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5 Hottest Marketing Trends For 2021

What are the hottest marketing trends? Elaine Chan, marketing expert and associate professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s Nanyang Business School, tells you what to look out for


Tue Feb 2 2021


“The pandemic has made companies realize the increasing importance of reaching consumers digitally,” says Elaine Chan, marketing expert and associate professor of marketing at Nanyang Business School (NBS) in Singapore.

2020 saw a 30% increase in the online market for food and household goods alone, according to data from McKinsey. In 2021, marketers need a combination of creativity and tech-savvy to connect with consumers who increasingly shop online. 

Elaine, who is also academic director of the MSc in Marketing Science program at NBS, part of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), works to integrate the latest marketing trends and developments she witnesses into the MSc program.

BusinessBecause spoke with Elaine to find out what she thinks the year ahead has in store for the world of marketing and five of the hottest marketing trends to look out for in 2021.

1. New platforms will emerge

One important area of growth for marketers in 2021 will be utilizing new platforms like voice marketing: reaching shoppers through their interactions with smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home Hub.

“Voice shopping is going to be a trend,” Elaine explains. “Not only are people spending more time at home, but they’re also becoming more accustomed to interacting with these devices.”

Another important platform will be esports. This growing industry was valued at $1.1 billion in 2020. Big brands like Coca-Cola have already recognized the value of this audience, and became an official sponsor of the Overwatch League in 2019. Elaine expects that other brands will follow suit in 2021. 

To help students effectively leverage these diverse channels, the MSc in Marketing Science program at NBS includes a course in integrated marketing communication. In class, students learn how to create an effective cross-channel campaign.

 As new platforms continue to emerge, students will learn to assess and harness each channel’s unique strengths and limitations, building the seamless experience today’s customers want.

2. AI use will accelerate

The use of AI will be another trend in 2021. Elaine expects chat-bots to be a particularly important tool for customer service, helping the high number of consumers that e-commerce facilitates.

The same natural language processing technology that underpins these chat-bots can equally help brands to deliver quality written content.

“If AI can generate copy in the right style, it will save a lot of labor, and allow companies to build a strong presence in a short time,” Elaine explains. 

The integration of tech and marketing is thoroughly explored at NBS. The MSc in Marketing Science covers developments including virtual and augmented reality, as well as AI. 

“Because of NTU Singapore’s background in technology, we have the expertise to offer those courses,” Elaine notes. The program also features regular industry panels, where students can hear how new tech developments are being leveraged by marketers in a real-world setting.

3. Online and real-world experiences will blend

The shift to online shopping is also creating new opportunities for brands to offer memorable shopping experiences. 

Elaine expects more brand collaboration with livestreamers to make online shopping more interactive. Consumers will be able to watch their favorite influencers navigate a store, reviewing products in real-time that they can purchase themselves from home.

“Livestreaming commerce is already very popular in China, but it’s expanding abroad—I expect it to be big in 2021,” Elaine predicts. As a business school combining Asian insights with global perspectives, NBS will be well-placed to understand this trend as it spreads.

Cosmetics companies will also turn to interactive experiences to help consumers online. Since in-store makeup samples are no longer an option, Elaine thinks that more brands will develop augmented reality apps where customers can virtually “try on” their products. 



4. Data analysis will become more important

In 2021, marketers have access to more customer data than ever before, as the proportion of purchases made online continues to rise.

Elaine believes that developing new ways to harness this data will be another trend in the marketing world. “The more digitally savvy and data-literate you are, the easier it is to find a job in this digital era,” she reflects.

With this in mind, Elaine ensures that the MSc in Marketing Science at NBS equips students with the data interpretation skills required to succeed. 

“We offer courses in digital marketing and data analytics so students can hone their analytical skills,” she notes.

Through these learning experiences, students learn data visualization and analysis, using the insights gleaned to reach customers more effectively and efficiently—all while building a stronger brand.


5. Mission-driven marketing will become more prominent

Alongside their innovative use of technology, Elaine expects brands to place even greater emphasis on their values and mission in 2021.

Thanks to online news and social media, consumers are more engaged with social issues than ever before, and want to support companies that share their values. 

“Consumers want to see how the company is having an impact and the values it stands for,” Elaine explains. One good example of mission-driven marketing comes from the sportswear firm, Nike. 

“During the pandemic, they spread a message of persistence in the face of adversity through their campaigns,” Elaine notes. This powerful messaging helped Nike’s valuation grow from $34.8 billion to $36.7 billion over the course of 2020. 

Communicating a company’s mission seamlessly like this is a key challenge, but at NBS, the school mission to empower students so they can lead with impact ensures ethical values are often front and center in discussions.

Because understanding consumer values is equally vital, consumer insights is a key pillar of the MSc in Marketing Science curriculum, Elaine adds. Along with the fundamentals of market research, the curriculum covers the more complex topic of neuromarketing—using brain science to assess the impact of marketing on consumers, resulting in a more accurate understanding of their needs.

These techniques help marketers understand consumers’ subconscious reactions to a brand, which doesn’t always match their professed feelings.

“Our program takes a very holistic understanding of marketing,” Elaine comments. Students also have the chance to apply this holistic approach in a real-world setting through the strategic marketing course. In this class, a company representative presents a marketing issue their business is facing, and challenges students to develop a solution.

“The last strategic marketing project was such a success that the company wanted to hire some of our students as interns,” Elaine reveals.

 “We want our graduates to understand who the consumer is and how best to reach them, so they can craft effective marketing campaigns in this digital era,” she says.

Student Reviews

Nanyang Business School




Good campus life and extra-curricular activities

This is a great place to learn and interact with more like-minded people. The campus is something that stands out to me. The infrastructure is great and the university is very well-built. There is lots to do on the high campus, from a large number of eating joints to the numerous clubs and sports activities. I also quite like Singapore as a country, as there is so much to do around not very far from campus. The educational facilities are extremely good, there are lots of opportunities to take on research projects and do industrial projects, which I really enjoy. The only thing I dislike about NTU is that the number of international students is really low and I would like to see a larger international intake in the future. Definitely recommend for the amazing educational facilities and on-campus social life.




An international campus that provided diverse choices for students

It's a beautiful campus with a high degree of internationality, providing diverse choices for students in terms of research opportunities and career consultation. Also, scholars are knowledgable and very inspiring, and are good at motivating the thinking of students.




Great University

In overall, the university has met my expectations with its wonderful lectures and research staff. However, there are some issues with the administrative side, i.e. administration may give you different answers on the same question. Also, the university’s website often provides outdated information and it takes time to get what you need; perhaps there is not enough people for managing it.




Good resources

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On Campus

inefficient communication and lack of transparency

The administrative team at the university is slow to respond and is often inadequate in their responses and solutions. The uni is also unclear and resistant to explain their actions and motivations when carrying out policies or when questioned




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Formative experience for success

NTU prioritizes giving students ample time for independent research. The academic schedule consists of 6–7 weeks of study, followed by a week without classes, allowing students to catch up on any material they may have missed. This is succeeded by another 6–7 weeks of study, culminating in a week dedicated to final exam preparation and exams. The curriculum is designed to be student-friendly, minimizing burdens such as excessive assignments, projects, exams, quizzes, and attendance requirements. This approach affords students the freedom to pursue personal interests and self-development. In my experience, each of the four courses I took had a comparable workload, typically comprising 2 assignments, 3 easy labs, 2–3 quizzes (some without), and 1 final exam. In contrast, comparable courses at other universities often entail significantly heavier workloads, including 3 homework assignments, 5 projects, 5–6 pop-up quizzes, mandatory attendance, 2 midterms, and 1 final exam. Moreover, each project typically demands 3–4 days of work. It is hard work, but it pays off.




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Academic atmosphere

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On Campus

Diverse professors

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I have been extremely impressed with the quality of education I have received. The professors are knowledgeable, approachable, and passionate about their subjects, which makes learning engaging and enjoyable. The teaching styles vary from lecture-based to interactive discussions and group projects, providing a well-rounded learning experience. The use of technology in the classrooms also enhances our understanding of the course material. One of the things I love about NTU is the diversity on campus. Not only are there students from all over the world, but the professors also come from various backgrounds, making the learning environment truly global. English is the main language spoken on campus, which makes it easy for international students to feel at home. In terms of examinations and coursework, the workload can be challenging at times, but the support from professors and classmates makes it manageable. The exams are fair and assess our understanding of the material effectively.




On Campus

Video lectures

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On Campus

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Nanyang Technological University (NTU) excels in its focus on engineering and science degrees. The curriculum is robust, integrating theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Professors are industry experts, providing invaluable insights. State-of-the-art facilities enhance learning experiences. Opportunities for research and internships abound, fostering innovation and professional growth. NTU's emphasis on cutting-edge technology prepares students for real-world challenges. NTU's commitment to engineering and science education is unparalleled, shaping tomorrow's leaders in these fields.





great canteens

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On Campus

high quality education

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a top-notch educational institution that offers a wide range of programs and opportunities for students. The campus is well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, and the faculty members are highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields. As a student at NTU, I have had a positive experience so far. The university provides a conducive learning environment and encourages students to think critically and creatively. The campus is vibrant and diverse, with a strong sense of community among students and staff. I would definitely recommend NTU to prospective students looking for a high-quality education in a supportive and stimulating environment. The opportunities for research, internships, and extracurricular activities are plentiful, and the university is committed to providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for future success.




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On Campus

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As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I'm thoroughly impressed with the quality of education. The faculty is highly knowledgeable and supportive, fostering an engaging learning environment. Tuition fees are reasonable for the value provided. The campus food options are diverse and delicious, catering to various dietary preferences. The transport system is efficient, with easy access to public transportation. NTU offers a high quality of life, combining academic excellence with a vibrant campus culture.




On Campus

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At Nanyang Technological University, I find the tuition fees reasonable considering the quality of education and resources provided. The university offers diverse programs, experienced faculty, modern facilities, and opportunities for research and internships. While tuition costs are substantial, the value for money is evident in the comprehensive learning experience and the potential for career advancement. NTU delivers on its promise of excellence, making it a worthwhile investment in one's future.




On Campus

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I am a student at Nanyang Technological University and I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of my program. The lectures are engaging, delivered by knowledgeable professors who make complex concepts easy to understand. The classroom setup is modern and conducive to learning, with interactive technology enhancing the educational experience. Exams are challenging yet fair, testing our understanding and critical thinking skills effectively. In my leisure time, I appreciate the vibrant campus life, with a variety of clubs, events, and facilities to explore, fostering a well-rounded university experience.




On Campus

Studying in Singapore

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