Future-gazing has its clear benefits. For the most part, it allows for tweaks to be made in the pursuit of advantageous positioning in the months or years that follow.
Brands and marketers are well aware that the world they operate and communicate in has changed, but technology and seamless connectivity are set to bring more considerations for addressing the environment in which they sell. Thus, being ahead of the game has never been more important.
A panel session moderated by global consumer trends agency Future Foundation at Advertising Week Europe explored and tackled this exact train of thought, drawing on the group’s recent work with the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) to provide a clear view of how the future could unfold for brands and consumers.
But it wasn’t enough for attendees to go away with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for their needs. As pointed out by Philippa Snare, panel member and chief marketing officer at Microsoft, brands must know and accept their role, and seldom is there time for insurance providers to ‘emotionally connect’ with people that just want a quote.
Brands must understand which scenario they’re trying to sell in, and the options are as follows:
According to the Future Foundation’s research, 2025 will create even more room for brands that connect with their consumers on a very emotional level. ‘Brand Me-Q’ companies act as partners to the consumer; they provide reassurance, and their work will only amplify the supremacy that emotional connections hold in modern-day marketing. We remember them; we cherish them; this is the sort of company we like to surround ourselves with.
Meabh Quoirin, managing director of the Future Foundation, pointed to British Airways as a Brand Me-Q group with an eye on its consumers’ needs and emotions. The airline’s ‘Happiness Blanket’ trial for assessing passenger comfort was cited as an example of a brand looking into the needs of their customers and tailoring the service around their demands.
Me & the Brand Next Door
These brands have a role as helpers and facilitators. They actually take a back seat in order to let the consumer tell the story, and the partnership in this sense plays on the idea that the ego of the user is all-important. Consumers can function autonomously without their help, but it’s the likeability factor about the ‘Brand Next Door’ that makes them want to interact.
In this case, think social networks like YouTube, which empower their users to create and share great content wherever they are. There is also scope for conventional brands to dip into BND territory, much like O2 is doing with its suite of media-sharing apps. The brand, however, follows the consumer. A perfect product platform or similar enables the connection, and the user takes it from there.
Best Buy groups merge good functionality from products with the consumer’s acceptance that they act as a service provider - no more, no less. They may not be able to connect with a consumer like a Brand Me-Q or a Brand Next Door, but they’re experts for everything, useful, reliable, and able to deliver the right product at the right price.
These groups actually have a pretty good position in today’s market, hence the success of online department stores like Amazon and Alibaba and companies that are able to provide good service with efficiency at every turn.
By the time we hit 2025, Quoirin sees Alibaba helping local businesses perfect the service they have on offer with a logistics network that cannot be matched. There’s even a chance of them delving into the public sphere by using landmarks like libraries, rail stations and post offices as pick-up points to help things along.
Switched on by nature, iControl brands face the most challenging scenario of all in 2025. They operate in a world where consumers are totally autonomous, utterly independent of brands and able to govern their own actions. Still, brands can interrupt this world if they weave themselves into something close to the consumer’s brain (and pocket): the tech.
Moments for iControl firms will be brief, and perhaps only facilitated by peer networks that reel the consumer in. L’oreal has launched a new app which encapsulates the sort of thing that iControl firms are going to have to build off. The cosmetics’ firm’s ‘Makeup Genius’ platform can apply virtual versions of L’oreal products to the consumer’s initial self-shot, which can inform the selection of items. In this scenario the consumer will commit once they’ve perfected their look and decided that L’oreal can give them the appearance they desire.
The categories are based on a study commissioned by Future Foundation exclusively for Advertising Week Europe. This follows the group’s 2006 report on the ‘Future of Advertising’, also conducted in partnership with the IPA.