As 2021 approaches, we can’t help but wonder… will this year be remembered more for tragedy or dramatic transformation? Here are the dramatically transformative behaviors on the horizon:

A year of purpose-driven purchasing.

The word privilege has dominated our media, our searches, and our everyday conversation. In 2021, it will be the idea of privilege that changes our behavior. We will ask ourselves with every purchase, every decision — when it comes to what I’m buying, how am I using my privilege to lift others up? Who is benefiting from me purchasing this item? Am I supporting the right causes? Could I buy it somewhere else with more intention? This means that there will be an increased pressure on brands to demonstrate their impact beyond the items they sell, and make the argument to consumers why they deserve your dollars over another competitor. It’s not just about their products either — but also about their advertising practices. Whether it’s watching videos paid for by a brand and then choosing a charity where a proportion of that media ad buy becomes a donation, or the use of a Search engine that plants trees based on a % of paid search dollars — these companies are pioneering an additive approach to doing good while doing well.

A year of more complex narratives.

The scales of content ownership have tipped — company leads and show-runners must meet the demands of consumers more than ever before. As content offerings grow and diversify, viewers want work that represents their own stores (LGBTQ+, BIPOC, etc), that they can more easily find on streaming platforms. This demand for more diverse storytelling will push more mainstream content creators out of their comfort zones and into a more progressive, inclusive version of storytelling. It isn’t just consumers either, but those participating in the work. Take The Bold Type’s Aisha Dee, who earlier this year called out the shows writers publicly for being almost 100% white, and for writing a narrative for her Queer, WOC character that felt dishonest and misrepresenting of her identity’s roots. More and more, we will see creators being held accountable for telling complex, authentic stories.

A year about people, not purchases.

This isn’t just about shopping small, although this has been a movement pushed forward by 2020. This past year taught us to appreciate the importance of relationships and personal experience with one another as opposed to buying more things. COVID has forced us to move away from the ever-expanding global desires we were all in pursuit of — more, bigger, further. How can brands rise to meet these adjusted priorities? As vaccination rates rise, it may require a greater emphasis on creating experiences for togetherness, and less about buying concrete things.

A year of turning in the receipts.

2020, in many ways, was the year of racial reckoning. Companies were exposed for their lackluster DE&I initiatives, and many committed to a stronger, more inclusive future. 2021, in turn, will be The Year of the Receipts — as a company, you promised you would do X, did you do it? Agencies will be pushed to transform their employee makeup as a higher degree of accountability at the individual, agency, and industry-wide level comes into focus. Is the inclusion our clients committed to short lived? Are we telling diverse stories with authenticity or are we stereotyping in the name of diversity? This means we need to get more deeply acquainted with these audiences, understanding the intersectionality of their behavior, beliefs, and motivations. This will ensure we are telling their stories in genuine ways, and that we are making an honest effort to be representative of the people we are looking to reach.

A year of seismic sprawl.

As we’ve all adopted virtual or hybrid lifestyles, the value of living in expensive cities is becoming more & more obsolete. People are opting for more affordability & more space, away from dense & costly cities. But cities are epicenters for culture — so how does culture grow & shift, now that everyone is everywhere? What is the purpose of a city if people move out? More than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities. What does economic growth look like when people move out? With more than 54% of people moving two+ hours from where they currently live, putting them out of commuting range, how will workplace culture change? But this shift will impact more than the office layout — droves of progressive city-goers moving to suburbs will shift not just economic and cultural, but political landscapes as well, transforming the suburbs into a perhaps Bluer political field.

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