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Deloitte Digital announces Global Marketing Trends for 2021

15 October 2020

Deloitte Digital has today announced its key Global Marketing Trends for 2021.

Deloitte Digital’s Global Marketing Trends for 2021 focus on the key ways brands will effectively connect with consumers in the year ahead, underlining that COVID-19 has intensified demand for authentic, human brand experiences.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Customers look for brands with a purpose that aligns to their own values. They want brands to provide solutions they can trust and experiences that include them as co-creators rather than recipients of someone else’s vision.
  • Most brands that claim to be purpose-led clearly state their motives and have ways of holding themselves accountable to the promises they make. 
  • Customers are moving to digital channels with data suggesting this is a long-term shift that will continue well after the pandemic subsides.

Becky Skiles, partner and chief marketing officer (CMO) of Deloitte Digital, said: “COVID-19 rapidly raised the bar for customer expectations.

Consumers placed their loyalty in brands that were acting with transparency, prioritising the safety and wellbeing of their employees, communicating authentically and developing a more ‘human’ digital experience.

“As CMOs focus in recent months has been on responding to the impact of the pandemic and recovering from this, 2021 will be the year that they turn their attention to initiatives that will allow them to thrive. Consumers are ready and willing to embrace a better digital customer experience and marketers must throw their weight behind initiatives that will create authentic, human online experiences.”

Deloitte Digital’s Global Marketing Trends for 2021 include:

Purpose: Built to flourish

Organisations that know why they exist and who they’re built to serve are uniquely positioned to navigate unprecedented change. They are often able to respond more quickly in times of uncertainty and can turn tough decisions into simple choices because they know how to invest, how to engage with their employees, and how to meet the needs of stakeholders and consumers.

  • According to Deloitte’s “Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey” of 2,447 global consumers, one in five customers will support a brand that has positive brand actions, while one in four will walk away if they do not agree with brand decisions.
  • Additional Deloitte Digital research carried out in Britain found that one in five (20%) consumers stopped using a business due to their response to COVID-19, for instance those that did not prioritise front-line workers or introduce measures to keep their employees safe, rising to 28% of those aged 16-24.

Skiles adds: "The message is clear to brands – if you do not take care of your people, then customers will vote with their feet. Gen Z are the generation most likely to abandon a brand due to its response to COVID-19 and as any brand thinking about Customer Lifetime Value knows, it is this age group who make lifetime brand associations. Alienate someone at this critical point, just as they are becoming an empowered consumer, and brands will feel the ripple effect of that for years to come."

Agility: Changing the playbook

COVID-19 tested business models in unprecedented ways and made it clear that agility is crucial for organisations. In 2020, CMOs will turn to digital tools such as social customer relationship management (CRM) and social listening capabilities to forecast future consumer demands, using customer feedback to rapidly prototype new products and services.

  • According to Deloitte’s “Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey”, 58% of respondents could name a brand that quickly pivoted its offerings to better react to the effects of COVID-19. Eighty-two percent said that these new, relevant offerings made them want to do more business with the brand.
  • In Britain, 12% of consumers increased the number of brands they followed on social media during lockdown, rising to 28% of those aged 16-24.

Deborah Womack, director in Deloitte Digital, said: “The upsurgence of video-sharing and social messaging platforms for customer service has opened new connections between brands and consumers in ways never thought feasible before the COVID-19 pandemic. With this comes a wealth of rich insights into consumer opinions, wants and needs that are accessed through new technologies, providing brands with immediate feedback on products and services and the capability to pivot quickly. For brands, these social listening tools will be a powerful force for innovation in the year ahead, allowing them to create products and services that their customers are, often literally, calling for.”

Human Experience: Know thyself

When the pandemic made technology the primary way for customers to interact with companies, in some cases, it proved insufficient in building connections. Deloitte’s research suggests leaders must stay proactive in aligning their values with shareholders and view their organisations as human entities that mirror — and support — the values of those they are built to serve.

