2021 is going to be a fascinating year for brands.

Here we are (hopefully) teetering on the brink of a post-Covidian world. With vaccines making their way around the globe, and greater knowledge of the virus—although we’re not out of the woods, cracks of sunshine are starting to peer through the trees and hope is rising.

Brands, of course, are cultural phenomena. They interact with the zeitgeist and can be a direct reflection of our changing desires and mood. So, as we start the new year, one wonders what tone brands will embrace this year, as healing takes priority and we begin to make sense of our new world.

Here are some of our predictions:

  1. Hues will brighten as the darkness shifts.

Last year, we saw a lot of muted grey filters. Visually, the world needs hope. This year we’re expecting to see brighter colours dominating visual branding, as the energy of positivity and renewal begins to take hold. Uplifting design elements will allow brands to ease back into consumers’ worlds subtly and without agitation.

2. Humour in storytelling will return.

There was a serious edge to 2020 storytelling. Nobody wanted to be seen to be too decadent, or happy. Clever irony played its part, like in Uber’s ‘Thank you for not riding Uber’ campaign, and our growing obsession with Tik Tok clearly influenced many. But, in 2021, it’s going to be ok to make jokes again. We need a good laugh, and in countries like Australia where we’ve been very fortunate, it will be welcome.

2. Goodbye public service announcement, hello people.

Many brand messages felt like public service announcements in 2020. Brands thanked us for staying at home and encouraged us to be good citizens. Enough is enough. As Covid fatigue grows, brands should return to a focus on who they are and why people love them. Brand experience will be a big focus too, and brands that can give their customers something a little unexpected will be celebrated.

3. Influencers will proceed with caution.

2020 all but cancelled the affluent influencer, with audiences growing quickly tired of beautiful people parading their decadent lives. Influencers will still have a role to play, but their age of reckoning is upon us, and they can expect a more cynical scrutiny of their role in brand storytelling. Dare we say there might be more substance over superficiality? Perhaps. At the very least, they’re going to need to work harder to find their relevance.

4. Authentic voices will shine through.

The delight of watching author Fran Lebowitz in Martin Scorsese’s seven-part docuseries Pretend it’s a city rests on her willingness to speak her truth, unapologetically. Lebowitz does not care what you think of her—she absolutely pleases herself. And, if there’s one role model brands can aspire to this year as they tell their story, it’s her. Be yourself, speak your truth, do so with a little humour, and don’t take it all too seriously.

Who would have thought we’d ever live in an era where someone being themselves feels revolutionary? 

Last year, brands and their spokespeople were cautious. They held back. In the context of the year, it was fitting. 

This year, as we leave our homes, begin to find a new normal, and even spend a few days out of our active wear, there’s going to be a real joy in the moments we feel like us again.

Brands that connect with this mood will do well. 

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