Looking ahead : 2021

What the next year looks like for marketing and brand position

Mobile will be the dominant platform. Intelligent devices—smartphones, tablets, watches, wearable gadgets, glasses, microchips, HoloLens, and others—will reshape and remix the marketing world. As we shift to a world of intelligent devices, marketing will strike up an even more personalized relationship with customers. Those who can do it faster than their competition will lead in this evolving category.

Transparency will be part of all successful business customer relationships. Customers want more engagement from companies. Companies locked into a conventional broadcast model are failing. By 2020, customers will have an even greater expectation of transparency. Authentic companies, including those that admit their mistakes (a trend called “flawsome”), will be heavily rewarded, as will companies that make social responsibility a main part of their culture. Such actions help them form a connection with their customers.

User-generated content will be the most disruptive. The power of user-generated content will surpass that of branded content, as brands begin to relinquish control of their own marketing to customers. From online reviews to social media posts and blogs, this means there will be a strong need for brands to create a positive impact in their consumers’ minds. In response to this model of user-generated content production, content co-creation between brands and consumers will become a popular trend.

Social networks will become an ecosystem to rival the original Internet. Social networks have the full potential to become not just one of the channels but the channel—possibly another Internet in and of itself. We’re already seeing what we call social, interest, and economic “graphs”—places where people are connected based on a unique commonality. These graphs are growing by leaps and bounds owing to mobile, broadband, and high-quality content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat.

Brands will act as their own multimedia, bypassing press and publishers. By cultivating a brand community and culture with their customers, brands will begin to collaborate with their audiences (as opposed to simply trying to sell to them), creating loyalists and brand advocates. In the future, the seeds of branding and marketing efforts will be rooted in what customers are talking about and making. Customer responses and feelings toward the brand will dictate future product development or enhancement. If the customers are happy, they’ll gladly wear the marketer’s hat and do what is needed to bring the brand to others in their interest or social graphs.

7Brands that focus on Generation Z will have the advantage. The post-Millennial generation will be even more demanding than its predecessors, and brands will need to acknowledge that. For legacy companies, simply updating older marketing that targeted Millennials won’t be enough. By 2023 there will be a shift. Companies created by Millennials—such as Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat—may have to pivot their entire product and strategy to survive. Generation Z will demand that companies be in business for something other than pure profit. Capitalism is about to be reshaped, and those who think solely about revenue as a sign of success will be sorely mistaken and rightfully abandoned.

Most disruptive marketing will be around products, not service : While service companies aim to create happy customers and look forward to contract renewals or positive social sentiments, product companies thrive on innovation and the future state. What exists in the here and now may be good, but what will exist in the future can and should be vastly improved. So, for marketers of the future, customer satisfaction and retention will not be enough. Innovative products and solutions will create more value for customers.

Personalized, data-driven disruptive marketing will become the norm. There is a difference between data-driven disruptive marketing and interruptive marketing. While the former is relationship oriented, whereby content acts as a currency to build trust, the latter is nothing but old-school push messaging in a shiny new digital wrapper. Marketers who focus on building relationships around good products will be rewarded, while fake fast followers with shabby products and poor service will be ostracized.

Tracking metrics will be more accurate. Today most businesses measure marketing success by looking at hollow “vanity” metrics such as impressions, likes, shares, or engagement rates. We’re still developing sophisticated means

to mine the right data. The future will witness the rise of better analytical tools to help marketers gauge success in terms of emotional and cultural relevance, as well as ROI.

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How #nike is approaching the new normal of retail

In October 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic that had infected 188 countries, causing record sales damage across the retail sector, Nike’s share price hit an all-time high.

Like other retailers, Nike had been forced to close most of its network of more than 900 stores across the world, as had its key wholesale partners like Nordstrom and Foot Locker.

But the American sportswear giant’s performance during the pandemic, when its online sales spiked, signalled to many that Nike had the competency to prosper long term, in a future that will be increasingly defined by e-commerce and digital brand connections.

It was a validation of a strategy that Nike prioritised three years ago, dubbing it “Consumer Direct Offense,” but the seeds of the approach go back almost a decade.

Above all, Nike is a marketing company. It doesn’t just sell sneakers; it sells the brand aspiration that imbues those sneakers with meaning. But to achieve the reach required to scale its business, Nike’s distribution strategy had long-relied on third-party retailers to sell its products, even if the consumer experience offered by those partners diluted its brand.

But in a future increasingly defined by e-commerce, fast-moving trends and, above all, the rising power of branding to drive consumer preference when competitors are just a click away, Nike realised that in order to thrive, it needed to take control of its distribution to better manage its brand and deepen its connection with consumers.

It was definitely architecting a new retail, and a bold, retail vision for Nike.

Such an evolution is easier said than done, especially for a business as large as Nike in a category as competitive as sportswear. But by radically cutting back on its wholesale distribution and raising the bar for brand experience with the third-party partners that remained; expanding its focus on content, community and customisation to keep customers close; investing in its data analytics and logistics capabilities; and rethinking the role of the store as a brand stage, Nike drove a veritable direct-to-consumer revolution.

When the pandemic hit, these shifts went into overdrive.

“It was definitely architecting a new retail, and a bold, retail vision for Nike,”

A Black Friday like no other

One trend that I wasn’t aware of is just how big Black Friday has become outside the United States.

Holiday deal days are becoming more important. Reports showing Black Friday is now the most popular deal day in France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

When people think of Black Friday, they normally think of hordes of people in stores, some lining up in the wee hours of the morning to make sure they get the doorbuster deals. That’s not going to happen this year; that’s not what consumers want, and it’s not what retailers want. How should retailers think about Black Friday? How can they best take advantage of that day?

Certainly is becoming a big deal globally. In the situation that most retailers are in, where they are now having to move so much of their sales through the online channel, they’re worried about the capacity to deliver products to homes—whether the third parties are going to be able to get them there and whether their own warehouses can keep up with the online demand. So one of the interesting things we’ve seen about Black Friday is retailers now starting to spread out these blockbuster events, so they’re able to “level load” their supply chains and ship products in a way that doesn’t create a massive spike that they can’t fulfill.

We will also see consumers participating in these events more digitally than ever. Research also show before a lot of the recent shutdowns in Europe, that there was already a lessening of folks wanting to go in stores—people wanted to go online.

I think we’ll see even more of that. Consumers are wanting to participate in these events in a modified way: either completely online or buy online and pick up in store or pick up outside the store. We’ll see a lot more physical distancing and a different way of delivering so that retailers can not only meet the demand safely but also manage delivery, inventory, and their profitability.

The COVID-19 situation has really prompted a big increase in the focus on the online experience for shopping and the pick-up-in-store experience. And retailers have scrambled to create an environment that provides an OK—or, in some cases, a great—shopping experience. So they’re now starting to think about how do we actually make this profitable? How do we take costs out of delivery or out of buy online, pick up in store, so that we can make money like we used to when we were running stores in a traditional environment? We’ve seen a bunch of different reactions from retailers. In many ways, this crisis has forced some retailers that traditionally operated in one way for a very long period of time to become much more agile. We see a lot more aggressive moves than we’ve seen in the past.