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Reimagining the 2020s

The new decade was meant to be the beginning of a new era, this century’s “golden age”, with a stronger focus on mindful consumption, regeneration, and humanism.

But what has become very clear as Covid-19 continues to plague us is that we are going to have to get used to waves of disruption. As we think about how to build back better brands and organisations we need to ask ourselves how we can reset for the next normal.

There are five tenets that you need to hold on to as we rewire our thinking beyond 2020:

  • Make purpose part of everything.
  • Willingness to change.
  • Handling the crisis as a marathon.
  • Focusing on high impact actions.
  • Rethinking your footprint.

The notion that we can forecast the future has gone, we now need to find the resilience to think and act differently, lead in a more human way, and find a balance between past actions and what needs to happen to succeed in these strange times. The past is behind us, the future unknowable.

The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour, some are meaningful accelerations of existing trends, some are only emerging now. People are tired of “stuff”, relationships matter. As brands seek to sustain market share and/or reconnect with their customers imagination thoughtful action is key. Marketers are having to consider what consumers going forward will think, feel, say, and do.The most notable emerging trends relate to:

1. The rapid growth in digital adoption. Unprecedented numbers of consumers have moved online during the pandemic, many of them using social commerce for the first time. McKinsey’s consumer sentiment surveys confirm that consumers intend to increase their share of online shopping across most categories, into the recovery. So marketers’ focus will increasingly be on e-commerce, D2C, and digital channels, as well as managing data and analytics to personalise offers and messages to target audiences, and redesigning shopper experience in changing work-home life paradigms. At the same time more and more bricks and mortar stores have pivoted online during the pandemic.

2. A rising consumer discomfort at the data economy. As consumers increasingly comprehend the value of their digital behaviour and information, they are pushing back at the loss of privacy and are demanding greater data transparency. Wunderman Thompson’s 2019 research found that 89% of consumers surveyed did not trust the way companies acquire and use data, and are seriously worried about the way personal information is tracked and traded online. This very concern is requiring marketers to create a new set of cybersecurity rules for brands and a repositioning of digital identity.

3. The growth of slow retail. Foot traffic back into physical stores (venues and destinations) will only return when people trust that spaces are safe, in the meantime consumer attitudes to purchasing are changing. Ethically-minded consumers are leading the anti-excess charge with a mantra of “slow down and produce less”, championing such things as product permanence, less waste, seasonless and regenerated fashion, and the second-hand marketplace. More and more consumers and retailers are prioritising sustainable brands and mindful consumption. Marketers are needing to reposition for the long-term.

4. The home as a multi-functional hub. The crisis has made the home not only a place where people live but now also a space to work, learn, shop, and play. New jobs and ways of working and playing are being created with the home at the heart. Marketers need to rethink their media mix across a larger set of home smart devices and interfaces as AI is democratised and the flexibility of working from home outlasts Covid.

5. Localisation. Buying local has become important as consumers are driven by the confidence they have in places and businesses they know. Marketers seeking to expand their connections with consumers and their communities to manage this hyperlocal activity and engagement to reap the benefits.

6. The shifting landscape of brand loyalty. Socially conscious consumers are holding brands to higher standards; recent activism and our “being in this together” is likely to perpetuate this trend. People are buying from brands that care about them and impacting society in a positive way. Brands are being held to account on how they have responded to the crisis which means marketers must clearly communicate brand values and purpose, and “walk the talk”. This includes everything from projects you choose to work on, prices you charge, partners you work with, where you advertise, to the messages you send out to customers. Brand credibility, trust and safety is inextricably linked with brand loyalty. Consumers’ expectations have moved, step out of line and you will feel the backlash.

Marketers will need a new game plan for 2021 and beyond. The chaos and craziness of 2020 has brought big shifts in our society, and to stay ahead you have to keep up. Whilst we do not have a crystal ball marketing magic is predicted to happen in these areas.

  • Real content. DIY user generated content (UGC) will remain strong as relatable and authentic digital word-of-mouth marketing. Nothing says trust like content created by consumers themselves.
  • Influencing. Micro-influencers can be great for small or local brands as they typically have a limited reach and are more affordable and easier to work with. In the macro the move is towards personalities who are experts in a specific niche, rather than those with multiple profiles.
  • Innovative and high-quality branded content. Video, AI, and interactive content is on the rise.
  • Shoppable social posts. The huge uptake in social commerce has meant social media channels are increasingly being used for shopping inspiration and a streamlined shopping experience.
  • Doing good. Joining the activism momentum around social and environmental issues by being more vocal about values and belief.
  • Nostalgic blast from the past. Looking back as we navigate these difficult times can create comfort, make us feel safe and give our lives meaning and stability.