2021 Trends and Predictions

Danielle Hannan

Trends play a large role in our industry. As marketers and advertisers, we have to be aware of trends. Not only do we walk the thin line between staying on trend without being too trendy (read: basic), we help our clients decide which trends work for them and speak to/for their brand. Trends, from an advertising perspective, mean anything from design, to wording, to tactics, to pop culture.

As we slowly acclimate to the new year, we can expect some 2020 trends to expand their shelf life, as well as new patterns to emerge. Here’s (some of) what we think will go down.

(Not Quite) Out With The Old


Although social issues have been part of our culture for a long time, they didn’t commonly present themselves in the world of commerce before 2020. Last year, many brands took public stances on social issues, such as racism and environmentalism. In 2021, you can count on brands continuing to discuss such matters and actionable items they will take to address them.

A more unfortunate messaging trend that will continue into this year is the pandemic. You can expect to continue hearing brands share Covid-related messaging—how they are protecting their customers/workers and how they are continuing to support their communities through these unprecedented times. (We’re hopeful the usage of “these unprecedented times” and similar phrases will steadily decline through 2021, though.)

Brands are motivated to address both social issues and Covid because they both influence shopping habits. Consumers want to support companies whose values align with their own. Companies who have chosen to be proactive and outspoken may have found a highly loyal audience that will stick with them for years to come.


There are a few 2020 design trends that will also bully their way into 2021: muted colors, serif fonts, and lots of data visualization charts.


Muted colors are colors that essentially have their edge taken off; they have been, according to the linked article, “subdued, dulled, or greyed.” Brighter colors had been in the limelight for several years, so while this change is natural, it also complements the vibe of the contemporary world—or at least the vibe we all really need right now: calmness.

Because the world has felt really hectic, it’s a smart move to provide shoppers with soothing imagery.


A serif font is one that includes a serif.  A serif is “a small line or stroke regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol within a particular font or family of fonts.” The font used in this blog? Sans-serif. There are no extra lines attached to any of the letters. As a non-designer, I always remember it this way:

Serif = fancy fonts with extra, fancy strokes

Sans-serif = not fancy, literally sans fanciness (no shade)

There are a few reasons serif fonts will continue to be trendy in 2021. First of all, they’re super legible. Serif fonts are more legible than their sans-serif counterparts because people read the shapes of words rather than each individual letter. Serifs define the shape more resulting in faster and easier reading.

Additionally, serif fonts are old af, and due to this, they tend to be perceived as classic, elegant, and trustworthy. Like muted colors, serif fonts can also help elicit calming vibes. AKA: Exactly what we need right now.

Data Visualization

Data visualization charts have been on the rise as of late, but 2020 surely accelerated their popularity and necessity. Why? Mostly because there was a lot of confusing scientific data that needed to be communicated to all of us normies. That’s the entire goal with this kind of imagery: making difficult subjects easily digestible. Because Covid is going to persist through at least part of 2021, data visualization will continue to thrive.

Also, if Spotify Wrapped has taught us anything, it’s that people kind of love data visualization, especially if it relates to their personal habits. (Alternatively, maybe everyone’s just a hipster at their core and wants to show off their music and podcast preferences—who’s to say?)

In With The New

Nielsen Expands Connected TV Measurements

Though we’ve discussed this one already, it bears repeating: Nielsen is adding YouTube and YouTubeTV to both Digital Ad Ratings and Total Ad ratings. This is happening now, people! Big news.

You can head to the previously linked blog for all the details, but this is super important to advertisers everywhere. This allows us to more easily track who is watching what, and where. With more than 100 million people watching YouTube and YouTube TV on their connected device, this is a huge deal. We can easily gauge the success or failure of a campaign, and can use data to pivot and try other avenues.

Instagram’s Shiniest Trick

A new year won’t fix all the problems we encountered in 2020, but at the very least it can offer some very shiny distractions. Instagram has a few up their sleeve. (Social media in general is becoming much more e-commerce friendly, so expect things to continue trending in that direction.)

One of Instagram’s shiniest new features is being able to search specific terms without having to use a hashtag. This update will challenge marketers to include key terms within captions so that their post will appear in searches, hopefully resulting in more reach per post.

Featured Snippets

Prior to 2021, the top SEO goal was to get your business or product the number one spot in search results. As Fergie would say, that’s so “two thousand and late.” The 2021 SEO goal is to become the “featured snippet” result.

A featured snippet is “separated by a small box and located at the top. More importantly, it also displays extra, relevant information with the attempt at answering the user’s question without them needed to click on it, prompting the nickname ‘no-click search.’”

Anything that falls within that text box, anything that can be consumed without having to make an extra click, is a “W.” As consumers, we all know the joy we experience when we get answers in the easiest way possible. This 2021 trend is the digital equivalent to getting the scissors to glide through wrapping paper just right.

To become a featured snippet result, you have to build the keyword/phrase into your content as a question—typically how the question would most frequently be Googled—and then answer the question succinctly.

Online Events

Because of The Rona, many events that typically took place in-person had to pivot to a digital space. After helping with three digital galas in about four months, we are no strangers to a virtual fundraiser.

Sure, this started out as a necessity, but we will continue to see digital galas into 2021, even as the pandemic calms down. In addition to being extra safe with looming health concerns, virtual events are also way less costly and much more inclusive than in-person events. Less overhead + more reach = more potential profit/donations/etc. (an equation businesses usually like to see).

However, as time goes by, some events will begin to revert their traditional, in-person nature. After all, many of us have been starved for human interaction. But, this will take some time and will likely not ramp up until the end of 2021.

Trend On

These are the 2021 trends that we see happening in 2021 (and the ones that have us the most excited). If you want to share your favorite trends, or need any help ensuring that you never trend for the wrong reasons, drop us a line: whatsup@116andwest.com