part of a solution to these issues. It is vital for a brand to really understand the context of their market and the issues that face their customers. It is no longer enough to superficially ‘badge’ a marketing campaign. Trust and real engagement will come from a brands’ commitment to a cause and the delivery of real, quantifiable results.


Whilst we’re still remote and glued to our screens – what are your top tips for brands to cut through the noise with their 2021 marketing efforts?

  • Yes, we are all in this together. But remember not everyone’s experience has been the same.
  • Zoom parties are not fun anymore. Fact.
  • Virtual events & experiences are here to stay
  • Personalisation and customisation are key to a memorable digital experience
  • Always think: mobile first
  • Innovation is not a nice to have
  • Everyone is binging on content and hungry for more – so increase your publishing cadence.


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Mark Hardy | VP of Global Marketing

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