Christine Day, CEO of Lululemon, said something recently in conversation that has echoed with me for days. When asked how she keeps up with trends and ensures that her company is on the leading edge, she responded, “I scan the environment reading magazines across many industries. I listen for what is next, not evidence of what has happened.”
How many gurus of trends and forecasting actually spout evidence, albeit applied to the future, of what has happened? And how many truly listen, often beyond their industry, for what is actually apt to be coming next? My guess is few.
In marketing, it is our job to know what is trending, and to be alert enough to utilize that knowledge to our client’s advantage.
Here is a mash up from the BCAMA 2013 ad agency panel, of observations gained from four presenters: Lance Saunders, VP Managing Director DDB Canada, Ute Preusse Director Strategic Planning, Cossette, Lance Neale, President, Station X, Alvin Wasserman, President, Wasserman + Partners Advertising.
1. Marketing is liquid. Strategy, creativity and execution are no longer written in stone. Good marketing is now interactive and utilizes multiple media. That also means that traditional silos within agencies need to be liquid. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
2. Brands need more full-frontal nudity. Some brands have lost trust because they are NOT having conversations with their customers, or are either continuing a traditional one-way push of their message, or worse, are pretending to engage while spouting corporate-speak. The McDonalds “Our food, your questions” campaign that encouraged customers to ask questions about food, nutrition, and photography used in advertising was cited as a good example of having an authentic conversation. http://strategyonline.ca/2012/12/07/bravest-campaign-of-the-year-mcdonalds/ Bottom line: be transparent.
3. Big data as a force of good, not evil. Today companies have incredibly rich profiles of customers gained through online interaction and purchases. Using that data respectfully is key. Target got into trouble last year when their data tracking allowed them to profile customers purchases, to the point where they could actually predict if a customer was pregnant – thereby allowing them to engage on a personal level with offers appealing to an expectant mother. Trouble was, they sent a card to a teen girls home, and her father intercepted questioning why it had been sent. Turns out Target know something Dad didn’t. Ouch. That’s just too personal. http://video.foxnews.com/v/1470704607001/target-knew-teen-was-pregnant-before-her-dad/ Google on the other hand were able to track flu outbreaks globally more accurately than the World Health Organization, simply by aggregating flu symptom search data by region. That’s data being used for a force of good. http://technorati.com/technology/article/google-and-flu-tracking/
4. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. While technology has enabled so many things we could have only dreamed about decades ago, our fundamental values as humans have not changed. We still want to connect, share, and tell stories. We need to understand technology from the perspective of the NEED it fulfills.
5. Retail is everywhere. The ability to browse, shop and buy is no longer grounded just in brick and mortar stores. Increasingly shopping will be facilitated by mobile devices, whether via online sites, apps, near field communication, or creative applications in unexpected locations. Tesco installed a Homeplus virtual subway grocery store using photo images of products in South Korea. Users could purchase items via QR code scans from their mobile phones and have the items delivered to their home later that day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGaVFRzTTP4
6. Emerging markets need to be on your radar. The world has become more connected with brands going global for both opportunity and economy of scale. Time to learn Portuguese, Mandarin and Panjabi as the emergence of the middle class continues in Brazil, China and India.
7. Going private in public. As we become increasing more connected, the ability to unplug will become coveted. There are few places where urban dwellers can escape the temptation of checking in, posting, or responding to email. With the exception of boarding a plane, or wandering off into the wilderness, the expectation of being “on” has overwhelmed many. Kitkat in Amsterdam created Wifi free zones where benches had Wifi jammers that blocked signals within a 5-meter radius. Of course, the brands tagline, “Have a break, have a Kitkat” was well aligned with the effort. http://www.psfk.com/2013/01/kit-kat-wifi-free-zone.html Norte Beer in Argentina offered an escape from photo indiscretions friends might capture at a nightclub and post to Facebook, by inventing a “Photoblocker” beer sleeve that detects a camera flash and emits a blast of light to make the photo contents indistinguishable. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5DJbKPS8d4 Both of these brands have successfully provided an escape from technology that hounds us, while positioning themselves as being on the consumer’s side. Brilliant.
8. Storytelling matters. In the end we are ruled by our hearts, not our heads. Use data to see what matters. Use technology to facilitate the connection. But remember that it’s the emotional connection and a basic human instinct to engage in and share stories that should drive campaigns. Brands with purpose that connect on an emotional level through storytelling will always rise above others.
And remember above all to listen for what is next, rather than seek evidence of what has happened.