Marketing Takeaways From 2020: What We Learned, What We Did Wrong, and What We Are Focused on for the Future

Updated: February 12, 2021
Marketing Takeaways From 2020: What We Learned, What We Did Wrong, and What We Are Focused on for the Future

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2020 was one for the record books. Companies had to adapt, and they had to do so while flying by the seat of their pants.

It was uncharted territory for individuals and businesses alike. But of everything that happened, one positive that can be gleaned from the past year is what we learned.

In achieving marketing resilience, learning from what worked and what didn’t is key. So as we head toward a goal of building market resiliency in 2021, what is the most important lesson that we take with us into the future?

What worked in 2020


No one could have anticipated what 2020 held back in January of that year. But by the middle of March, it became clear that marketing plans were laid to waste.

Those that did well were those who were able to be flexible and adapt to whatever was in store. It’s important to take that into the future.

Although we’ve gotten used to this “new normal,” the only certain thing the future holds will be more change, making flexibility a trait to hold onto. 


This year was packed with emotion, and being able to connect on that level was important. One of the best ways to share emotions is through actions, and for marketing that means sharing high-value content


Your company’s values are who you are at the very core.

People are connecting to companies on deeper levels these days, and they are looking for brands that take a stand on the causes they believe in.

Businesses have an increasing role in leading change in this arena. How does your company incorporate values into its Content Marketing?


Taking a stand doesn’t do any good if your actions don’t match your words. It’s important to make sure your gestures are in line with your actions. And when you do make mistakes, own up to it.

If you become unexpectedly backordered, get ahead of the problem by explaining exactly what it is and how you will fix it. 


A lot of budgets got cut in response to the events of 2020, and marketing was often a prime target.

That meant instead of trying to do everything at once, or aiming for big and splashy, instead, marketers found success by going back to basics, from making certain that data was being utilized properly to having a robust content strategy plan. 

Marketing trends from 2020 that are here to stay

Beyond overall themes, there were definite trends that swept 2020 that are not going anywhere anytime soon.

While many of these were on the rise long before COVID-19, they experienced a surge due to the circumstances. 

Digital events

Events have been a crucial part of marketing for some time. The inability to meet in person led to an expansion in how we define events, and it also made consumers hungry to connect digitally.

The creativity with which this was approached, from live music to cooking classes, promises future growth in the area. 

Digital expansion

How much is e-commerce a part of your business? How integrated is that e-commerce with social media?

Even businesses that are not directly in sales can make use of e-commerce through their marketing departments, and they can do it right on existing social media platforms with the latest technology.

Data-driven insights

Data remains as important as ever. It’s what allows marketers to do their job, deliver the most relevant content, and reach the target audience. Data is the most powerful tool a marketer has. 


Going hand in hand with the most effective use of data is personalization. By utilizing data the right way, you can create a marketing experience that is individually targeted to who you want to reach. 

Software as a service

The power to do more than ever before in-house is at your fingertips with all that SaaS offers.

From creating the most high-tech content to collecting the data it produces, SaaS offers tools that get the job done. 

Artificial intelligence

While AI has been quite important to the back end of marketing for some time now, we are seeing it become more important in direct interactions with the consumer.

For instance, how might the virtual assistants that we have come to rely on more and more figure into marketing? As we live in smarter homes, how will our marketing expectations change? 


Even with the best tools in the world, no one can get the job done alone. From writers to designers, some of the best talent out there has gone the freelance route, and it is wise, and cost-saving, for marketers to use them. 

Marketing mistakes of 2020

The year was filled with challenges, and it would be unrealistic to expect that mistakes wouldn’t be made in response to handling them.

Here are the three errors we saw in 2020.

1. Failing to utilize data

Faced with smaller budgets and unprecedented circumstances that had to be adapted to and handled quickly, it often became tempting to throw data insights out the window and respond off the cuff instead.

The power of data can never be overstressed when it comes to marketing, and this strategy was bound to fail in both the short and long term.  

2. Not using personalization

Perhaps this was tied into failing to invest in data, as personalization is so dependent on that.

Personalization is one of the most effective marketing techniques, and those not taking full advantage are missing out.

3. Cutting marketing budgets

So many businesses had to make cuts, and for many, in a time of economic recession, it made sense to give up on marketing growth.

Having marketing resilience means planning for the long term and continuing to grow even in adversity.

Marketing is at the heart of any business’s success and cutting the budget when it was needed most often meant priorities weren’t in the right place. 

What 2021 holds for the future of marketing

While we all hope that 2021 holds some relief, it’s not likely that live events will return anytime during the year, certainly not at the scale and frequency with which they were around in the past.

The way we interact in general has changed, and that means marketers must adjust. They have to be flexible and use the tools that best allow them to successfully achieve their goals, from e-commerce on social media platforms to data-driven personalization.

It’s critical that in 2021 businesses keep track of the latest marketing technology. 

As we said, data-driven marketing should be a big part of your strategy. To learn more about it, download the 4th issue of our Rock Content Magazine!

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