The top 100 trends that will shape 2021

wt 100 trends 2021

Wunderman Thompson, a WPP agency, has launched its annual Future 100 report, lifting the lid on trends shaping the coming 12 months. 

The report is developed by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, the agency’s futures think tank and innovation unit.

100 trends

These wide-ranging trends look at creative innovations set to go mainstream along with shifts in consumer behaviours, across 10 different sectors. 

It also features 20 opinions from experts including Brenda Milis, principal of creative and consumer insights at Adobe Stock and Don Stein, CEO and founder of Teooh, Mark Reid WPP, among many others.

WT report cover (1)
Coming your way: How the global pandemic is changing the way we live, work and play.

The one hundred trends are drawn from the culture, technology, travel, branding & marketing, food & drink, beauty, retail, health, business and finance sectors. 

For the first time, the report also looks at work trends, as the dual forces of a mass shift to home working and the rise in unemployment fuelled by the pandemic, change our professional lives dramatically.

“At a time when gaining a competitive advantage has never been more important, the Future 100 report reveals the key trends that will shape consumer behaviour and define the way ambitious brands engage with their customers during the coming year”, said Mel Edwards, Global CEO, Wunderman Thompson. 

“These insights will help marketing leaders inspire growth for their organisations and move forward into 2021 with confidence and optimism.”

Emma Chiu, Global Director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, said: “Few of us will have experienced quite as much drama on a societal and global level as we did in 2020”. 

“The fallout from that is more new trends than we’ve seen since we started publishing The Future 100, and behaviours which had been evolving slowly thrust into the mainstream. 

“Knowing which of these trends matter and why has never been so important for marketers at a time when the very survival of many brands depends on adapting at pace.”

Developments under the spotlight include:


Move over side hustles, there is a startup boom in the making, fuelled by the pandemic and rising unemployment, driving more and more people to make entrepreneurship their next career move

Immunity wellness

The world has never been so interested in how our immune systems can be boosted and the coming year will see numerous experts telling us how; from ancient treatments to DNA research. There’s also been an increased focus on mental health, with alternative medication such as cannabis taking the forefront; find more about it here

Unbiased banking

Another industry where inclusivity is on the rise is banking – specifically the online-only neo-banks, including Simba and Greenwood, which address the frequently overlooked needs of minority groups

Cloud gaming

As video games become the latest media to get ‘Netflixised’, major players, including Amazon, Google, Tencent, Microsoft, Sony and Facebook, are betting big on cloud gaming

Multigenerational travel

Extended families, forced to spend so much time apart in 2020, are increasingly likely to opt to vacation together – often a practical choice as well as a caring one

Ethical scoreboard

A rise in the number of platforms which monitor corporate behaviour, as more people make purchase decisions influenced by brand purpose

Ghost kitchens

Influenced by the growth of delivery-first dining, this new restaurant concept sees off-premises dining prioritised

wt 100 trends 2021
Eating in but out: Restaurants and dining is set to be transformed amid the COVID19 pandemic.

Foraged ingredients

Not another food trend, but a beauty one, with the emergence of new skincare brands made with wild-harvested plants and promising potent result

Intersectional beauty

In an industry where diversity has been sorely lacking, independent brands are now leading the way in championing intersectional beauty, such as LGBTQ+ advocate We Are Fluide and indigenous-owned Prados Beauty

Live commerce

Retail-tainment is moving online with engaging, tailored shopping experiences using video streaming to demonstrate and sell products and interact with customers in real time

wt 100 trends 2021
Facing up: Beauty industry set to become more diverse-aware when it comes to gender fluidity.

2021 brands & marketing highlights include:

Big brands go circular

Brands are acknowledging that the second-hand market is key in the circular economy. Playing an active role in the fashion recycling business means they can weed out fakes and keep resale values buoyant, which in turn shores up first-sale prices.

Fan fidelity

Sports are enhancing digital fan engagement, ushering in a rich new era that prioritises experience and immersion across multiple digital touch-points, offering brands a new playbook for consumer engagement which could hold the key to long-term loyalty.

Brand academy

Lockdowns have pushed 1.5 billion students home from school, causing barriers to learning but an opportunity for brands to help. While branded education is not new – McDonald’s founded its Hamburger University in 1961 – companies are now looking to train not just future employees, but future generations.

TikTok ads

TikTok is building advertising and e-commerce functionalities that will see the platform mature into a powerful social commerce tool as well as an epoch-defining creative hub. Having a rival like Triller snapping at its heels is not a bad thing either.

Branding together

A new class of leadership means that brands are putting aside competition and instead collaborating to tackle social and environmental challenges, demonstrating that change requires collaborative effort.

The visual language of connectivity

Scenes of clustered crowds and large gatherings remain inappropriate in 2021. Brands and advertisers are opting instead for smaller group settings and capturing intimate moments to convey a feeling of community

Ethical scoreboard

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement and a fraught political atmosphere. Consumers are taking strong stances in terms of their values, and are demanding that brands do the same.


From cinemas becoming restaurants to airport runways turning into drive-ins, innovative companies are finding new ways to repurpose empty venues, sparking joy in tough times and highlighting the role agility and collaboration can play in adjusting to change.

wt 100 trends 2021
Agile collaboration: Innovation will see all kinds of venues ‘repurposed’ for the future.

Brand safety

Brands are realising that they must do good by their communities to protect their reputations. The communication of a brand’s values goes far beyond its products; it includes everything from brand actions to treatment of employees to the context in which its ads appear.

Campaign: uplift

In these days of sickness, poverty and hardship, brands and marketers are trying to uplift people, particularly around major holidays. While vaccines give hope, campaigns will continue to highlight how in uplifting others, we are ourselves uplifted.