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2021 Marketing Predictions

by Holly Ripley, on 8 January, 2021

We can’t quite decide whether it feels as though we’ve waited 10 lifetimes to see the back of 2020, or within a blink of the eye, the year has suddenly vanished. Can both be the answer?

Yep, it’s that time once again when all the leading names and organisations in the biz dust off their crystal balls and peer into the wonderous trends and opportunities the new year has in store for us mere marketing mortals.

Here is a round up of some of the most insightful predications we found by Gartner, ChiefMartec, Forrester, Deloitte, Adweek, David Raab, Scott Galloway.

Gartner’s Top Marketing Predictions for 2021

Gartner was one of the first to take the plunge and declare their predictions for the marketing world to witness.

Gartner sees their 2021 predictions in the form of six short stories, here are our top 3 to keep an eye on:

Be Here Now

Gartner’s first prediction: “By 2023, 60% of companies that pivoted to virtual events will incorporate real-time or real-space experience into their virtual events.”

Over the course of 2021, 55% of marketers have adapted their in-person events to a virtual version. But despite such rapid growth, the majority of consumers have said that the virtual alternatives are still no substitute for the real deal.

This could mean that the race is on for virtual events to formulate the perfect interactive experience. And if the recent funding that has being injected into this space is anything to go by, the race may well have already begun.

Blend, Don’t Break

Gartner’s next prediction: “By 2025, consumers’ omnichannel behaviour will drive 60% of B2C brands towards a functional, rather than a channel-based organisational structure.”

So, what implications can we expect? According to Gartner, channel-centric organisational and financial models perpetuate silos. Not only this, but KPIs that focus on a single channel ignore the halo effect of omnichannel experiences.

Employee Unrest

36% of employees have spoken out against their employers in the past year and as a result, 44% of consumers say that when they see an employee speaking out, it changes their perception of that company. This makes the consumers question the company values so much, that as high as 80% will re-think their purchase.

Gartner predicts that: “By 2022, one-third of crisis communication budget will be used to respond to employee activism.”

2021 could be the year for businesses to re-establish their core values, both internally and externally.

Read about all 6 short stories from Gartner’s 2021 Marketing Predictions here.

Scott Brinker’s Martech Predictions for the Decade to Come

Not even the God father of martech, Scott Brinker could have seen 2020’s explosive rate of digital transformation coming. In fact, Brinker had to amend his famous Martec’s Law illustration between tech change and organisational change as the rate of change exploded beyond everyone’s expectations.

But that’s not stopped ChiefMartec from predicting martech trends not just for 2021, but for the decade to come. Here are our top 3 trends to look out for…

No Code Citizen Creators

We are currently seeing a rise is no code martech tools, and Brinker predicts the demand to soar. No code tools not only offer the advantage of speed of production, but they also open opportunities for diverse ideas to explore so creativity can explode.

As Chris Wanstrath, CEO of GitHub wisely said, “the future of coding is no coding at all.”

From Big Data to Big Ops

There’s a little saying that goes ‘data is the new oil’ well, Brinker prefers ‘data is the new oil paint’. It’s not just about collecting your data, the value comes with how you use it.

Last decade was the decade of big data, this decade will be the decade of big ops. It’s what we do with our data that matters.

Harmonising Human and Machine

Computer intelligence and machine learning is on the rise, but is machine about to become man’s new best friend? 

Brinker predicts that the advances in machine intelligence will take care of the manual maintenance tasks freeing up our time to do the work that only humans can do. This means that we’ll have more time to be empowered with creativity, collaborate with colleagues and customers and be able to commit more time to innovation.

So rest assured, an IRobot style takeover isn’t in the cards just yet.

Read more about Scott Brinker’s Martech Predictions for the Decade to Come here.

Forrester’s Predictions 2021: Strong CMOs Will Own Their Companies’ Regrowth

Forrester takes the role of the realist in our 2021 predictions line up as they come equipped with caution, stating CMOs should brace themselves heading into the new year.

They expect to see an obvious separation of CMOs who are “leaders” – those who have recognised that 2020 launched a new chapter for the way commerce works – from CMOs who are “outdated” – those content to continue running promotions, sales support, or media-buying teams.

Forrester warns: “Companies without a CMO leader won’t survive.”

In light of this, Forrester expects to see:

Hacked Business Models

A lot has changed in 2020, and your customers priorities are no exception. According to Forrester, businesses who refuse to adapt won’t last without reshaping delivery and revenue models to accommodate their customers new needs.

