Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

The marketing world began 2020 from a place of strength and confidence. Hence, bigger budgets and well-outlined growth plans were part of many brand marketing strategies. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, catching even the most seasoned brands off guard.

With the pandemic ravaging economies, sales dropped off the cliff and brands had to rethink their loyalty strategies. As more brands slash their budgets to reflect business profitability, marketing teams have to adapt their strategies to the pandemic era. All these adjustments have to be done while maintaining creativity and building a loyal fanbase that will drive word-of-mouth marketing to cut advertising costs.

To achieve clarity, let’s review major trends that are expected to influence marketing this year:

Brand advocacy

With reduced profitability, brands have slashed marketing budgets. And, brands are simultaneously more focused on keeping a loyal fanbase during the COVID-19 crisis. These changes have pushed “brand advocacy” to the top of the marketing strategies list in many firms.

Brand advocacy refers to the word-of-mouth marketing of a brand by its loyal fans. While brand advocates exist in different guises—enthusiasts, ambassadors, evangelists and super fans—the practice of incorporating strategies that nurture relationships with key advocates and recognize their efforts is new to marketing. Brands that succeed in nurturing advocacy-based relationships will improve their success prospects in different markets.

A brand like Lululemon offers a great case study into brand advocacy. The brand thrived on the principles of brand advocacy. With customers believing in the multibillion apparel company’s vision, they proactively shared stories about the brand and convinced their friends and kin to buy its products. By trusting its customers, Lululemon leveraged a wider network of advocates and lowered costs of advertising to drive growth.

Building of brand networks

Brand advocacy goes beyond creating and nurturing strong customer networks. In 2021, more brands will seek to expand their relationships with key partners (industry professionals, employees, collaborating brands, agency suppliers, partnered vendors and many more). Each brand has to expand its brand-building efforts to include not just its customers. As a result, more brands will be expected to collaborate, creating important brand networks.

Supreme, a leading streetwear brand, has leveraged partner networks to grow organically via word-of-mouth.

Not only has the brand focused on rewarding loyal customers, but it has also created brand collaborations with top brands in the industry. Some brands collaborating with the streetwear brand include Louis Vuitton and Gucci. In 2021 the list of brands collaborating with the leading streetwear brand is set to get longer.

While COVID-19 still introduces uncertainties, marketing departments that successfully navigate the brand networking process will reap benefits.

Increased emphasis on brand building

In the past, digital and performance-based advertising has dominated marketing activities around the globe. That’s because digital marketing derives unmatched benefits from optimized, segmented and measured campaigns. With reduced ad spending, however, marketing teams more often face problems introduced by the fundamental flaws in digital marketing.

First, Gen-Z and Millennial consumers are more skeptical and have lost trust in many marketing practices—including influencer and paid ad marketing. In their place, Gen-Z and Millennial consumers are looking for purpose and meaning offered by the brands which they purchase. The shift has also been accelerated by the social, economic and health issues stemming from the COVD-19 pandemic.

Second, competition for impressions and clicks has grown over the last few years. The effect has been a jump in customer acquisition costs and a decline in ROI. The changes have happened at a time when brands are not realizing high returns on their investments.

With the above-mentioned issues, brands have to build trust and authenticity as opposed to offering convenience and low prices. This implies that brands have to adopt long-term reputation-building techniques to drive organic word-of-mouth growth.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s leading PR firms.