Think about trust and trauma to move forward

Dentsu predicts safety and virtual platforms will still be important, even as people carefully curate their digital spaces.

The latest insights from Dentsu’s 2021 trend report reveal two consistent themes going forward as we continue to struggle through the pandemic, trust and trauma.

These two core issues that the pandemic has brought to the forefront, can be partly ameliorated through tech, provided brands keep consumer mental health top-of-mind.


At the outset of the pandemic, some businesses quickly rose to the occasion, gaining trust in a variety of low-tech ways that soon became standard,  extending return policies, giving raises for workers deemed essential and safeguards for frontline employees.

And trust will continue to be key: 62% of consumers will switch to brands that show higher levels of product safety, even after the pandemic is over. Whether it’s using existing innovations or a developing a brand’s own bespoke technology, Dentsu says companies are looking into tech-fueled features to address heightened safety concerns: human-less services, touchless payments, digital showrooms or even AR experiences.

For example, Cadillac and Nissan were able to connect with consumers through a virtual showroom.

In the traditional digital world, Dentsu says that a brand’s internet footprint shouldn’t be an afterthought and that organizations should explore channels like Twitch which were previously deemed too niche as now almost everyone is a gamer.

The Nintendo Animal Crossing franchise launched a new version the week the world went into lockdown, and big brands hopped aboard as a way to engage with people, literally at arm’s length. Hudson’s Bay opted to  launch a product line, while prominent fashion labels like Valentino and Marc Jacobs launched their spring and fall collections through in-game codes. Not to be outdone, on the CPG front, Unilever’s Hellmann’s brand used the game to convey a message about food waste in an entirely unique context.

Meanwhile, more consumers are placing their trust in voice activated user interfaces, where Denstu says we are “entering a new dawn of commerce.” According to a global study conducted by Microsoft and iProspect, 72% of consumers expect to be able to make purchases with their favourite brands via a voice assistant, while 85% expect their voice assistant to make purchase recommendations.

As an example of a brand harnessing the power of voice, Nike created a live, NBA in-game shopping experience where fans could get what their favourite athletes were wearing during the game simply by asking their Google Assistant.


Social media app usage increased in 2020 across all platforms, even including LinkedIn. However, Dentsu warns that social media users now have “an acute awareness to the excess of emotionally triggering content” that targets them. As such, many users have activated time spent alerts, and downloaded tools that limit app usage, reducing the psychological load from the constant barrage of content with no context.

Brands need to be vigilant around tone, imagery and the current social climate, not just for their own brand health, but to show understanding for users’ mental health too.

The pandemic has given rise to increased attention and dialogue about the real meaning of health and wellbeing, and an acknowledgment that being healthy goes far beyond physical fitness. This has resulted in an explosion of products and services from meditation to wearables that are increasingly seen as legitimate and trusted parts of wellness and self-care to the average consumer.