12 Experiential Marketing Trends for 2021

Digital Marketing Annual Trends Report: 12 Experiential Marketing Trends for 2021

Annual Maketing Trends Report

Experience marketing has evolved consistent with the speed of technology over the last decade. Changes in how and where we consume content, continue to push brands to be more personal, and place stronger focus on the digital marketing experience.

15 second Instagram stories, during a bathroom break, are the new 30 second TV commercials. Social media videos are provocative, entertaining, moving, and driving real-time engagement.

Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch a video in comparison to 10% when they read text. Plus, video is shared 1,200% more than both links and text combined (Forbes).

Digital experiences that also connect on an emotional level, and make us feel something in our physical selves, are more meaningful. Growth in the new relationship economy will favor brands that leverage Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to consistently personalize, engage, and connect immediately and transparently.

This annual report is created from our experience with clients, online research publications, articles, books, and videos. It introduces the reader to the latest experience marketing trends, how to build trust, and how to grow your business, in the digital era.


#1.  Leverage Digital Emotional Intelligence to Develop Deeper Relationships

Digital emotions are different from physical emotions, and the future adoption of new devices and applications enhance, connect, and extend human emotions. They are the most contagious through social media because of speed and virality. Brands who are more sensitive to digital emotional cues can use this information to guide thinking, behavior, and decisions across platforms.

When you meet someone face to face a series of nonverbal cues steer your communication allowing you to adjust for tone and attention. Alternatively, on social media you have access not only to what a person is telling you, but also to a cross-section of how they live, and who they really are. For instance, you meet someone seemingly professional and mature in person, to later find out from their social media profile and activities that they are not.

Brands who leverage digital emotional intelligence to create a social media experience, will develop stronger and deeper relationships with their clients; see an increase in repeat business, referrals, and profit; and a shrinkage on customer complaints.

A study by Avery Dennison in collaboration with EVRYTHING, found that Emojis – our modern hieroglyphics- are the fastest-growing language in history with 92% of the online populations using them. By learning how to understand and interpret emotion in a constantly evolving digital marketing word, we’re be able to capture what influences decisions and why.

#2 Personalize Content to Forge Real Connections

2021 is going to be the year of personalized marketing. Not only consumers are quite adept at tuning out generic ads, but 80% are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience (EPSILON). People want to relate to other people. Today’s consumers are bombarded with marketing messages that inevitably get tuned out.

Annual Marketing Trends

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Though data collection advancements are making a huge impact on personalization, there remains a huge opportunity for brands to put in place systems at scale. Let’s use Verizon as an example, with the vast amount of data they have on us why are their interactions at the stores so impersonal? “You are looking at my name in your screen, call me by my name.”

Throughout my career I have used social media to personalize my communications with customers and clients. I’ve built real connections based on things we have in common and respect. Let’s talk about F.O.R.D. for a second – not the car manufacturer.

F.O.R.D. is a customer experience system conceived by keynote speaker and best-selling author John DiJulius, to build relationships and trust. It stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams, and the goal is to collect data points in all these categories at every interaction. “If you know 2 or more facts of someone’s F.O.R.D., you not only have a relationship, you own the relationship”, says John DiJulius in his TEDTalk.

Through social media you can capture many of these data points, personalize communications, and deliver a digital experience. For example, now that I am a parent, I find myself exchanging fun anecdotes with other clients who are also parents. All while building trust and real connections.

#3.  Build Exclusive Communities Using Facebook Groups

In contrast to Facebook Pages, you can build exclusive, private – even for a fee- communities using Facebook Groups (Groups). Groups offer an immersive, virtual experience, where brands provide extra value in the form of behind the scenes content, exploration of deeper subjects, and Beta testing new ideas.

While conferences are in person events designed to attract a captive audience, Groups are a virtual alternative that also gathers people with similar interests. They are no different in that they also promote organic conversations, connections, networking, and knowledge exchange among members. Building relationships in either community setting, provides long-term benefits such as support, loyalty, and the fostering of good will towards you and your brand

Yet it is privacy and secrecy that give Groups an air of exclusivity, making them an attractive substitute to other more public forums. For example, you can create a for payprivate community” for a very special group of clients by invitation only.

