Trends To Look Out For In Branding 2015
An insight from the pen, thoughts and experiences of Andrea Golding.
And so it begins, another 365 day cycle of the hustle and grind as brands make every effort to stand out, head and shoulders above the rest. Unfortunately a lot (in fact too much) of the time – they fail in this mission. Why? Because too often brands ‘believe’ they are communicating, doing and acting in a way the markets will appreciate. Whilst in reality they may as well be speaking a rare dialect of Klingon.
So how can you and your brand ‘buck the trend’ of miscommunication (all pun intended!)? Fortuntely, a bunch of forward thinking agencies and organisations have made it very easy by listing the trends that research has shown will influence consumers most this year. To make your life even easier, we’ve gone and investigated what these forward thinkers had to say and we’re compiling a list of the top 5 trends for 2015.
Like ‘do, ray, mi’ – lets start at the very beginning. In order to use trends to your advantage we need to understand what a trend is. Thanks to Google:
“A general direction in which something is developing or changing”
1. Individual brands and branded individuals
Consumers do a lot more than just consume whatever we throw at them, these days they often throw it back. 2014 saw a few iconic cases of consumers sticking up for their personal brands and not letting the ‘big guy’ get away with bad service, poor quality or lack of accountability. The mention of Cell C probably brings to mind this banner.
Acts like this are testament to the fact that consumers expect to be valued by brands as much as the brand expects the consumer to value them. It’s a two-way street folks and consumer voices, especially disgruntled ones, are louder and carry more weight than ever before. As Trendwatching.com puts it:
“In 2015, rising numbers will demand that brands become ‘nicer’, by acting in ways that benefit individuals and society as a whole.”
Take, for example the Brandhouse Roadblock where drivers wererewarded with shopping vouchers as an act of brand benevolence. In terms of 2015 and beyond:
“Brands that are benevolent now will earn the trust and gratitude of tomorrows middle class customers”.
What your brand does and says today, lays the foundations for tomorrow. It is up to you whether you invest in laying strongfoundations that support yourbrand, or weak ones which could collapse under you at any time.
2. What’s the purpose?
Reality check- more and more people are placing additional value on the ‘meaningful and purpose driven’ aspects of life. There is, whether you like it or not, a shift in thinking, the power of which – if brands harness correctly – can lead to untold growth and differentiation.
Being purpose driven makes you something consumers relate to and identify with, it’s an ‘easy-in’ and brands would be senseless to ignore it. However, a word of warning: if you do this only for the publicity and PR consumers will quicklycotton on to the fact that your actions are hollow, be prepared for their wrath. A quote from the 2014 Brand Barometer presented by the Brand Council of South Africa says it best:
“Brand marketing adds no real, tangible value to top or bottom line. Business sees a diminishing value in brand marketing as it tends to isolate itself, not interact with business, not take business ideas on board or partnering with business, Brand marketing has an elitist attitude of “knowing all” thereby isolating themselves from the business and only doing what they perceive to be (creatively) correct- no link to business at all…”
This purpose driven attitude also needs to extend inwards to the brands own employees. Your internal customers are more vital than you think. If taken care of, and driven to fulfill the brands purpose, employees become brand ambassadors which is a truly priceless asset to any brand. From the Brand Barometer:
“While many brands spend on marketing consultants it is less clear that they are providing support and developmental opportunities for their own employees”
Invest in growing your people and they will in turn, invest in growing your brand.
3. Brands take a stand
Corruption. It irks each and every one of us as individuals, yet other than a good vent around the weekly braai there is not much else we do about it. According to an African Development Bank survey in May 2014:
“Over half of Sub-Saharan Africans believe that their government is largely run by big entities acting in their own best interests instead of the public good”
Enter Nandos, undoubtedly the trailblazers in taking a stand, they have managed to set themselves up as a political commentator poking fun at governmental ridiculousness, consistently and in remarkable time. For example the Blue Light Brigade. They sell flamed grilled chicken. The complete lack of correlation between their political commentary and flame-grilled chicken does not matter; it has given Nandos a personality and set the Nandos brand apart from all other fast-food chains. When it comes to corruption up on high, we are all in this together and consumers appreciate and gravitate towards brands that take a stand and aren’t afraid to make bold, albeit quirky statements.
4. Moving at the speed of culture
Trendwatching.com aptly calls it the ‘Uberfication’ of everything. Native VML term it “Moving at the speed of culture”. What they are saying is that in today’s instant gratification society, brands that are “first to comment” win. Consumer attention spans are shorter than ever, so if you have something to say, say it now and say it well or no one will be listening. As Native VML say:“Brands need to borrow from the world of start-ups by allowing campaigns to be in a state of “beta” and remaining agile in responding to consumer sentiment.”
The same applies to consumers wanting something and wanting it now, “Uberfication” and on-demand delight.
“In 2015…time stricken… Africans will expect the ability to tap an app or login to an online platform and outsource routine tasks”
However this on-demand delight needs to be followed through by consistently above average service and customer experience. One slip-up from the brand can and will lead to attrition. A personal example: We used Uber both to and from a concert. Our trip there cost +/- R500 for 6 people in a van, our trip home, on which we were taken on a complete roundabout cost +/- R1500, same address, same 6 people. Needless to say we were a rather grumpy bunch when we saw the amount. Most of the people with us were also on their first uber experience and this first impression was far from positive. However, within 24 hours, having complained and been treated fantastically by the Uber staff, our problem was solved. We had an apology and a refund for most of the different between the 2 trips (the return journey was after hours). The disgruntled first-timers, when they heard the news, instantly bought back into the Uber brand and now spread the word of how well we were treated and how efficiently and pleasantly the situation was handled. From what could have been 6 Uber naysayers, they managed to convert us into 6 Uber brand ambassadors, quickly. We want something and we want it now, brand commentary and brand cooperation alike
5. It’s all about the Earth
In recent years green technology has grown leaps and bounds in terms of capabilities and applications. Small innovations in green technology are proving to be highly effective with a range of functional applications. As consumers become more ‘earth conscious’ they identify with brands that are thinking and acting along the same lines.
“In 2015, increasing experience of eco-innovations that truly improve quality of life will spur a new ‘Eco-reverence’ among African consumers, who will embrace a plethora of eco solutions, and push new, homegrown eco brands further forward.”
In many cases, simpler is better, consumers don’t need sweeping ‘green’ gestures from brands, they want small, tangible and realistic gestures. Gestures that humanize the brand and show a commitment to change in a way that you or I can relate to. For example many of the solar powered traffic lights in Johannesburgpowered by Nedbank. Rethaka’s Repurpose Schoolbags is another great example of small incremental changes that can be made. By repurposing old plastic bags into backpacks with a solar light on them that charges during the walk to and from school and then provides light to study by at night. Simple and ingenious.
And there you have them, 5 trends bursting with opportunity to help you and your brand make a realistic and meaningful difference in 2015. A final word of caution: remember that in 2015 more than ever before, consumers will have their say and they are not shy to voice their opinions. Whatever branding efforts you undertake, ensure they are driven by integrity and followed through, hollow efforts will fool no one.