Distressed, Disconnected and Disillusioned: Marketing to the Consumers of 2021

Welcome to the next era of marketing. Post-pandemic, your target audience may look the same in terms of age, income, gender and geography. But as Peter Hartzbech, CEO of iMotions explains, “People are only ‘users’ or ‘consumers’ for small portions of the day.” We are all humans 24/7 – and the events of 2020 have imprinted permanent changes on our individual and collective psyches.

Marketing to Consumers 2021

In September 2020, GWI Zeitgeist asked what brands should be focusing on as the outbreak continued. Notice that only two of the six top of the answers from consumers had anything to do with the actual product being sold.

(Get the full report here.)

The message that consumers are sending loud and clear is that kindness counts – not just from their community, but from the brands they patronize. Obviously, brand responses that were on-pitch last year, such as shifting manufacturing lines to make ventilators and hand sanitizer or donating PPE, are no longer relevant. However, the economic fallout and resulting individual hardships will continue for the foreseeable future – and marketing is on the hook for re-establishing relationships that continue to resonate.

 The technological revolution [of 2020] was significant, but it also came in conjunction with an emphasis on empathy; in a year where society was dominated by strong emotions, the ability for brands and agencies to understand their customers’ wants and motivations will be essential in the future. 

- Scott Fasser, Discussion.io 

The good news is that the experiences of 2020 have already laid a strong foundation for how to make that happen. First, the scramble to reach consumers virtually resulted in years of technical progress being compressed into months. And second, the need to communicate with an entire world in deep crisis drove an increased effort to understand consumers as whole individuals and fulfill not only material needs, but emotional ones as well. Discussion.io coined a term for this pandemic-driven (r)evolution in marketing: empathetic agility.

So how does your brand plan to stay connected with consumers in this new headspace moving forward? With a continued focus on the critical need for both empathy and agility, here are four tips for reengaging:


1.     Connect with consumers in positive moments. Whether your brand is actually creating the experience or you just “happen to be there”, positivity is more important than ever. Find the places where good things are happening and meet your target audience in those moments.

2.     Emphasize helpfulness in your campaigns. There’s never been a better time to focus on how your product can ease your audience’s pain. Ensuring that your brand crosses their path with empathy at a time when they are in immediate need of your solution is a great way to establish brand value.

3.     Continue to appear in their digital reality. Yes, in-person experiences are returning. But some people will be slow to come back, and many others have changed their habits permanently. This is especially true of consumers with extremely busy lives, such as parents of younger children. Meeting them where they are – in many cases, online – is a win for both them and your brand.

4.     Find ways to support their local communities. The focus on coming together to support a community has never been higher. Luckily, technology has made it possible for marketers to do the same. Use geographic filters to communicate more intimately with audiences in an area where your brand is making a positive difference.

Humans are resilient and the scars of trauma will eventually fade. But we are at a critical juncture in the marketing journey. Empathetic agility is all about meeting consumers where they are – both physically and emotionally – and brands that don’t reconnect now may never have the chance.

If your target audience happens to be W25-54, SignUp.com offers an effective brand advertising environment that exemplifies many of the values – such as community, caring, purpose and coming together for a common good – that today’s consumers are embracing. We’d love to help you explore the unique opportunities we can offer your brand to reconnect and renew your relationship with this audience – just send us a message to get started.


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