In addition, they offer higher levels of engagement than branded Facebook Pages, supplying you with unique insights into the audience you are growing. For instance, you get to learn what they like to talk about; when are they active; where they are located; and who are your biggest supporters (Ex. AdEspresso image below).

Chart credit: AdEspresso

The more personal the interactions become in Groups, the more you build trust between your brand and your audience. Communicating, asking, answering, and learning about your community strengthens the bond, the relationship, and builds trust.

Check out these 13 tips on how to create, grow, engage, and monetize your Facebook Groups I learned from @PatFlynn:

        1. Add a request to join your FB community from your website
        2. Create a smart link like: 1marketingidea.com/community
        3. Link multiple FB groups together
        4. Feature newcomers so others want to join
        5. Post exclusive content
        6. Send personal messages to your highest contributors
        7. Promote people to admin level
        8. Show behind the scenes
        9. Introduce product prototypes
        10. Test Beta service offerings
        11. Ask for opinions
        12. Run polls
        13. Start a debate – be a bit controversial

#4.  Maximize Video Content to Enhance the Experience

Video content will continue to be the preferred method of consumption and budget spend with an increased focus on organic, live, viral, stream, and stories in 2021 and beyond. Utilizing video to tell your story humanizes your brand and increases your emotional connection with your audience.

Here are a few quick facts about video you should know: 

        • 68% of people say they’d most prefer to learn about a new product or service by watching a short video. (Wyzowl)
        • 59% of executives would rather watch video than read text while 4X as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product then read about it. (Smallbiztrends)
        • 80% of LinkedIn video views take place with no sound. (LinkedIn)
        • More than 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile content. (YouTube)
        • 60% of consumers who made a purchase from a brand found out about them on social media. (Animoto)

#5.  Live Video Content

“63% of marketers say live video brings a human touch to digital marketing (Go-Globe).”

Live Video continues to be the growing force in experience marketing. From Dunkin’ Donuts’ behind the scenes footage to live interviews at your favorite events, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and now LinkedIn Live Videos (LV) offer a more authentic and personal experience than pre-recorded videos. The daily watch time for Facebook Live videos has increased 4X in a single year, and they produce six times as many interactions as traditional videos.

Like MTV’s Real World shows back in the 90s, LV feel unscripted real-life moments, typically starring unknown individuals instead of actors. Unlike TV, Live Videos give viewers instant gratification through instant sharing, instant consuming, and instant interaction, all in the privacy of wherever you are watching.

They are very personal. We are drawn to them because very deep inside they make us feel better about ourselves. We are naturally curious and voyeuristic, and LV have a built-in element of suspense. They influence your self-belief, confidence, motivation, and attitude. In other words, they grab your attention.

How to use Live Videos to Enhance Your Brand Experience:

        1. Share results your services have given to a client
        2. Run a contest where only the people who are in the Live session can win
        3. Do an educational webinar
        4. Give people access to behind the scenes content
        5. Show people an exclusive location few can get to
        6. Demo your product
        7. Build up excitement with exclusive announcements
        8. Get “Live With” a guest – sponsor, client- speaker
        9. Give an opinion on trending topics “newsjacking”
        10. Talk to your Facebook Groups audience

#6.  Organic Video Content

Unlike paid video advertising, organic video content is free or inexpensive to share across social networking sites, and online search engines. Organic video can be compared to word of mouth as it provides information, usually in the form of an opinion, about a particular experience, maybe a service or product. Consumers feel less like they are being pitched from an organic video than a promoted one.

The challenge is, how to build a viewing audience for organic video, of people who already have shown a genuine interest on your brand? It takes time and a discipline to post videos consistently and frequently, and it requires a firm commitment from a brand to stay on it. Many marketers will complement organic video content with boosted/paid videos to increase brand awareness and build such audience.

This is what marketing visionary Michael Stelzner founder of Social Media Examiner has to say about refocusing on Organic Video in 2021:

“Facebook has more than 7 million advertisers and shrinking available inventory. The ever-increasing costs of ads across every major social platform will encourage marketers to dust off their content marketing playbooks.

Smart marketers are making investments in high-value video content that’s super-useful to future customers. We’ll see increased use of IGTV and YouTube content in social marketing. And yes, that YouTube content will be promoted using Facebook!

As time spent with content becomes a very valuable metric for marketers, video represents the ultimate scroll-stopping experience that can and will increase “know, like, and trust.”

