Top five content trends for 2021

So far, the 2020s have proven to be a very challenging time for marketers. As the entire world changed beyond recognition, consumer behavior shifted overnight to reflect lives more likely to be lived in private, at a slower pace, and with less financial stability.

Indeed, a recent Accenture poll concluded the average consumer has “dramatically evolved”, while a YouGov survey found 27% of consumers say that item cost is now a more important factor when shopping as half of workers have lost income since March. So, how can brands stay relevant and compelling for audiences facing an increasingly unpredictable future?

They used to say ‘content is King’ and, as the majority of consumers continue to turn to digital channels to provide them with cost-effective entertainment in a locked-down world, this has never been more true. The content you produce (and how you promote it) not only sets you apart from your competitors, but gives you a chance to connect with new and old consumers hungry for a distraction. Read on for the top content trends that will give you the edge in 2021.

Make it fun

While there arguably isn’t one format that’s ruling the roost as we head into 2021, the most popular content of the decade so far does have a common theme: it makes us laugh. Our national (and international) appetite for all things light-hearted has never been higher. Viewing of comedy shows was up 40% in the first three weeks of lockdown alone according to Thinkbox, and COVID-19 memes continue to dominate social media a year on. Perhaps this isn’t surprising when we know the Mayo Clinic states that humor offers emotional and mental benefits in the face of adversity.

So, whether your brand voice is more suited to an all-out belly laugh – such as that evoked by IKEA’s recent ‘Bernie chair’ meme, which garnered both social shares and column inches – or you’re more of a restrained chuckle type, don’t be afraid to inject a light touch into your comms. Whether an amusing turn of phrase in a direct email or a PR campaign on the UK cities most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse, content that raises a smile can be a winner across multiple channels.

Make it factual

Fake news is everywhere, and it can be a huge challenge when it comes to communicating with increasingly savvy consumers who are suspicious of a brand’s motives for connecting with them. But it’s also a fairly easy barrier to overcome: just tell the truth, do your research on any claims you make in your content, and ensure you’re being transparent.

Over the past few years we’ve seen trends shift. While once, flashy design and novelty ideas were enough to secure consumer interest and press coverage, now people are looking for content with real meat – ‘fake news’ is old news.” advises Isabel Douglas, Copy Performance Director at Greenlight Digital. “I think we’ll see more research and data-driven pieces, with ‘fact-check’ style examinations and work that challenges people’s preconceptions about a range of topics, really cutting through the increasingly noisy world of branded comms.”

Make it filmic

Remember when I said there wasn’t one content format trending for 2021? Well, that’s not strictly true. While all content is valuable for different reasons, video content is the most popular of all right now. Recent HubSpot research revealed a whopping 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% watch them every day. Shoppers are also four times more likely to watch a video about a product than read its description. In our disconnected times, video content can also provide a personal touch for your company, bringing you closer to your consumers.

Video doesn’t just have to mean YouTube though. If you’re trying to reach a younger audience, TikTok could be a great place to focus your efforts, creating short form content that educates, amuses or takes viewers ‘under the hood’ of your brand with short films that could also be useful for your paid media channels as pre-rolls. Or, if you need to take a more serious tone, webinars can be a great way to show your authority. Create a page on your site for each webinar recording so you can include these in your email comms for interested parties, or include in press comms.

Make it shareable

For a world communicating primarily via social media and instant messenger, shareability is increasingly key to successful content. Indeed, the much-publicised fall from grace of the Quibi streaming platform was overwhelmingly attributed to its frustrating lack of sharable content, even barring users from taking screenshots to swap over messaging apps.

To maximize the reach and relevancy of your content, ensure it’s easy for users to share the piece further. This could be something as simple as ensuring onsite content has social sharing buttons and an embed code (as in this example of a recent piece Greenlight created for Dixons Carphone), but ideally it should influence the format of the content itself. Make your content easy to understand at a glance, relying on a single visual or short-form video to get your point across where you can, and make sure you share via your own social channels. Media outlets increasingly rely on social trends to inform their content, so you can maximize your PR output via your Twitter feed.

Make it useful

Above all, if you’re going to add to the increasingly crowded branded content marketplace, ensure you’re adding something to the conversation. Sanna Forbes, Lead Content Strategist at Greenlight Digital, advises that content is at its most powerful when you really understand your audience and create pieces that can benefit them in the long run. So, whether you’re opting for Twitter, TikTok or a blog post, think about how you can help your audience with their personal challenges, and produce something that makes their lives easier during a difficult time. If you’re looking for a way to get started, you can use tools such as Answer The Public to see commonly searched queries around your products or offering.


So there you have it, five content trends that will help you super-charge your comms in 2021 and beyond. Whether you’ve long been creating content for your brand, or you’re keen to put your toe in the water this year, just remember that the rules of formulating a great first impression haven’t changed in the digital age: raise a smile, tell the truth, help them out. And, if you can do so in a sharable video, you’re really onto something!

For more insight, check out the Greenlight Digital blog here.

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