  • According to Deloitte’s HX In Uncertainty research, which surveyed 16,000 individuals earlier this year, more than 56% of respondents reported they specifically desire a more “human” experience from virtual environments.
  • Almost half (46%) of consumers in Britain said they would be more likely to spend money at a business that supports local charities, such as food banks, once the lockdown lifted.

Womack continues: “Technology has improved many areas of the customer experience, but it’s yet to replace the power of human interaction that underscores the humanity and authenticity of brands. Particularly in times of crises, consumers value connections. In the year ahead, marketers must plan for interactions that are meaningful to people and build vibrant connections within communities and wider society. Successful brands will proactively advocate for the values that matter to customers most, whilst reminding them of the human faces behind the brand.”

Trust: The promises we keep – or don’t

While trust takes years to build, it only takes seconds to destroy. In today’s digital age, data privacy is often at the core of building consumer trust.

  • Deloitte found that consumers are 2.8 times more likely to continue purchasing from a brand after a data breach when brands are transparent in their intentions. Deloitte’s “Consumer Pulse Study” reported that even during the global pandemic, a third of respondents most concerned with data privacy are willing to share data with businesses helping with the pandemic given that they were trustworthy organisations operating both transparently and ethically.
  • In Britain, more than two in three (68%) consumers say they are concerned about the amount of information companies have about them.

Libby Cousins, advertising, marketing and commerce practice leader at Deloitte Digital, said: “Customer data is the most valuable asset for brands today. However, consumers are wary over the amount information they are giving away online. As brands further develop their digital channels in 2021, they must clearly outline how the data they are collecting will improve brand experience. Our research shows that consumers value a personal customer experience but they are not afraid to abandon brands that overstep on their privacy.”

Talent: Marketing disrupted

As the pandemic shifted ways of working and impacted budgets and even headcount, marketing organisations have focused on ways to make their most valuable asset – their talent – a strategic force.

  • 77% of CMOs turned to AI to automate work during the pandemic, with only a small fraction (6%) having also tapped the gig economy - an option that could allow companies to scale their workforce up or down as needed.
  • According to Deloitte’s “Consumer Pulse Survey”, 14% of respondents had entered the gig economy for the first time during the pandemic.

Cousins added: “AI has the potential to automate many marketing tasks, allowing more time and space for marketers to think creatively. Leading brands won’t use AI to replace their teams, but to allow more time for their teams to create personal, human campaigns and experiences that will resonate with their audiences. In addition, working with freelancers will be a step-change for many brands as they can provide a specialist perspective in particular for campaigns reaching new audiences, or to be pushed out on new channels.”

Two further trends Participation: A two-way street and Fusion: The new ecosystem are included in Deloitte Digital’s Global Marketing Trends report, available to download here.


Notes to Editors


Deloitte conducted four surveys to inform the 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report:

The “Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey” polled 2,447 global consumers in April 2020. This survey was conducted in the US, UK, Mexico, China, South Africa, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The “Global Marketing Trends Participation Survey” polled 7,506 consumers in April 2020 across four countries — the US, UK, Brazil and China — to better understand who is participating in brands, why they do it, and where they engage the most.

The “Global Marketing Trends C-suite Survey” polled 405 US executives from global companies in May 2020. This survey asked CEOs, CIO/CTOs, CMOs, CFOs and CHROs their thoughts on a variety of topics related to their response to COVID-19.

Additionally, in Britain we conducted research in May 2020 to analyse the impact of the pandemic on customer experience, surveying 2,140 adults aged 16+ on their attitudes towards brand actions and communications during lockdown.

About Deloitte Digital

From strategy to delivery, Deloitte Digital combines cutting-edge creative with trusted business and technology expertise to define and deliver digital solutions. At Deloitte Digital, we are creating digital experiences for the connected enterprise. From B2B, B2C, or B2E, we deliver strategy, mobile, social, web, and digital content management solutions that will help strengthen our clients’ brands and evolve their businesses.

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