Content marketing had a big year in 2021. From prolific brand content campaigns to emerging content technologies, we’ll walk you through everything that happened in the industry in 2021 so you can glean insights and step into the new year with confidence.
4 amazing 2021 content marketing campaigns
From personalized content to video and virtual reality, here’s an aggregate list of 2021 content marketing trends and brands that latched on to the emerging trends with success.
1. Audio content
The pandemic has changed the way we not only live but consume content as well. In fact, the number of monthly U.S. podcast listeners increased by 10.1 percent year-over-year to 117.8 million between 2020 and 2021, according to Insider Intelligence. The same study reported that in 2021, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 34 listened to podcasts monthly.
This presents yet another content channel for brand marketers — podcasts. In fact, here are some examples of brands that rode the podcast wave in 2021:
- Shopify: “Masters: The Shopify Podcast” and “Vanguard”
- Basecamp: “The Distance”
- ZipRecruiter: “Rise and Grind”
- Slack: “Variety Pack”
- GE Healthcare: “LifeAfter/ The Message”
- Mtn Dew: “The Dew Zone with Druski”
2. Video marketing
With social distancing protocols and restrictions limiting face-to-face interaction, brands have turned to video as an alternative way to connect with audiences virtually. It’s not surprising why 91 percent of brand marketers recognize video as the most important content marketing tool in the pandemic and post-pandemic era.
Need some examples of some short-and-sweet brand videos that have been consumed by millions of viewers? Here are some highlights from the best content marketing campaigns of 2021:
- Home Depot: Watch the products of Home Depot pop with life in these brand-centric videos.
- Cheetos: Chester the Cheetah comes to life on TikTok, promoting this age-old snack — and maintaining its relevance to younger audiences.
- Oreo: Are you seeing a trend? CPG does well on TikTok, apparently. This business-to-consumer brand features raw, and sometimes uncut, footage from Oreo lovers around the world.
3. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing emerged on the scene just under a decade ago — is it still effective in 2021? Short answer: yes. These influencer marketing statistics corroborate its success this year.
Nogood.io also says:
“Its worth is expected to grow from $13.8 billion in 2021 to $15 billion in 2022, and the use of influencer marketing among U.S. marketers is expected to increase from 67.9 percent to 72.5 percent in 2022. Influencer marketing has gone through changes since its inception, especially due to the fast-paced landscape driven by technology.”
Here are some examples of riveting influencer campaigns of 2021, along with highlights of the campaign:
- Chipotle: The brand launched a Chipotle Creator Class of 15 influencers, including viral TikTok creators, to promote Chipotle to the masses. During Pride month in June, for example, they launched partnerships with a host of drag stars, and each of their go-to Chipotle orders was featured on the Chipotle website and app, with $1 of each order donated to an LGBTQ+ charity. No doubt they hit their mark marketing for equality, a worthy social cause, and reaching millions of people.
- PlayStation: In 2021, the popular gaming system PlayStation partnered with five influencers to promote its new virtual reality headsets to Canadians via Instagram and YouTube. The campaign’s goal was to improve the brand’s engagement rate, which it did to millions of viewers.
4. Personalized content
During the Coronavirus pandemic, consumer trust has become more important than ever. As much as 70 percent of consumers place more importance now to trusting a brand than they did in the past. One way brands garnered consumer trust in 2021 was to personalize content directly to the user, whether by addressing them by first name or serving up custom content and promotions.
Here are some examples of brands that excelled at personalizing content in 2021:
- Spotify: This music streaming brand now offers an end-of-year Wrapped report that aggregates a user’s most-played hits during a calendar year.
- McDonalds: The fast food company is staying relevant now more than ever. They recently launched a campaign that offers personalized order and deal recommendations at multiple digital touchpoints.
- Amazon: The retail beast Amazon continues to deliver personalized product recommendations in the “Get yourself a little something” category.
5 standout 2021 content marketing technologies
Technology drives innovation, especially when it comes to brand content generation. Here are some of the technologies that took foot in 2021. Glean insights from the content so you can consider them for your 2022 content marketing campaigns:
1. Content creation robots
It’s not a question of if artificial intelligence will enter the world of content marketing, but when. And 2021 was the year. A new natural language generation tool named Quill recently entered the scene with its use of real-time feedback, headline and story generation, and reporting. Its proofreader feature helps educate users with proofreading skills.
Then there’s OpenAI’s GPT-2, which is a text generator that writes headlines, translates copy, answers questions, writes poetry, and corrects grammar. Brands like Yahoo, Alibaba, Fox, and the Associated Press utilized artificial intelligence technologies to improve their content. Expect to see new players in AI for content marketing come into the scene in 2022.
2. Data science
A picture speaks a thousand words, especially when it comes to displaying complex data. Data science is not new to 2021, but new tools used to illustratively display data are. Products like Datawrapper and Infogram are two examples of tools used to visually interpret data collected from one or multiple sources to create useful visual content.
3. Content reporting
Storytelling has been a hot buzzword for the past decade in the content marketing world. But what if storytelling takes the form of reporting to your C-suite and brand marketing team?
Using technologies like Narrative Science’s Lexio, you can proactively give every user on your team a personalized daily data brief via SMS instead of prompting them to find answers in an archaic dashboard. Accessible content marketing reporting has never been easier, making content marketing buy-in more persuasive.
4. Communicating in a virtual work environment
While not specific to content marketing, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many content marketers have found themselves working from home more (or all of the time). This has necessitated a need for better collaborative tools to communicate and get stuff done with your teammates but in a non-traditional setting.
Enter Volley. This new collaborative tool deems itself as the Snapchat for work and addresses the two main problems of remote teams, loneliness and barriers to communication. The app combats the two barriers to virtual work with a video messaging app with interactive transcriptions organized into workspaces and video instant messages. Another value is it’s asynchronous, so you don’t have to schedule a meeting to communicate with someone. Best news? It’s free.
(Bonus: If you’re bored at home, try this fun virtual office.)
5. Better content accessibility
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one in four people have a disability. Of that group, many individuals are visually impaired — and have historically been underserved.
“Marketing content that excludes people with disabilities, even unintentionally, prevents millions of people from learning about your products and interacting with your brand,” says the Bureau of Internet Accessibility. “To truly be considered an accessible company, you need to include accessibility front and center in your marketing plan.”
Thankfully, new tools have emerged on the scene to help those who are visually impaired see your website content. An example is Huetone, which is a marketing tool that allows you to create more accessible color palettes using an Advanced Perceptual Contrast Algorithm. This design tool lets its users find color combinations and contrast ratios, with a quick and easy export.
How to stay on the pulse of content trends
Content marketing is a continually evolving field. Brand marketers should always be on the lookout for strategies to shine in a highly saturated space—and high-quality content is one of the best tactics for doing that.