Saffron’s Predictions for 2021

2020 was an extraordinary year. The pandemic was felt all over the world and has left a devastating mark. Yet this dire situation has exposed the best of us: our humanity, our solidarity, our humility and our resilience. From a business perspective, we have seen brands use the disruption to shake up internal bottlenecks, infuse innovation into their work, maintain focus on their customers and their changing habits.

Saffron’s predictions for 2021 are heavily influenced by the changing consumer habits, behaviours and sentiments shared by millions as a result of the social, mental and even physical changes we all felt due to the pandemic and the consequential confinement. Have human beings and the way brands interact with them changed forever?

WFH, not so cool after all

After so many months with no or limited access to colleagues, people will rediscover the magic of real life and will want to enjoy it again. Yes, balancing work and life is crucial, but regardless of the job, physical presence, eye to eye and body language will come back to our lives sooner than we all expect. Steve Jobs for one, was a famous opponent to remote work, believing that Apple employees’ best work came from accidentally bumping into one another, not sitting at home in front of an email inbox. For brands planning 2021, engaging teams internally and ensuring that the brand’s promise is lived within is critical. HR, Brand, Marketing and Communications teams must include those employees that choose to work from home in a more concerted way and plan for ways so that employees might ‘bump’ into one another, even online. Jacob Benbunan, CEO and Founder.

Explosion of joy

After all the suffering and pain we have gone through this year, consumers will strive to do more good, gradually be more socially conscious and might adopt more humanistic ways of behaving. Brands should engage with their consumers and other stakeholders by leading the conversation in a real human manner and by making real commitments in regard to the environment and society. Alfredo Fraile, Chief Business Development Officer.

The rise of comfy brands

Some brands from the FMCG and entertainment worlds have been able to profit from the pandemic in 2020. They have put a focus on creating comfort in people's homes, on their dinner tables and, ultimately, in their minds. They have provided some element of tranquility as uncertainty increases everywhere. Other industries have already begun to take note, with financial services and automotive brands also beginning to engage in this conversation around  'well-being'. The trend will continue into the new year, with brands from diverse backgrounds adopting elements of what the Danes/Norwegians call 'hygge' and the Austrians refer to as 'Gemütlichkeit' as part of their brand personality. This will be reflected in the tone of voice, visual language and branded experiences that these brands opt for in 2021. Ben Knapp, Chief Growth Officer.

Pandemic fatigue leading to no-BS branding 

Pandemic fatigue is leading to social fatigue and even social unrest, as we are sadly witnessing in many countries. This negative feeling caused by the confinement experienced all over the world is sure to extrapolate how people interact with brands. The consequence for brands will be to ensure their communication is clear, direct, simplified, and consists of actionable interaction. There has never been a more important time for brands to ensure they are useful and communicate the practical benefit they deliver to customers. It’s time for no-BS branding and for brands to listen to their customers to ensure they maintain their relevance in a rapidly changing world. Fernando Ortiz Ehmann & Zahra Subjally, Chief Strategy Officer & Marketing Manager.

Radical transparency as a standard

During 2020, we have seen brands being held accountable for the impact they have in the world. Sustainability, Black Lives Matter, gender diversity have become not just environmental and social movements championed by the few. Having clarity and real commitments in these areas has become an absolute must. In 2021, we will see brands being built and adapted to have equality at their core. We will see real corporate environmental footprint goals as brands are held to account by their customers. Charlotte Black, Strategy Director.

‘Product’ brands 

It’s not a coincidence that 7 of the 10 most valuable companies in the world are tech companies. They enable us to share 15 second clips of The Weekend’s 'Blinding Lights', to collaborate with our colleagues from home like never before or even allow us to binge-purchase delicious (and healthy?) organic wine. As ever present that these tech brands have become in our lives, so will their features and functionalities infuse into their brands. Further blurring the lines between (digital) product and brand design, where augmentation of the digital experience – however literal or abstract – will become ever more common place in the way brands express themselves. Drew Coughlan, Design Director.

The power of QR codes

When QR codes were first invented in the ‘90s, many predicted that they would do big things for advertising. This didn’t happen. However, fast forward 10-15 years, add a global Covid-19 pandemic and boom, they have become a part of our daily lives. In 2021, we believe that they will offer new opportunities for brands to improve their customer journeys and brand experience. Claire Huxley, Strategist.

Regenerative brands

In the years leading up to 2020 we were waiting for leaders to talk about global issues. But now more than just talk, leaders are worrying about them and acting upon them. Regenerative brands will not only worry, but they will think and act. They won’t only innovate but challenge the status quo. They are not only 'designed for' but 'designed with.'  Isilay Kocabas, New Business Executive.

Local & sustainable consumerism first 

Prompted by the pandemic and accelerated by the economic difficulties we find ourselves in now because of it, people are looking to support their local and small businesses through the crisis. Whereas at one time the textbook strategy for growth was to “go global”, the newfound protectionist sensibilities of consumers may put global brands with no real point of origin on the back foot. What might help give these global brands the edge in this potentially hostile environment, is engaging with audiences through brand stories. To learn more about them, find our insight piece dedicated to them, hereElena Espinosa & Michele Richner, Account Director & Strategist.

Ghost cities 

We have recently seen many citydwellers packing up their once prized central apartments for the wide open space offered by the countryside. As these customers shift their priorities, slowing their lifestyle pace and buying locally, brands in 2021 need to align with these concepts to keep their appeal, of course all the while maintaining authenticity.  Claudia Machado, Programme Manager.

The rise of co-branding and partnerships 

When times are tough, brands with similar missions can lean on one other to meet their business goals. Companies will be much more careful with how they spend their profits in 2021, meaning tighter marketing budgets. So when brands do eventually launch marketing campaigns, they'll be looking for the lowest risk and biggest bang for their buck. Intentional partnerships and strategic co-branding opportunities will be one way for brands that seek to broaden their reach and tap into new audiences. Maddie McGregor, Strategist.

Brands will need rituals

How many of you wave your hand at the end of zoom meeting? Probably most. It’s interesting because we never do or have done this gesture in face to face meetings. How many of you have worked out in the house instead of the gym? These are changes that consumers have adapted to in a short space of time, and that brands should leverage in order to be part of these new rituals and thus connect with their consumers. Turgay Adiyaman, Managing Director.

2021 is set to be another volatile year. Whilst we cannot predict anything with total certainty, it is clear that opportunities are often born from disruption. By using brand as a northstar to navigate the way ahead, organisations can ensure they are prepared for the future.

To find out more about how to make your brand work in 2021, get in touch at