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2021 predictions.

After a year nobody could’ve anticipated, our team reflects on how the upcoming year may unfold.

Hope + Levity: a new tone set

Jim Hume, Principal

After a tumultuous 2020, we have been over-emotioned in marketing. In 2021, brands that paint a brighter picture of the future, adding levity and humor will set a foundation for success. Gone are the days of “uncertain/unprecedented.” Ahead are the days of enthusiasm, hope, excitement, and possibilities — all with a light, cheery, optimistic spirit. This is what folks are craving. Those who embrace it in 2021 will take a powerful lead over those who remain in a heavy 2020 mode.  


Hybrid Work Environments 

Kristen Violetta, Director of Project Management

Last year, many companies had to quickly adapt to the WFH (work from home) lifestyle, adjusting on the fly to get the job done while collaborating remotely. In 2021, I foresee another shift taking place that includes a hybrid approach, where people may return to the office, while others remain at home. It will be a fresh, new challenge to find ways where everyone can continue to work together in an effective way, whether in person or virtually.


Positive Brands

Tony Godzik, Creative Director

Brands built around truth, transparency, and positivity will rise to the top. Consumers, now more than ever, are on high-alert for anything that doesn’t feel authentic and are quick to uncover the truth and hold those brands accountable. That doesn’t just relate to the product or service; it’s culture deep, it’s the company purpose, principles, practices, affiliations, and it’s employees. Brands that can authentically connect with consumers over a shared purpose and take meaningful action will thrive. 


Even More Connected

Matt Crigger, Interactive Media Director

We are all desperate for real human interaction (even the introverts I know want more than they have now). A phone call in 2019 used to be enough to function as a quick “touch base” or a “stop-gap” between in-person visits to make you feel like you still connected, knowing that we’ll do an in-person meeting in a few weeks. But the convenience and far more personable nature of online connecting over a quick text, or email, make the “old days” of even talking on the phone feel archaic and impersonal. Online conferences in 2019 used to feel awkward. Now talking without the visual feedback does. Our desire to see the person on the other end of the line makes us feel more connected and human.


New Visual Language

Emma Leising, Graphic Designer

For decades industries like politics, healthcare, and professional athletics have been relatively standardized. In 2021, we will witness those rules relax. In the world of politics, gradients are replacing the patriotic red and blue palette, and Gotham is taking a backseat to more decorative typefaces. In the healthcare space, brands are simplifying and opting for warmer palettes with more human touches. Rebrands for athletic institutions, like Seattle Kraken and Sevilla FC, have benefited from unexpectedly bold choices like unique typography, illustration, pattern, and animation.


These changes go to show the opportunity for growth in unexpected, traditionally laggard markets. They may also prove to open a pandora’s box of brands chasing trends and originality over authenticity. Successful brands will make bold design choices, but only when it makes sense in the context of the brand as a whole. 


Unprecedented Empathy

Charlie Kamper, Intern

In 2021, I predict that the word “unprecedented” will be removed from the branding dictionary; it has a good run of overuse in 2020. Hopefully, 2021 is the year of precedent-setting normalcy, and the world enters an era of appreciation for how quickly life can be thrown into turmoil. That being said, 2020 proved that shared turmoil is a powerful agent for collaborative change and action, and this was highly evident when working from home. The team at Phire Group became connected in a way that inspired renewed empathy, and in 2021, I am confident that this will continue. From a brand standpoint, renewed empathy is the objective as well. I suspect many of the messages we receive in 2021 will revolve around seeing brands from an empathetic, human viewpoint, particularly because these times are so unpreced—


More Brand Accountability + Transparency

Melissa Cho, Graphic Designer

With the popularity of social media, consumers are more empowered today to keep companies accountable for their actions. Consumers are clever and well informed, and they have a larger voice for brands to listen to. Since brands can easily receive feedback from their consumers and even get “canceled” for their beliefs, we’ll see more transparency and social responsibility from brands.

The “Feel Seen” Effect

Valentina Silva, Senior Copywriter

2020 caused some quick, dramatic shifts in the way brands present themselves. As they strive to connect with customers, many have embraced inclusion like never before. A much broader range of ethnicities, body types, and representations of family are now the expectation. Smaller, independent companies have really driven this phenomenon, and I think that’s because their main mode of advertising tends to be on social media, where they can have actual, real-time discussions with their customers. The result is instant feedback and exceptional insight into how to make their audiences “feel seen.” Larger organizations will have to adapt to this new type of customer engagement and respond with an intensely more personalized approach — doing away with corporate speak and canned responses — in their advertising and ever-crucial one-on-one interactions. 


Creating an Experience

Grace Winkel, Graphic Designer

A brand is no longer just a logo, a product, and a website. Consumers are noticing brands who create a memorable experience. Personalization and presentation is key! With unboxings becoming popular and more virtual exposure: the whole process from introduction to purchase has to feel considered, exciting, and like the consumer is being wrapped in a big branded hug. Everything has to be consistent on and off screen. In 2021, we will see more brands creating personal experiences and embracing human connection.


Honest to Goodness

Alex Schillinger, Media Director

Brands will take action in 2021. As accountability, transparency, and social responsibility continue to play a role in a holistic brand experience, action will speak louder than words. In 2021, brands will be required to walk the walk. For strong brands with purpose, this isn’t an issue. But for brands that lack an authentic message/experience, more will be justifiably demanded.

Phire Group Team
Co-Authored Blog

Phire Group is a team that works to inspire organizations to find their unique spark. This post is a collection of their voices.