2021 Global Marketing Trends

A new digital world

October saw the release of our 2021 Global Marketing Trends report. This report is one of many ‘trends’ reports produced by Deloitte to support business executives. 

This year we took the opportunity presented by COVID-19 to pivot the research, and move away from the usual identification of marketing trends and their implications, and instead dug deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on marketing. Specifically, we were interested to see how activities performed in response to the pandemic. In doing so, we looked for significant shifts that may give rise to new trends or give more emphasis to trends previously identified.

With insights gathered from 2500 global consumers and over 400 US executives, the report is rich with insight which can be easily mapped to our context here in New Zealand.

Several findings from the report resonate strongly with what we have seen amongst New Zealand consumers and public opinion.

  • Almost four in five people could cite a time a brand responded positively to the pandemic and one in five strongly agreed it led to increased brand loyalty on their part.
  • Conversely, more than 25% of those who noticed brands acting in their own self-interest walked away from those brands.

The public discussion following the open disclosure of wage subsidy recipients clearly demonstrated that during the height of the COVID pandemic in New Zealand, the ‘social license’ for business was very much under review by consumers, and those considered to be behaving immorally in the circumstances would be called out publicly.

The shift to digital we all experienced in our day-to-day ‘lockdown lives’ also seems to have a high chance of sticking. 

  • More than 70% agreed they valued digital solutions that deepened their connection with other people, and 63% believe they will rely on digital technologies more than they did prior to the pandemic even well after it subsides.

These statistics and many more in the report provide the backdrop around which seven trends emerged. Our reading of the report and local experience suggests that most of the trends identified are already affecting New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses. There are however several that we think are particularly impactful in our current operating environments.

Human experience: In a time where we had to make an abrupt transition to digital interactions, a few things came home quickly. Firstly, the sustained investment in broadband infrastructure in New Zealand meant that any fears we had around a substandard connection affecting our digital experience was largely unfounded (at least for those in our cities). 

We also realised just how far New Zealand businesses had come to enable digital interactions. By the time Auckland hit a second lockdown, we saw that a high volume of ‘efficient’ digital interactions did not make up for ‘inefficient’ human interactions. Our global research highlighted that when the playing field was levelled, and consumers migrated to ‘touchless’ interactions with businesses, there was a stark difference between those that had designed human experiences and those that had designed efficient transactions. And therein lies the rub: How do executives strike a balance between their organisation’s need for greater efficiency and our universal need for human connection?

When higher COVID-19 alert levels were in place, many vulnerable New Zealanders required assistance in receiving their groceries, often relying on friends or family to do their shopping for them. BNZ provided guides on how to set up one-off payments to avoid any contamination using cash or sharing debit cards and created a digital human experience for its customers that ensured both their safety and helped meet their needs.

Trust: Perhaps more than any time in recent history, trust was firmly in the centre of the national consciousness. With so much uncertainty around the pandemic, our politicians were constantly under scrutiny with the public judging whether or not they were following through on their commitments. 

What this experience pointed out is the degree to which consumers evaluating the trustworthiness of brands and leaders. For commercial businesses, our research indicates that consumers are willing to walk away when their trust in a business has eroded. This was particularly evident where businesses used COVID-19 to change prices for products and/or services in a self-interested (and very transparent) way.  For non-commercial businesses the warning is there - your social license depends on trust and what is built up over years can be eroded almost overnight.

However, some organisations have maximised the opportunity to build trust. Part of Auckland Transport’s response to COVID-19 included a major upgrade to the AT Mobile application. This allowed users to view real-time bus and train occupancy and make an informed decision on their transport choice during the different alert stages. By acknowledging and acting on one of their customers core values of social safety, Auckland Transport was able to build authentic trust with their mobile app users.

There is a lot more in the full report. While targeted at CMOs it is a good read for the entire C-Suite. Feel free to have a closer read and share your thoughts with us, we look forward to the discussion.


Grant Frear, Partner, Consulting

Grant is a lead Partner in the Consulting team, helping businesses develop and implement great strategies to help them achieve their business goals. The world of business and technology is developing at pace, things that were once out of reach for many New Zealand businesses are now a reality. So to really take advantage of this, he believes that business needs to have a mind shift. Well thought out strategies are great, the ability to execute is critical.

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Ryan Hitch, Consultant, Operations Transformation

Ryan is a Consultant in the Operations and Transformation service offering, as part of the wider Consulting team. Ryan's experience is made up of helping clients improve their operational efficiency and reduce cost through process improvement and strategic cost reduction. With part of his undergraduate studies focusing on marketing, he has had a growing passion for strategic marketing and consumer behaviour, and has enjoyed engaging with the global marketing team in the past 6 months in preparation for release of the GMT trends 2021. 

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