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#7.  Viral Marketing

Video virality remains the holy grail for many marketers, agencies, and brands. A video goes viral when it spreads in the first few days of launch through sites like YouTube as well as social media networks and email. Many seem to be focused on entertainment and humor, but some are deeply emotional. A study on viral videos by Carnegie Mellon University found that the popularity of the uploader affected whether a video would become viral.

What emotions trigger the virality of a post? Social Media Today put out an Infographic that shows the Science Behind Virality, and it shows that certain emotions lead to consumers not only viewing content but also sharing it. Amusement, delight, interest, excitement, pleasure, to name a few. But positive emotions remain more effective at driving viral content (SocialMediaToday).

To look at the future of viral marketing trends, we researched the latest mobile video craze, with the most engagements: TikTok. Do a quick search for Social Media Personalities @zachking and @charlidamelio to better understand where this trend is going [jump to section Engage and Nurture Social Influencer Marketing Relations for more on Influencers].

To incorporate viral marketing content into your strategy, start by understanding the current trends on popularity on TikTok (MediaKix):

      1. Hashtag Challenges
      2. Brand Advertising
      3. For You Page (#ForYouPage)
      4. Memes
      5. Influencer Sponsorships
      6. Duets
      7. Slow-Mo
      8. Celebs
      9. Cosplay
      10. Twins

#8.  Streaming Video Ad Engagement

Remember watching your favorite show on TV, and getting interrupted with an advertisement?

Fast forward a few decades.

Now you’re watching your favorite highlights from a football or baseball game on YouTube…and get interrupted, again, by an advertisement. This is a streaming video ad.

 According to a 2019 analysis by Conviva the overall time spent streaming increased by 53% year-over-year (y-o-y). And over 1/3 of online video service providers believe the quality of these ads has met or exceeded the quality of traditional TV advertising. Welcome to the streaming ads war.

YouTube is not the only player, in fact, Netflix, is also experimenting with how they can score advertising revenue while minimizing interruptions. Hulu, during pause breaks, has already been using static ad images, and AT&Ts Xandr will be adding video ads during their pauses.

The race for placing video ads in the middle of your shows is on. And the most successful brands will personalize the experience with inefficient, custom videos tailored to the specific platform.

Streaming Ads

#9.  Social Media Stories

Social Media Stories (Stories) are 15 second vertical videos that last 24 hours. They provide a different digital experience because they cover the whole surface of your mobile device and allows you to see who has watched your videos instantly. Stories became most popular on Snapchat and Instagram but now TikTok, a Beijing-based company, has taken it to a completely new level.

The traditional 16:9 landscape format is being replaced by a new 9:16 vertical format that has fast become the default for video creation and consumption. Since the rise of platforms like Instagram Stories, it is the new way for individuals and brands to tell their stories.

Stories are an important addition to digital experience marketing because they allow viewers an insight into a micro-moment in someone else’s life. Brands who creatively tell an interesting story in 15 seconds, and evoke a reaction, will continue to build audiences with people aligned with their brand personality. This results in more followers, increased awareness, and market share.

“59% of Millennials and 70% of Gen Z users watch Instagram Stories (99Firms).”

Example of Instagram Stories

Consumers often use Stories to search for local businesses. For instance, on Instagram Stories, you can add a ‘sticker’ with your location, that allows users to view other stories in the same location. Likewise, the use of hashtags for places or events have a similar effect of driving user curiosity and ultimately traffic to that destination to want to learn more.

Another way to increase engagement is by adding Polls to your Stories. For instance, if you’re thinking of launching a new product or service, you can ask an audience for their degree of interest eliciting pre-sales.

Benefits to using Social Media Stories in 2021

      • Access to audience insights
      • Constant engagement with followers
      • Increased brand awareness
      • Low cost ad solution
      • Increased exposure to your website

Here’s an example of how I came to learn about a History Channel show called “Unidentified.”

