2021 Coming in Hot: Predictions for the New Year from Generation Z

With just a few weeks left in one of the most unpredictable years we’ve seen in a while, everyone is excited to start looking ahead to a new year. New challenges, new possibilities, and new victories will be abundant in 2021, but will it be as unpredictable as 2020 has been? 

While there are sure to be at least some surprises, we wanted to get ahead of the curve and see if we could predict some trends and happenings in the world of college marketing. 

So, we asked our college interns and a few of our stellar student ambassadors from our Fall programs to take a shot at predicting trends in marketing, recruiting, business, and GenZ culture to ring in the new year. Here’s what they had to say: 

1. An increase in unexpected brand collaborations to drive new customer acquisition

From McDonald’s’ partnership with Travis Scott and J Balvin to create some fresh menu items, to Ben & Jerry’s collaboration with Nike SB to launch an exclusive branded pair of kicks, we’ve seen some wacky combinations of companies working together in 2020. And the wackiest part? These collaborations were wildly successful at bringing in new customers, driving sales, and creating buzz. 

This prediction comes from Senior Marketing major at Penn State, Alexis Dominguez. She is looking forward to more brands taking this approach in 2021, especially ones that have completely different audiences and industries: 

“I see brands starting to utilize collaborations with other brands (or people) in order to capture more of the market & attract customers outside of their normal market.”

2. GenZ paying more careful attention to companies’ CSR and social action

GenZ is often recognized as a generation heavily involved in social causes, philanthropy, and sustainability, and that isn’t changing in 2021. With the ongoing call for racial equality and support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we can expect young people to continue taking a stand for society in the new year. 

Our Marketing & Design Intern and Sophomore Graphic Design major at Portland State, Rubyjoy Pikes, is particularly passionate about this prediction: 

“From the start, GenZ has grown up next to a greater selection of diversity, such as race, religion, and gender, thus making us more accepting of the differences around us, but also more aware of the inequalities. We have a strong drive to make a change.”

With GenZ paying more attention to social issues and taking action in social justice, brands need to know that their efforts will be watched closely. Therefore, it will be important for companies to not only take action but show consumers what action they’re taking. It’s all about authenticity!

3. A rise in augmented reality on social media and e-commerce

Augmented reality is one of the hottest topics in the technology industry, and it’s been growing in popularity over the past several years. With the ongoing pandemic, this tech will become even more important and prominent in 2021, especially in the worlds of social media and e-commerce. 

In social media, AR already exists in some capacities. In the coming year, AR will become more important to increase engagement and adoption of platforms by both consumers and brands. 

In e-commerce, AR will become the solution for brands and companies looking for the impact of experience in a world where person-to-person interactions are limited. 

Senior Marketing major at Penn State, Anabel Baez, sees one particular adoption of AR coming into play for clothing and retail brands: 

“Especially now with Covid, where some retailers don’t allow people to try on clothing or even visit stores, I think there’s a possibility for brands to use AR to let people try things on virtually or visit a virtual store that seems almost tangible.”

4. A continued emphasis on influencer and ambassador marketing (especially on social media) 

Influencers have been an up-and-coming part of marketing strategy for a few years, and with traditional advertising becoming more crowded and less effective, brands will need to tap into influencers and ambassadors to drive loyalty and customer acquisition.

For GenZ (as several of our ambassadors and interns have mentioned to us), it’s all about trust, standing out, and making a positive impact. Influencers (especially student ambassadors or micro-influencers) are an authentic way to raise brand awareness and drive sales, but they also are more likely to be received positively by young people, making them the perfect avenue to share CSR initiatives or programs with young audiences.

5. Everyone (but especially GenZ) getting savvier on digital recruiting tactics, like social media and relationship-based career coaching

Recruiting is a lot like marketing in many ways, but instead of selling a product or service, you’re selling your brand, company culture, and role in society. 2020 has impacted the recruiting industry by limiting trusty recruiting tactics like career fairs, in-person interviews or info session events, and, in the case of college, visits to core campuses. We think traditional recruiting tactics were outdated. These changes were inevitable and might actually push the industry in the right direction in 2021.

From digital info sessions to social media networking to career coaching, recruiting has looked a bit different across the board, but especially among the college audience in their search for internships or post-grad jobs. 

Our intern Rubyjoy has been working closely with our recruiting partners this Fall to help them navigate this new world, and she predicts a continued adoption of digital recruiting tactics that make an impact, especially ones based on building relationships versus solely filling a hiring funnel.

What do you think will happen in the world of marketing this year? We want to help you get ahead of the curve and create something unique and exciting. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our website to get started on a partnership or program!