Highlights from Brent Adamson’s 2020 Review and 2021 Marketing Visions

Gartner Research & Findings of 2020 and Visions of 2021

Presented by: Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Gartner Research


It seems fitting that a presentation talking about marketing findings and trends from 2020 and looking forward to 2021 took place virtually. It’s been that kind of year. Where we, as marketers, are professionally developing through screens. Online. In fact, in 2020 the Calgary Marketing Association shifted all our events online and delivered 24 virtual webinars, panel discussions and mixers!

And this week we delivered our last in 2020. Phew. We made it.

The annual marketing trends event is usually one of the CMA’s most anticipated. It’s a hot ticket. A chance to toast the season with friends and colleagues and to start thinking about next year’s marketing and audience trends.

And turnout this week for our virtual event was good. Not amazing, but good. But I think attendance at the event is representative of what Brent Adamson from Gartner Research shared with us. Because this year’s presentation was less about audiences, segments and customers. It was about people. And, whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, your customers are people. And those people were affected by the pandemic in 2020. It caused increased stress and anxiety in all of us. And that shaped the year that was, and somewhat the year that is coming.

That’s where the presentation started. Stress & anxiety. Adamson shared that 44% of customers worry they missed a better option every time they make a purchase.

In fact, your customers (your people) need to be at the center of all your marketing efforts. That was the first big takeaway. Gartner completed 5 research studies and found the overall idea of helping customers feel more confident is the BEST way to drive revenue for your company.  Not a discount on their birthday

Confidence. It’s important.

Here are things marketers should consider while we think about helping customers increase their confidence.



The goal isn’t to help customers say I chose you but rather to say I chose well.

For the remainder of his presentation Adamson focused on FIVE quick views of major projects that Gartner worked on throughout the year that have impacts on Canadian marketers.


1. What does world class personalization look like?


Personalization is not a new concept in marketing. Many would argue it is essential to great marketing – understanding your audience and personalizing messaging and experiences just for them. Gartner completed a B2C study of thousands of consumers around the world. They asked people about the messaging they perceived to be personalized to them in some way and found that consumers perceive personalization to happen in two distinct categories:

  1. Prove you know me
  2. Help Me



However, these two types of personalization drive very different commercial impacts. Helping customers through their journey is more impactful than creeping them out by proving you know that individual. For 2021, think how you can HELP your customers. Because if you figure this out, there are significant commercial benefits that can impact:

  • Brand intent
  • Purchase
  • Repurchase
  • Increased cart size.


2. What kind of marketing content accelerates the purchase of a complex solution?


The next trend that Adamson went into was a B2B one. And it had to do with how buyers make their purchases in today’s market. The buying reality. A reality that includes:

  • An average buying group size of 6-10
  • 5 information sources per stakeholder
  • 15% of a buyer’s time is spend de-conflicting information
  • 77% of buyers report high purchase difficulty.

Adamson de-bunked that the buying journey is a simple and linear one. It’s not even close. It resembles this:



It’s messy. And therefore, B2B marketers can help buyers anticipate and overcome internal traps and decisions. They need to work towards and reward making these decisions easier for buyers (AKA Buyer Enablement). B2B marketers need to anticipate the questions buyers are going to ask to help them be ready and increase their confidence in getting through the long, hard slog?


3. Which sales approach wins in today’s information era?


Customers have an overwhelming amount of information. Much of it is good and high quality, but it’s A LOT to consume and process and creates confusion. Especially if there are conflicting reports that are equally convincing.

Adamson admitted that in the end, brands are more likely to lose to indecision than other competitors.

In some cases, it comes down to interactions customers have with your reps. All reps are NOT equal.  There are different personality types that treat information in distinctly different ways.



Sense makers are better performers. Also look at The Challenger Sale




4. What customer experience investments have positive impact on loyalty and retention?


Adamson talked about the diminishing return on customer loyalty via post purchase experience.



His point was that, as marketers, we can have a bigger impact on loyalty by affecting the purchase experience VS fixing a problem-filled post purchase experience.




5. Which Corporate Branding yields the best connection with the brand?


Adamson finished talking about strong brands, and that these strong brands are worth a premium. As marketers, it’s something we all aspire towards. But how do companies build that brand premium in 2021?

Gartner’s research suggests it comes down to a brand connection with their customers. Those brands with shared values are nearly 5x less impactful on a brands ability to connect with customers than how a company personally benefits your customers.



That was it!

And it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? As humans, more than marketers, we’ve had a tough year. We’re anxious. We’re stressed. And we want to connect with and buy from brands that are there to help us. Brands that understand and care about us. And make our journey through the purchase decision, and through life, just a little bit easier and less stressful. And if done well, we will feel confident in our purchase.

We hope our virtual content in 2020 also helped make your journey through 2020 a little bit easier too.

We’ll be back next year.

Until then, stay healthy, stay safe and look out for one another and your customers.


About the Author


Marc Binkley is the Chair of the Calgary Marketing Association board, Managing Director and Director of Digital & Strategy at Anstice, one of the leading marketing agencies in western Canada.





Rob Fairhead is an experienced marketer with experience on both the agency and client-side of the marketing game in Calgary, a board member at the Calgary Marketing Association and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at ZGM Modern Marketing.



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