Diverse Marketing Teams

In 2021, Forrester predicts that CMO leaders will nurture diverse teams focusing on building belonging not filling a quota.

In fact, Forrester states that workplace belonging leads to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk.  

An Emphasis on Retention

If you think marketing is only about acquisition, you’re wrong. CMO leaders will sustain and grow their businesses by focusing their strategies on retention as much as acquisition. By blending marketing and customer experience teams, CMO leaders might find the key to increasing their ACV (average customer value).

Read more of Forrester's 2021 Predictions here.

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends

In 2020 we entered a new world, now we’ve entered a new year faced with new consumers with new needs.

With this in mind, Deloitte conducted two surveys of 2,447 global customers and 405 US C-suite execs from global companies to better understand how consumers and executives are responding to their new environments.

The data collected by these surveys have been used to fuel each of Deloitte’s 7 chapters into 2021 Global Marketing Trends. Here are our top 3 to watch…


Purpose-driven organisations know why they exist and who they’re built to serve. These are the organisations who are uniquely positioned to navigate through unprecedented change.

In Deloitte’s survey of 2,447 global consumers, 79% of respondents recalled instances of brands positively responding to COVID-19 to help their customers, workforces, and communities. Not only are purpose-driven organisations attracting more attention, but also sparking consumer action.


Deloitte predicts a change in the playbook of Agile marketing. The pandemic has enforced rapid changes in consumer behaviour as the majority of us have been forced away from brick-and-mortar stores and towards digital channels.

According to Deloitte, the time is just right for marketers to leverage relevant digital tools and design an organisational road map to make agile marketing a reality.

The Human Experience

If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has thought us, it’s how much we all value human connection. And for some organisations, the more efficient but less human-centric solutions proved insufficient at a time when technology became the primary source of human connection.

In 2021, Deloitte predict the importance of human experience being highlighted and executives having to strike a balance between the organisational need for efficiency and people’s universal need for human connection.

Read Deloitte’s full research article and all seven chapters of their Global Marketing Trends in 2021 here.

Adweek’s Marketing Trends to Expect in 2021

Adweek have been another to brave the marketing trend predictions after a year that no one saw coming. Despite the pandemic still leaving a trail of uncertain breadcrumbs in its wake, Adweek have started fitting their pieces of the puzzle together to give us an inkling for what could be in the cookie-less, post-pandemic pipeline.

The Cookie-less Future

By early 2022 Google will stop supporting third-party cookies. This is going to have a significant impact for marketers effecting how online ads are targeted and tracked.

The new year will be the final count down to the cookie-less world and marketers had better use this time wisely to prepare their first-party alternatives.

Ad Spend Following Shoppers

The spike in ecommerce and a related impact on advertising budget allocations over the course of 2020 are both projected to continue into the new year, according to Adweek.

According to eMarketer, advertising on ecommerce platforms jumped 39% in 2020 and will grow another 30% in 2021, capturing 13% of total U.S. digital ad spend.

Increased Action on Social Issues

In 2020 we saw consumers putting the pressure on brands to shine a spotlight and take a stand on social issues. Gen Z have been the driving force to taking this stand across generations, and as more of this age range enter the workplace in the coming years, their voice on social issues will continue to get louder as both consumers and employees.

Adweek sees brand marketers feeling both compelled and inspired to demonstrate a corporate stand on social issues in 2021 and hopefully, beyond.

Read more of Adweek's 2021 Predictions here.

David Raab’s Marketing Technology Predictions

David Raab also took a stab at the technology trend predictions for 2021. Here’s what he sees in the hands of 2021…

Data will Become More Accessible

“Data-driven” marketers are old news. The accelerated rate of digital transformation that has been pushed forward by the pandemic has made data more available alongside the tools that have been provided to use it.

Although internal data is still at the focus of most integration efforts, David says, access to external data is also growing, as more privacy rules are rolled out.

Artificial Intelligence Will Become Ubiquitous

AI will continue to grow all around us and continue to develop its capabilities. Raab’s headline story here is that AI will be taking on more “creative” tasks such as content creation and design. Another contributing factor to the growth of AI may be that human interactions are shifting to digital channels as they have been forced to do so in the midst of a global pandemic.

No Code will Continue to Grow

Up there on the buzzword podium along with ‘AI’ this year is ‘no code’. By automating complex process and not having to rely on highly trained IT professionals, our productivity and outputs can continue to rise.

