2020 changed everything – the way we shop, consume media and what we do in our spare time (sourdough, anyone?).

As things start to return to business as usual, how have consumer spending habits changed, and what’s the flow-on effect for the way public relations professionals need to communicate with brands and media? We delve deep into three consumer trends that are need-to-know in 2021: 


Gone are the days where consumers saw shopping as strictly transactional. Even after a year of Zooming in their sweats, consumers are more connected than ever before, and want to go behind the scenes of their favourite brands. This calls for less quick-fix sales activations, and more authentic brand building.

This also means that 2021 is the year to get real with content, showcasing real people (team members, influencers, customers) with real lives. Focus on humanising your client’s brand and provide consumers with raw, authentic interactions rather than picture-perfect, unrealistic content. Think outside the box with the publications and influencers you engage with and decide whether they bring a level of authenticity to your relationship with your customers.

Ephemeral content is a key channel to explore in 2021 with it’s sense of spontaneity and realism – think Tik Tok, Instagram Stories, even Twitter and Linkedin have released short form video equivalents. As consumers flock to these channels for their “real” feel, PRs have the opportunity to leverage honest opinions on clients’ products, with audiences starting to trust influencers once more.

Jump on the Trend:

  • Try TikTok and other new channels that are having a moment. Think Clubhouse, Dispo – but do it strategically. PRs can be the linchpin between clients and trends, so provide recommendations to your clients about tapping into new and trending channels, as long as they feel like a brand fit and they’re where your clients’ customers are hanging out. Being an early adopter of a new channel can mean you’re able to establish a presence and get cut through before the masses come onboard, but only if it makes good business sense. 
  • Level up the representation in your imagery – instead of the picture-perfect instagram aesthetic, customers are now expecting imagery that represents models from a range of backgrounds and sizes. When planning photoshoots and advising brands on what’s going to resonate with media, ensure clients understand the importance of representing a diverse range of faces and bodies in their content. 


Faced with those graphic shots of nature taking back the streets during lockdown, consumers started to make understanding the environmental impact of their purchase decisions a non-negotiable. 

Consumers (71% of them) want to know the story behind the products they buy and want to be able to trace their origins. Share your clients’ environmental chops by connecting the consumer with the supply chain process, and don’t let brands hide from the fact they are still learning. Some of the biggest PR successes in the last year have come from brands admitting they don’t have all the answers. The secret? Brands can’t just admit fault and move on – the key is doing something about it, showing up every day, in every way!

2021 is the year to tell the story behind a brand’s sustainable practices, but don’t fudge the numbers – consumers are far too savvy to be duped into greenwashing.

Jump on the Trend:

  • Stay on top of the data. We recommend channels like Google Trends, Business of Fashion, even the good ol’ Australia Post eCommerce Retail Survey for staying on top of trends in consumer spending that will impact your clients, like the impact of sustainability and customer awareness.
  • According to the National Retail Federation, 81% of shoppers indicated that sustainability is important to them, so how are you telling your brand’s sustainability story? Ensure you’re thinking about it from all angles – for example, if you’re sending product to a publication, ditch the reams of plastic bubble wrap and look at recyclable options instead. 

Want more? Read our take on whether being green is sustainable and how tech is easing the pressure for brands and agencies


Particularly in the Australian market, consumers are incredibly optimistic, which gives business (and the PRs that love them) a unique opportunity to be brave when it comes to building a brand. The global pandemic has accelerated digital disruption, we have more access to data than ever before, and brands offering so-so experiences just won’t stick around. 

Brands will need to deliver as-good an experience online as they ever did in real life and Australian brands will have to catch up to the omni-channel experiences we’re now used to from the international brands we shopped in lockdown. The arrival of Amazon means super speedy delivery and competitive pricing is the baseline expectation, and we’re expecting a lot from even the smallest, boutique retailers – while also considering your eco-footprint. 

Jump on the trend:

  • We’re seeing a return to in-person events, which provides brands with the opportunity to do something different from your typical long lunch. Why not help brands celebrate their best customers instead of the standard Instagram set? 
  • Pop ups and activations help consumers get a feel for brands beyond just what they see online or instore. A pop up isn’t necessarily about quick sales, it’s about offering experiences that set brands apart from the competition, and we can’t wait to see what some of our faves will do in this space once we’re all safely out of lockdown.

Want to learn more about the importance of your brand? Read our article on brand vs branding here.

If ever there was a time to try new things, experiment and take risks, it’s 2021. Consumers are ready for some positivity, want to be excited by the brands they love, and are hungry for new experiences.

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Image source: Saba