      1. Saw an IG story with one of my friends (let’s call him Chris) wearing an old-style headset, in front of a big radio style microphone as if he was on an interview
      2. Turned on the volume to hear what he was saying
      3. Then I clicked through to the person who was tagged on the post which took me to Ed Clay’s profile (@edclayofficial). Before then I had no idea who Ed Clay was, but if he was interviewing Chris, I knew I had to learn more.
      4. I then found out Ed Clay is a popular Podcaster from the link on his IG bio. His Podcast is called The Big Idea Podcast (https://shor.by/TheBigIdeaPodcast)
      5. I clicked through that link and it launched Apple Podcasts
      6. I then ‘Subscribed’ to his Podcast
      7. Searched in his interview for Chris’ interview and found it
      8. Questions and answers were SO engaging that I ended up hearing 50 minutes of it
      9. During this time, I learned about “towering confidence”, who Tom DeLong is, and about a show called “Unidentified” on the History channel, and that Chris is an investor in ‘The Stars Academy’.

ALL from one single Instagram Story. That’s how this works.

#10.  Engage and Nurture Social Influencer Marketing Relations

A mediakix study predicts that the ad spend for influencer marketing could reach $10 Billion by the end of 2020. It’s clear that influencer marketing is here to stay.

Consumers are 92% more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.

Influencer marketing is about creating an emotional experience between a brand or cause and their target audience. Influencers can be powerful brand advocates and allies when they are perceived by their audiences as trustworthy. The main goals behind influencer marketing relationships relate to:

      1. Improving Brand Advocacy
      2. Expanding Brand Awareness
      3. Reaching New Targeted Audiences
      4. Improving Sales
      5. Managing Reputation
      6. Driving Leads
      7. Improving the Customer Experience

Engaging influencers has a lower cost in relation to the benefits it can receive. If an influencer has 10,000 followers on Instagram, and a company gives them a product to expose to her audience, the company is only investing in the cost of the product.  In exchange, they are reaching a large number of people.

Brand lift, direct conversions, link clicks, average engagement rates, product sales, are all KPI results that measure a good influencer marketing partnership and campaign. 

CASE STUDY: Plastic Challenge Crosses The Border

With over 140,000 followers across social media networks, Pancho Cavero, a Peruvian vet, animal advocate, and activist for environmental conservation, began the #PlasticoChallenge (#plasticchallenge) on August 26th.

Pancho Cavero

Through his show on a local radio station, he asked his followers to join the campaign to contribute to the reduction of plastic, inviting them to record videos and use the hashtag #PlasticoChallenge.

Through a social media video shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Pancho Cavero showed how he uses reusable bags for his daily purchases to protect the environment. In his message he challenged Environment Minister, Fabiola Muñoz and international actor, Marco Zunino.

To date dozens of celebrities and political figures have joined the #PlasticoChallenge, including world-recognized Chefs Gaston Acurio and world Surfing Champion Sofia Mulanovich.  This content campaign has even crossed borders. Recently renowned Mexican actress Adriana Louvier posted a video on her Twitter account fulfilling the #PlasticoChallenge, after being invited by actress Ximena Diaz.

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#11.  Improve Mobile Experiences with SEO

“More than half of visitors leave a page if they’re forced to wait longer than 3 seconds (Google).

How often do you test your website content on your mobile device? Speed and clarity will continue to reign supreme in mobile marketing. Go ahead, look at your website on your mobile device.  If it isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll see the full-size website shrunk down to fit on the small screen of a mobile phone.  Nearly 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device (SWEOR). 

Surprised to see mobile SEO as an important 2021 trend? Focus on creative website design for mobile first, using responsive designs, so you make a strong first impression on across devices. The goal should always be to achieve consistency and improve the user experience (UX). Deliver the right message, without sacrificing creativity, fun or authenticity.

“Marketers need to be looking at real, mobile search results, to know what they are up against, what kind of traffic they can expect, and what kind of optimization will actually be successful at impacting the bottom line,” said Cindy Krum, CEO, MobileMoxie.

#12.  Integrate Conversational Marketing Technology

“Over the next three years, 70% of consumers, on average, will replace their visits to the dealer, store, or bank with their voice assistants (Capgemini survey of 12,000 consumers).”

Conversational Marketing (COM) is the most exciting trend in experience marketing today. But you have to see it to believe it. Our family bought a 3rd Gen Amazon Echo for Christmas, and let’s just say that even my 2-year-old knows how to use it. These ‘smart speakers’ bring together the agility of search, conversation and messaging.

In my research I came across the latest Gartner Hype Cycle. These Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. From the infographic below you can see that of the technologies on the Innovation Trigger slope, many aren’t expected to become mainstream for 5 to 10 years. Of those forecast to hit the mainstream within the next 2 to 5 years, the three most significant for marketers to consider are personification, real-time and conversational marketing.