Although David does identify the downside as potential loss of quality control and integration. David suggests a more realistic view could be to recognise AI as a key enabling technology inside any no code systems. This way, as the internal AI learns, no code will take on increasingly complex tasks.

Read more of David's 2021 predictions here.

2021 Predictions with Scott Galloway

As Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable.” Prof G once said, “Predictions are useless, but scenario planning in invaluable.”

So, without any further ado, let’s see what made Galloway’s list of 2021 predictions…

Dispersion of HQ

Galloway sees a coworking renaissance on the horizon and predicts that Airbnb will be bigger than the top 5 hotel chains combined, hitting $200 per share.

He also foresees Restoration Hardware becoming a $1,000 stock and Sonos reaching $40 per share.

Dispersion of Media

In the media-sphere, Galloway predicts a 30% rise in Disney stock on move to a rundle, AT&T stock hitting a $40 per share and/or divests HBO and/or CNN.

Acquisitions, Acquisitions and Acquisitions

Scott sees several acquisitions in the cards for 2021, across a wide range of industries:

  • In the Dispersion of Retail, Scott sees big acquisitions by Shopify and Zoom.
  • Podcast features and a flurry of acquisitions are predicted within the Dispersion of Creativity.
  • Within the Dispersion of Healthcare, Scott sees Walmart as the new kid on the block, entering via acquisition.
  • And in the Dispersion of HQ – Scott predicts the acquisition of the year: Apple acquires Peloton. *Mic drop.*

See more of Prof G's 2021 Predictions here.

And Galloway doesn't stop there, Scott continues to discuss how the year 2020 has not been a change agent as much as an accelerant of trends that were already on the rise in the release of his new book: Post Corona (which features in our Top Marketing Books of 2021 - check it out.)

Post Corona by Scott Galloway

Not got your fill of predictions? Check out our own MarTech Predictions for the year 2021 and beyond.

If you missed the live web sesh, don't sweat. Catch our fine, fortune-telling team; Moni Oolyde, Alex de Fursac Gash and with our very own, Carlos Doughty at your place, on your time. Watch the web sesh on demand here.


(A round up of last year's martech predictions we covered can be found below - Published January 2020)

Let’s take a glimpse back at the predictions by some of the best in the biz as we entered 2020. Spoiler: No one spotted the pandemic.

So, the crystal ball was a little cloudy when it came to predicting global disruption in the form of an air born virus, but there were a few foresights that got some spidey senses tingling…

2020 MarTech Predictions

It’s not just the start of a shiny, fresh new year but a whole decade.

Back to the future
So, there’s nothing we like more at MarTech Alliance than to hit up some of martech's finest to find out what they reckon are going to be the hot trends in the months and years to come.

2020 MarTech Predictions

As you might expect in a sector that’s as fast-moving as MarTech (remember godfather of MarTech, Scott Brinker’s MarTech Landscape went from about 150 suppliers in 2011 to more than 7,000 vendors by 2019), when we asked ‘what do you think are going to be the biggest trends for 2020 and beyond’, we got a huge range of responses. 

So that it doesn’t take you til 2021 to discover what our experts said, we’ve distilled the top 5 findings so you know what to look out for and whether or not to leap aboard that particular bandwagon. And, after a year of ever-expanding suppliers with a sometimes baffling array of solutions, it’s probably no surprise that trend number one is all about decluttering your stack…

Getting back to basics

In the race for adoption, the entry point for a sizeable chunk of Brinker’s 7,000-plus MarTech solutions has been pretty frictionless – API-based, plug-and-play and free to start using, or as near as. Inevitably, that has led to a great deal of tech sloshing around in organisations, some without a purpose, some without an understanding – a great deal of it surplus to requirements. Experts expect 2020 to be the year of cleaning house and getting those proverbial ducks in a row.

“In 2020, watching the companies managing their stacks on our platform, we see continued momentum around getting the MarTech fundamentals right. Companies are rapidly moving to centralized oversight of their marketing technology and marketing is bringing IT back into the fold to help with security reviews and data integration,” says Anita Brearton, Founder/CEO, CabinetM.

Sara McNamara, Senior Marketing Operations Manager, Cloudera agrees and feels marketing operations is going to take charge with renewed vigour: “What used to be one person within an organization is growing to entire teams in the enterprise and smaller teams in SMB and mid-size companies. I also see more and more agencies being brought into the fold, to help keep things afloat as internal talent comes and goes.”

