Marketing trends that will change how marketers work in 2021

by The Smartsheet Team

It’s a marketer’s job to meet consumers where they are. In today’s pandemic, however, that’s easier said than done. People’s lives have dramatically changed. They’re socially distanced and adapting to fluid new practices all while living under a blanket of uncertainty. 

This complexity can make a marketer’s job more difficult—especially since they’re living with the same challenging circumstances themselves. Current working conditions are prone to creating or exacerbating silos that slow down the development and execution of campaigns. This can impact a company’s ability to stay relevant—which is more important than ever. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report, in times of uncertainty, people look to brands for help. Companies that can meet their needs in the moment will be rewarded with their business. 

A new way of living and working has become a driving force behind new marketing trends for 2021. Old marketing practices and processes are not enough. Marketers will need to change how they work going forward to meet their customers’ changing priorities. 


To stay relevant, companies need to be agile, keeping up with customers’ needs in the moment. Companies are shifting from a focus on efficiency to one of effectiveness, relying on cross-functional teams that can help speed up reactions to marketplace changes. 

Traditional methods of collaboration, such as meetings and emails, can hold up the process, especially when teams are working remotely. This can lead to friction and silos. Leaders must be willing to invest in platforms and tools that enable agile teams. 

Marketers must work with agility

Employees now spend about 50% more time engaged in collaborative work, reports Harvard Business Review. Online digital collaboration tools can increase their productivity by up to 30%, according to McKinsey & Company.

For example, marketing campaigns need to have a streamlined, real-time review process to improve accountability and keep campaigns on track and on target. Time-consuming, routine actions, such as status updates or approval requests, should be automated in order to preserve employee time for innovation or strategizing. 


According to the Deloitte report, brands that know why they exist and who they serve will flourish. It’s a marketer’s job to link their purpose to profit by effectively communicating this information. If a company doesn’t control its own message, the public will. 

During the pandemic, for example, many restaurants donated meals to frontline healthcare workers, and some banks deferred loan payments and stopped charging overdraft fees. Customers are watching. The Deloitte report found that 79% of respondents could recall instances of brands positively responding to COVID-19, and 23% said they changed their perception of a brand.

Brands with a purpose perform better

A survey by PwC found that 79% of business leaders believe that an organization’s purpose is central to business success, yet just 34% said that their organization’s purpose is being used as a guidepost in leadership decision-making.

Organizations need a clearly defined, well-documented purpose statement that puts the entire company on the same page. To be authentic and garner buy-in throughout the organization, this information must come from the top and be demonstrated by the CEO. 


It’s one thing to have a defined purpose, it’s another to get an entire organization behind it. Brands that act in conflicting manners can lose the trust of customers, especially during times of uncertainty. The Deloitte report found that two-thirds of people could recall a time when a business put itself before its customers during the pandemic, such as raising prices on essential items. 

With remote working arrangements, decisions can no longer be made in the boardroom. Research from Harvard Business Review found that a decentralized, bottom-up approach to innovation can lead to better outcomes. In the study, 86% of organizations with leadership that entrusted their teams with innovating prior to the pandemic adapted well to the shift in working arrangements. To develop a culture of employee empowerment, organizations need visibility into shared goals and KPIs as well as a method of accountability. 

Brand trust requires a connected organization

A study by McKinsey & Company found companies that have a “Unifier CMO” have the highest growth. These companies understand that marketing isn’t just a function of the marketing department. A Unifier CMO works with all C-suite members, including sales, product innovation, finance, technology, and HR, to move forward together as an organization. 

Breaking down cross-functional silos requires technology that connects teams so they can work together to align around the customer experience. It requires a platform that provides a single source of truth as well as a way to assign tasks to teams. Connection can boost engagement. According to Gallup, highly connected and engaged teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability.

Developing marketing teams for the future

To meet the current challenges of a quickly evolving marketplace, marketing leaders must put their teams at the center of innovation by providing them with a frictionless way of working. 

Organizations need systems that connect people in real time and provide a common source of truth. Empowering each person with access to information can help teams work more effectively together, quickly pivoting in response to change. And transparent goals can help organizations stay accountable and inspired. 

To generate campaigns that will resonate today’s customers, organizations need dynamic marketing teams that embrace visibility, real-time collaboration, and innovation. While the new marketing trends will drive new ways of working, the result will be a better way of serving customers now and in the future--whatever it might bring.

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