Conversational marketing technologies enable interactions between companies and customers that mimic human dialogue and do so at scale. This category is near the Peak of Inflated Expectations phase”, says Gartner.

A study of 2000 adults commissioned by Artefact UK, an AI and data-driven agency, reveals that:

“Six out of ten smart speaker owners (60%) have used them to make a purchase in the past year. In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) said they have done so within the past week”.

Let me put this into context…

NOTEWORTHY: 1B Clubhouse App Crashes Social Media Party

Clubhouse is a drop-in audio, social networking app that allows you to converse with others by joining virtual rooms ‘clubhouses’ in a variety of topics.

In the last four weeks Clubhouse has become the most talked about social app in major publications like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and TechCrunch.

The app is a unique way of listening into conversations and speaking to a captive audience from your cell phone. Unlike other popular social media platforms Clubhouse has no video. It relies on conversations.

Since Elon musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, dropped-in earlier this year, the app has become the go to for celebrities, authors, and marketers everywhere.

Aside from being a real-time social audio experience, Clubhouse is becoming increasingly the leader in this alternative way of communication. To the point that social media giants and investors alike are looking for ways to mirror its success.

How Clubhouse can Benefit Your Brand.

#1. Access to Top-Quality Content.

Listen to prominent authors like Adam Grant and Malcolm Gladwell ‘unplugged’ from the comfort of your home. No steep fees, no online registration forms. Learn from the experts how you can become an expert.

#2. Networking Opportunities.

Moderators at Q&A rooms allow answers to questions real-time. This provides value to a captive audience. Consequently, if your interaction is positive, you get a surge in followers. This is a great first step to build and grow online business relationships.

#3. Taking the Stage.

Market and promote your own Clubhouse room and invite people at a pre-determined time and date. During this event you can deliver a powerful presentation, perfect a pitch, generate feedback, all while increasing brand engagement. It is also a huge confidence booster.

#4. Early adoption.

The exclusivity of the app makes it very alluring. Early adopters are reaping the benefits of organic traffic early on. It’s like the first year on Facebook

#5. Growing your brand.

It’s a simple tool. All you need is a phone – as it’s strictly an audio app. You can be anywhere (car, bathroom, bedroom, office, bed, etc.) and engage as often and as deeply as you’d like. Consistency builds personal brand equity.

#6. Reducing Screen Fatigue.

Clubhouse differs from Facebook and Instagram because you don’t need to stare at your screen to participate. No images, videos, hashtags to deal with. This attracts, in my opinion, a large portion of the introvert population.

#7. Real-time Social Audio Experience.

Better than a podcast, you can access rooms from wherever you are – no downloads. You can be driving on a Saturday morning and be listening to great content on the go. Clubhouse doesn’t require any podcasting software or editing. While podcast popularity continues to grow, this app provides conversational marketing opportunities from real-time livestreaming.

My Experience

My invite came directly to my iPhone (yes, currently it’s an iPhone exclusive application) and prompted me to download and join the app that now boasts millions of users and has a valuation of roughly $1 billion dollars.

The experience is risk free. You can join a room and listen in with your microphone off. If you desire to comment or ask a question, you raise your hand and one of the moderators may allow you to share the ‘virtual stage’.


Altimeter is a research and advisory firm that focuses on how to leverage disruptive technologies. Here are a few fun facts from the Altimeter’s 2019 State of Digital Marketing Report:

      • Websites (56%) and social media (69%) are the best-performing channels for digital marketing.
      • Salesforce (26%) and Adobe (22%) are the most popular “primary” digital marketing platform vendors.
      • Brand awareness (37%) was cited as the top goal of digital marketing, followed by lead generation (26%) and customer experience (20%).
      • Acquiring the right skills (55%) and scaling innovation (54%) are the biggest challenges for marketing organizations.
      • Data analysis (41%) and tech expertise (38%) are the most-desired skills in new hires.
      • Sixty-one percent of marketers said customer loyalty and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are their top metrics for measuring digital marketing success.
      • Over 60% of respondents said their companies have mapped a digital customer journey, content customization rules, and testing points across all digital touchpoints.


Digital Emotional Intelligence – Avery Dennison


@averydennisoncorporation @averydennison

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