She predicts: “With more expensive toys comes more focus on talent to administer them, so I anticipate the demand for marketing technologists to grow exponentially as these purchases take place.”

No such thing as a free (data) crunch

If MarTech 2019 was all about the Freemium model of onboarding tech, then it looks like MarTech 2020 will be the year of ‘you get what you pay for’:

“There is an increasing appetite for paid analytics technology, driven mainly by a realization that data and statistics available from free providers cannot offer the same level of actionable insights as paid-for solutions,” predicts Dr. Christine Bailey, Chief Marketing Officer, Valitor.

Adtech v MarTech – a fight to the death?

Adtech garnered the lion’s share of column inches across the 2010s, latterly not always for the right reasons as privacy and user experience issues abounded. The need for a cohesive strategy across data, communications and customer journey is becoming more apparent and the more joined up MarTech-led approach looks set to dominate:

“2020 Will be the year where adtech takes a huge, probably crippling, hit and martech swallows up everything in its path. You will start to see tech vendor businesses really bolster their martech capabilities and selling into the marketing groups. This will be driven by data and privacy including CCPA and GDPR,” claims Robert Rose, Chief strategy officer, Content Marketing Institute / Chief troublemaker, Content Marketing Advisory.

But Adtech isn't dead it will just change, as Rose adds: “Adtech will start to reposition itself, using privacy first party data and the idea of more internally focused features and benefits which will make it start looking more like MarTech.”

Stop targeting and start communicating

Since the Millennium, tech has undoubtedly revolutionised how close marketers have been able to get to the consumer. Whether the consumer wanted them to or not. MarTech has often meant that brands sometimes just didn’t know when to back off. Figuring out if and when customers want brands to slide into their DMs will be a Twenties tipping point, according to Frans Riemersma, Founder, MarTech Tribe:

“In the third [decade], we’ll see the breakthrough of advanced Journey Orchestration: integrated real-time listening, analyzing and messaging. We’ll finally enter a phase where brands’ messaging reaches the same level of trust and authenticity as friends’ referrals. Content creation will be driven by personality & empathy techniques such as OCEAN and Myers Briggs, where possible supercharged with AI and ML. We’ll not only humanise Martech, but brands as a whole.”

2020’s top MarTech trend – won’t be about tech at all!

MarTech innovations are going to keep on coming. There are always going to be new solutions to problems marketers didn’t know they had. The real skill is going to be in learning how to adapt and assimilate all that new tech into the very human process of selling stuff. For that to happen, marketers are going to have to learn how to upgrade a pretty critical piece of kit – themselves.

Dr Bailey warns: “Every marketer should aim to become more data competent. It is no longer something that can be left to the data scientists; data has become democratized and permeates every aspect of the marketing role.”

Decisiveness is going to be key, according to Anand Thaker, Martech Industry Expert and Growth Advisor. Never easy when there are more than 7,000 options to choose from: “Marketers have enhanced automation, data, and analytics to navigate the complex marketplace. Together with seasoned experience, marketing leaders with highly collaborative teams making smarter decisions are critical to brands. AI-enablement and empowerment will magnify you and your team’s strengths.”

Rockstar CMO Editor Ian Truscott adds: “Perhaps, as we enter a new decade it’s time for marketers to step back from all that is shiny and take a fresh look at their goals, what they actually need to achieve them.” 

And equally a time to rethink work environments: “What will be interesting to see is if, due to the scarcity of available seasoned talent, companies that are more traditional will open up remote positions to secure the best talent. The vast majority of Pardot and Marketo Champions that I know are keen to work remotely and view required onsite work as a chore, as seen in my late 2019 Marketing Operations Compensation Survey results,” McNamara reveals.

Brearton adds: “I’d like to see 2020 become the year of the MarTech professional (and all equivalent titles). To realize the true value of all of the innovative technology available requires training and skills to ensure that systems are fully utilized. I’m hoping that companies will carve out budget for training and invest in their MarTech teams.”

MarTech Alliance, CEO & founder, Carlos Doughty, concurs: "2020 will be the year there is an spike in enterprises restructuring their marketing teams to double down on martech. I'm already seeing this where organisations recognise they have gaps in marketing tech knowledge and experience that they either need to up-skill their teams in or introduce new hires. This shouldn't mean all martech and data thinking though, the timeless marketing fundamentals will remain as important as ever, from people to planning". 

MarTech 2021 Predictions

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Click Here to find out about attending #MarTechFest - completely free! Just for you, the person reading this. Because I like you that much. You're welcome. 😘


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