I thought I would share out some more interesting insights from attending “The Gathering” in Banff a couple weeks ago, a marketing conference about “cult brands.” Contrary to the twisted religious connotations that come to mind with the word cult, used in this sense, cult brands are those with so much loyalty, that their customers literally make up much of their marketing department. You could say, “they’ve sipped the cool-aid” and bought into the community that surrounds the brand or business.
Matt Rosenblat, Managing Director at Accenture Interactive presented some really insightful content that I think all marketers need to have on their radar as we venture deeper into 2019. Accenture works with Fjord Trends – a company that tracks trends based on crowd sourcing content and input from 1000 leaders working in the area of design and customer experience.
Here’s a rundown of a few trends they are monitoring:
1. Silence is gold
Brands now have to find a way to connect in an environment where people are wanting to disconnect and spend less screen time. It used to be the digital divide was about access to technology, now the new digital divide is about limiting access to technology. How is this showing up? Silicon Valley nanny contracts now have a common clause that “they must limit digital screen time when with kids.” A UK study found that 63% of children with social media never was invented. There are hotels that will check your phone when you check in, and give you a “dumb phone” that allows you to make calls and send texts and nothing more. Trimmed down phones like the old Palm Pilot are making a comeback. New operating systems monitor our time on phone apps. The growing evidence is all around us. I suppose for the first time in history, my husband is ahead of the curve with his “dumb phone” – my old iPhone 4 without a data plan, and scarcely any apps that work on the old operating system except BBC News!
How do we respond to this trend as marketers? Be quieter, do less. Invest in content design of quality and cut out the clutter of stuff just to jam the firehose with content. Radically simplify forms. Measure the cognitive effort demanded by your customers and make things simple.
2. The last straw – environment
Taking action on the environment is no longer a passive niche activity. Consumers are actually now voting with their wallets and taking action based on environmental concerns. They called this trend “the last straw” because plastic straws are 11% of garbage in oceans, and the recent action to elimination plastic straws across many businesses shows how this has become mainstream. Research shows that sustainable brands have 30% greater growth than competitors, and being able to share a purpose, tell a brand story and create customer experiences based on sustainable approaches is a great way to achieve earned media and customer created content.
How should we respond as marketers? Companies that focus on repairing environmental damage will see it connect to sales and brand advocacy. This is the time to reconsider packaging, for example. Not every company can be entirely sustainability focused, but almost all can do their part and be seen as helping contribute to the movement.
3. Data minimalism
It all started with the GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulations) in the EU last year. But scandals with Cambridge Analytica brought data use to life. Since then we’ve seen social media companies, and Facebook in particular, mired in bad publicity about how they mine and use customer data for economic gain in selling advertising in their feed. People are now starting to make purchase decisions based on what the company does with their data. BBC did a study and found that individual data is worth about $10, but collectively it becomes extremely valuable.
What to do as marketers? Be open and transparent with how you use data. For example tell how you use data to build better products or be more responsive to customer needs. Be up front about how you use it to reach out in marketing efforts, but be mindful that people really don’t want you justifying the collection of data to interrupt you with ads. Above all, only collect what you need, and be mindful of how it is protected. The GDPR guidelines are strict, but compliance will help everybody.
4. The inclusivity paradox
While the use of persona’s has been a marketing standard for some time, the use of personas on their own is becoming less relevant. We now need to consider “context.” It’s now longer about demographics, geographics, psychographics, and behavioural data, we now need to consider the timing and environment that marketing reaches our audience. This will lead good marketing to focus on mindset, rather than traditional segmentation criteria. When we design for context, we cross age and demographics to classify people.
How do we as marketers design for context? The marriage of qualitative and quantitative data will help. For example, if you plane was delayed and the hotel, monitoring flights, knows that you will arrive after the kitchen has closed, could use that information to prepare a hot meal for your arrival. When viewed from a customer experience perspective where we want to create memorable moments that customers will share, context is the magic ingredient. Remember what I said a couple weeks ago about creating moments that customers feel compelled to photograph and share? That’s what we’re talking about here.
5. Ahead of the curb
Fjord research points to large cities increasingly being less able to deal with mobility of urban populations as they grow. Cities and companies need to think about bottle necks in the future. Design thinking about the “last mile” in getting products to customers, or customers to products will become important.
How could this create unique opportunities? When we consider 1/3 of shopping mall space is parking, expensive real estate, maybe there is a more progressive way? Some retail think tanks are experimenting with continuous branded shuttles, requiring no parking, with the emphasis on concierge type service. Add autonomous driving to the mix, and this could get interesting. Or how about branded partnerships with ride share companies like Uber? This should also have us consider the model for parcel delivery on online purchased goods. Look for disruptive models in the future around this I suspect.
6. Space Odyssey
There is a retail renaissance happening with technology like Amazon Go, where you can walk out with the product without using a cashier, because the purchase is recorded to your account through facial recognition, or signing into the app at entry. This use of technology is part of a bigger trend where workspace and physical space is becoming increasingly informed by digital technology.
What are the implications for marketers? Online behavior will increasingly be used to inform offline needs. We Work collective spaces for independent contractors are a good example of this.
7. Synthetic realities
In an era of “fake news” consumers will become hyper aware of technology that can be used to create synthetic realities. Face swapping, voice swapping are all possible now with digital technology, and that will begin to impact authenticity. There was an Obama viral video that made the rounds last year – using his image, seemingly his voice, all synced to his lips, saying things that Obama would never say. It looked absolutely real, but it was created simply to show people what is possible. In China, there is a news agency that has created a “synthetic news broadcaster” – a guy who looks real, is very attractive, but is totally a digital product. He costs less, and he can be programmed to say whatever the state wishes to be conveyed. This stuff of course should scare the daylights out of us from a democracy standpoint, and if you child wants to go into broadcasting, this might be worth a mention. But jokes aside, the line between authenticity and fake has become very blurred.
What does all this mean for marketers? Any new technology used well of course represents an opportunity. But of course, evil always has a way of finding its way in if something can be manipulated. I would suggest in the short term, let authenticity prevail, be upfront and honest with customers, and refer back to one of last week’s trends about using customer data properly and being transparent about collection and purpose.
If you’re curious to learn some more details behind some of these trends, check out FJORD TRENDS here: https://www.Trends.fjordnet.com
And if you would like to go back and review my summary post about cult brands and what makes them so effective (5 KEY INSIGHTS) you can link to it HERE.