Influencer marketing has come a long way since the beginning of 2020. The pandemic forced brands to quickly pivot but expectations for high-quality advertising didn’t disappear. Instead, marketers leaned more heavily into content creators, who are used to working from home to create high-quality, reactive content. Hence, influencer marketing was thrown into the advertising spotlight this year, with more marketers putting their faith into multi-channel influencer campaigns and seeing the benefit of the vast array of creative content influencers can offer. The IPA reports a 20% downturn across the advertising industry, however, influencers are seeing a 46% uplift from this.

As the industry continues to scale and diversify, and budgets are increasingly being redirected from offline to online, its wider social responsibility also increases. This will force the sector to look again at regulation, diversity, tighter restrictions on ROI and creativity for the year ahead to ensure it continues to mature in the right direction.

Here are BDB’s top predictions about key trends expected to dominate the industry next year:

1: Diversity will continue to be the topic du jourThomas Walters, Chief Strategy Officer & Founder

In 2020, much has been written about consumers’ increased desire to see brands take a stand on social issues and diversity issues when it comes to brand marketing and attitudes. There’s a need to rebuild their marketing strategies to make up for past blindspots and move beyond the common reliance on only one token person of colour. Next year, diversity will continue to be the topic du jour – with an emphasis on under-representation of British Asian talent coming to the fore.

2: Influencers will play a key role in personalisation at scaleEdward East, CEO & Founder

Current trends show a shift in the types of collaborations that brands are looking for, with many opting to work with influencers to focus on personalisation and interaction. It has never been so important to ensure you are reaching the right consumer tribe and delivering tailored, targeted messaging at the right time as opposed to sending one big brand message to everyone. Recruiting various influencers that authentically reach a brand’s many consumer tribes, and incorporating this resonant content into personalisation at scale media plans is a winning advertising strategy for 2021.

3: There will be an e-commerce arms race Tom Bannister, Creative Director

There will be an e-commerce arms race between the major social platforms offering increasingly smarter tools for influencers to drive sales. As we become accustomed to the “new normal” and many retail stores shut, businesses have needed to pivot to ensure they are reaching audiences in an authentic way and sales are still coming in. To leverage this, influencers will increasingly be turned to for social selling now platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have added new e-commerce tools and in-app purchasing options, which is causing scrolling and shopping to blur into one.

We have already seen many digital native DTC brands turn to influencers to build connections with their online community. Encouraged by successes like McDonald’s partnership with Travis Scott, marketers will put a renewed focus on collaborations. Specifically, influencers will start to lead the direct-to-consumer space by launching new cross-category brands and products.

4: Brands will invest more in podcast advertising Brigitte Swimer, Data Analyst

One way brands will capitalise on the ever-changing world of influencer marketing is by investing more in podcast advertising, as podcasters often have a strong bond with their audience and hosts are able to build a community of invested listeners. The wealth of podcast content has turned 73 million Americans into podcast listeners, according to recent data, and that audience is projected to grow 81% by 2022. Take this recent example of Method sponsoring the High Low Christmas podcast, which is being live-streamed this month.

5: The new concept of ‘Influencer House’ will increase Omkar Shinde, Data Analyst

The concept of influencer houses are increasing in popularity in 2020 among Instagram and TikTok stars, following the lead of YouTuber mansions like Jake Paul’s Team 10 home, started in 2017. With the recent COVID restrictions, there is even more appeal for these kinds of collaborations where creators group together and co-create content in the same house. With their ability to amplify the creative power and social reach of influencers, these influencer houses deserve the attention of marketers looking to leverage the presence of their brands on social media.

6: Brands will further leverage influencer content for wider digital marketing purposesPermele Doyle, President & Founder

As budgets will be tighter, brand marketers will be even more cautious about getting more bang for their bucks when it comes to influencer content. Next year, influencer content will be further leveraged for wider digital marketing purposes to ensure maximum exposure, reach and investment. Watch out for amplified influencer content reaching the masses to drive real awareness in a noisy world.

7: Smaller influencers are getting agents and declining gifting opportunities Jack Henderson, Senior Account Manager

With demand growing faster than the talent pool, the size of influencer brands that will be able to collaborate with influencers using only gifting methods will fall to nano-sized influencers only. More and more smaller influencers are now getting agents and declining gifting opportunities.

8: Sustainability will have an even bigger focus next year Brigitte Swimer, Data Analyst

Since the UN Sustainability goals were announced in 2015, there has been an uptick in sustainability awareness on both a brand and consumer level. Brands that have been called out in 2020 will focus on ensuring their campaigns are diverse, and also make their products and services more environmentally-friendly. Brands and agencies will want to advertise in a careful way that doesn’t promote overconsumption and will find ways to hold events with influencers that are more climate-conscious.

9: Brands will adopt long-term ambassadorships with big talentThomas Walters, Chief Strategy Officer & Founder

The demand for influencer activity will grow faster than the talent base, this will drive brands to embrace large scale, long-term, ambassadorships with big talent once more. There will be a focus on engaging influencers with strong brand affinity, having mentioned the brand in previous organic content, which will lead to long-term partnerships rather than one-off campaigns. This will create content that feels natural and represents an influencer’s genuine love for the brand.

10: Brands will continue to embrace new platformsPermele Doyle, President & Founder

Between March and June this year, social platforms released 80 new features, including Instagram reels and enhanced e-commerce functionality. Brands will continue to embrace new features and platforms such as Reels and TikTok and figure out how to allocate budget across different platforms. As a result, influencers will further differentiate their content and niches across multiple platforms. Interestingly, the introduction of Reels, in particular, has had a big impact on creators – Billion Dollar Boy data indicates the average influencer receives 62% more views on their Reels content vs their regular main feed videos.

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