With subscription marketing, live commerce and tech marketing emerging as the dominant forces shaping the future, marketers should transform their business methods and product design to face a new wave of disruption writes Gon Woo Yang, executive account director, head of Planning2 Division, TBWA\.

As the pace of new change is expected to be faster than changes that were experienced previously, such as digital transformation, marketers in 2021 should be focused on predicting which future marketing trends will acutely affect their business and brands.

But amid an ongoing recession and limited marketing resources, it would be impossible to catch up with every trend, so marketers need to prioritise specific areas. 

Subscription marketing 

Subscription marketing, which restructures products and services in a form of “subscription” to create a consistent relationship with customers, is expected to be on the rise. Subscription marketing would be applicable to products or services that have high frequency of consumption, but home appliance and automobile brands can also implement subscription marketing by providing consumers with product rental and replacement services according to their lifestyle. 

In subscription marketing, marketers would be focused on whether they can create supplementary value for consumers in addition to the product or service experiences. For example, they would be able to analyse consumers’ usage patterns in the subscription process and suggest to them valuable information or product package through big data. 

Live commerce

Live commerce – which sells products through mobile media, enabling brands to meet consumers directly without a separate distribution channel – will become the general distribution trend. Marketers should view live commerce not only from a distribution or sales point of view, but also from the marketing point of view and swiftly establish strategies and action plans.

Live commerce is a combination of commerce and entertainment. Commerce which offers consumers psychological or symbolic value, besides the mere functional value of the products, brings in higher sales.

Therefore, the key point of marketing will be how to design live broadcast from the perspective of brand experience. Brands would need to sort out core marketing points with brand identity and apply them to live commerce.

Tech marketing

Technology innovation will be the core of future marketing, with new technologies such as big data, AI, AR/VR, drone, and autonomous driving to be applied to marketing efforts as well.

Big data and AI will change the targeting and advance customisation of products and services, while AR/VR technology will completely change the brand experience. For example, an automobile brand’s test-drive event where only a small number of people can experience driving will morph into something everyone can experience, even under the most extreme of staged circumstances. Moreover, drone and autonomous driving will connect consumers’ purchasing desire with actual consumption through the shortest path by removing limits of existing distribution in terms of time and supply.

ESG marketing

Problems around environment and social disputes will rapidly change the direction of marketing. A brand’s business – from product manufacturing and distribution, to consumption and disposal – should be re-planned from the perspective of the environment. This trend is expected to accelerate with the emergence of an eco-friendly consumer generation. In a similar vein, discrimination and diversity will also grow in importance.

What marketers should be focused on in 2021

This year’s marketing environment is likely to be structured around the six STEPIC drivers of society, technology, environment, politics, industry and creativity, and in particular, the first three.

One likely contradiction is between consumers demanding value because of the pandemic’s impact on their bank balances, and corporates reducing brand investment and focusing on performance marketing for short-term results. It has been proven in previous cases that corporates that invested in accumulating brand value during a recession experienced a good recovery and expanded market share afterwards.

Marketers should also think about their business structure, value chain, and product design when considering future marketing trends. If the marketing trend is innovative, they should not just sell existing products customised to this expected trend with the existing business structure but discuss how to plan new business methods and design products disruptively.

In the future, an automobile manufacturer can transform into a mobility company, a finance company to a lifestyle proposer, or a razor manufacturer to a male skincare brand. Therefore, marketers should view 2021 as the year of initiating disruption.