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STAMFORD, Conn., December 2, 2020

Gartner Identifies Three Themes for Marketing Leaders That Will Shape Consumer Values and Buying Behaviors in 2021

Gartner Analysts Discuss Shifts in Consumer Attitudes, Behaviors and Brand Expectations at the Virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2020 Americas, December 1-3

Life realigned, the wealth gap and seismic civic engagement are three major themes that will impact consumer values and buying behaviors in the coming months, according to Gartner, Inc. 

During the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place virtually in the Americas December 1-3, 2020, Gartner analysts said that marketing leaders should consider these themes in their 2021 strategic planning in order to meet consumers with appropriate modes of marketing and communications. 

“In 2020, marketers have been tasked with a relentless cycle of reassessments due to the global pandemic,” said Kate Muhl, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “Already in a fragile and uncertain place, they must pause, yet again, to take note of the key shifts in consumer values over the last year and what those shifts mean for their decision-making in 2021.” 

Life Realigned

The pandemic and its accompanying economic and societal crises have fundamentally rewired the way consumers live. In fact, 64% of consumers in the 2020 Gartner Consumer Behaviors and Attitudes Survey agree that they feel they are at risk of exposure in public places, and 77% agree that socializing the way they did pre-pandemic was no longer comfortable.

“This realignment of life isn’t going away anytime soon, so brands need to find ways to meet consumers where they are,” said Ms. Muhl. “Now is the time for marketers to lean into the aspects of their brand values that support consumers’ self-protective instincts.”

The Wealth Gap

COVID-19 has accelerated and exacerbated the attitudinal differences between affluent consumers and everyone else even further. For example, lower income consumers are much more likely to say they have cut their discretionary spending simply because they don’t have enough money for non-essential purchases. While higher income consumers are regulating their spending because they feel guilty and that sense of guilt is constraining spending. 

“This attitudinal gap will be very challenging for marketers who need to connect with large swaths of consumers,” said Ms. Muhl. “Marketers must be prepared to pick a lane because it will be increasingly difficult to connect with the affluent and everyone else with a single message or a single brand.”

Seismic Civic Engagement

The social and political awakening of U.S. consumers in the summer of 2020 has had a meaningful impact on consumer values. Equality is now the value for which there is the highest level of identification for U.S. consumers. This marks the first time “loyalty” has been bumped from the top spot of consumer values in the U.S. in over a decade. 

Heading into 2021, marketers must review both short and longer-term brand and communications strategies and, where possible, realign those strategies to leverage consumers’ increased focus on social justice and civic engagement. 

Gartner for Marketers clients can learn more about these themes in “2021 U.S. Consumer Values: Consumers Seek Social Justice and Serenity; Brands Must Respond” and “Guide to Addressing Cultural Tension Through Brand Activism and Social Cause Marketing.”

About the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo

Gartner analysts are providing additional insights during Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place virtually, December 1-3, 2020. The conference provides marketing leaders actionable advice about the trends, tools and emerging technologies they need to deliver business results. Gartner analysts address the biggest opportunities, challenges and priorities marketers face today, including data and analytics, customer experience, content marketing, customer insight, marketing technology (martech) and multichannel marketing. Follow news and updates for the event on Twitter at #GartnerMKTG.

About Gartner for Marketers

Gartner for Marketers provides the objective, expert advice and proven tools that CMOs and other marketing leaders need to seize the right opportunities with clarity and confidence, and to stay ahead of the trends that matter. With in-depth research and analysis, Gartner for Marketers helps you focus on the opportunities with the greatest potential to deliver results. More information on Gartner for Marketers is available online at Follow news and updates from the Gartner Marketing practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerMKTG.


About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit