Any crisis creates room for innovations. This year’s crisis, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is no different in this respect. The world that lost confidence expects new certainties. And brands can help it. The next year will be affected by the expected end of the pandemic, the delivery of vaccine and the chance to get back to normal life. Brand credibility and ability to respond promptly are key. Green or sustainable energy, e-commerce as part of business, and activities helping to achieve social wellbeing will also be important. Here is our outline of the trends to be expected in the coming year.
Brand purpose as a prerequisite for the adaptation to the new context
In the last year, brand purpose proved to be a necessary precondition for brand existence. Only the brands that know why they exist and what purpose they suit in the world may promptly adapt to the new context. Earning money is not enough. Today, brands have to have a social impact. The importance of purpose is mentioned in the expectations of the consulting division of Ogilvy and Deloitte.
In Deloitte’s survey, up to 79% of respondents recalled examples of brands that responded positively during the pandemic and helped its customers and employees or communities. Brands that are guided by the purpose of their existence attract more attention and drive consumer action. Up to 23% of respondents agree that corporate activities during the pandemic had a positive impact of their brand perception, for 19% they even resulted in a change in purchasing preferences. On the contrary, negatively-perceived activities made one of four consumers divert from the brand.
Confidence is key for customer relationship
Confidence is long and hard to build and easy to lose. If a brand is not able to keep its promises, it loses its credibility in the eyes of its customers, which the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated to the highest degree last year. Brands that increased prices of the key products during the crisis lost their customer confidence.
The gap between what a brand claims and how it behaves has to be reduced to a minimum. Communication should be transparent, products and customer experience consistently reliable and brands should deliver what they promised. According to the Value Compass research by Deloitte, people are more open to brands addressing them in a human and emphatic way. They believe that the brands care more about their needs.
Increasingly important is how companies behave to their employees. According to Deloitte, up to 82% of consumers prefer companies that care about their people’s safety and wellbeing. For nearly a third of them (31%) it is even a necessary prerequisite for repeated purchases from a given company. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, is an example of best practice. The company committed to proceed ethically across its supplier chain. For this reason, it provides so called Footprint Chronicle for any of its products, describing where individual materials come from and how production proceeded.
During repeated lockdowns, people became more aware than ever before what social contact meant to them. Many research studies even confirm that regular social contact extends the life expectancy by 50% while the lack of such contact weakens organisms’ immunity to viruses. Family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances are indispensable to people’s physical and mental health. According to Foresight Factory, brands can help people with social wellbeing, be it via various virtual events or through a safe environment in the offline world. In communication it is worth emphasizing empathy and the joy of being together.
Compared to the coronavirus pandemic, the climate change poses a much greater danger to which companies must respond. According to the consulting division of Ogilvy, up to 80% of consumers prefer brands that are environmentally responsible and 53% prefer purchasing less famous but sustainable brands. Investors are betting more on green brands as well. The green aspect of brands will be increasingly important.
Companies’ approach to sustainability varies. For example, Amazon or Zalando help customers find sustainable products, The North Face invests in sustainable materials, Mondelēz partners with minor players in innovations in recyclable packaging, McDonald’s cooperates with Beyond Meat on a vegetarian burger, and Ikea collects used furniture and puts it back into circulation. Procter & Gamble will introduce its own system of refillable bottles on the European market next year. Kofola obtained organic certification of Rajecká dolina and translates its sustainability efforts into the entire operation cycle.
E-commerce and social commerce as part of strategy
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated e-commerce development. Companies that responded quickly benefit from the crisis, those that did not lose out. New players also rushed into e-shops in addition to major established online businesses that were growing. In the Czech Republic, the chains COOP, Sklizeno and Makro launched their e-shops. Producers also started building their own online sales channels, such as Mattoni 1873 or Stock Plzeň-Božkov on the local market or Heinz, PepsiCo or Unilever abroad. According to Ogilvy, e-commerce strategy should be taken into account going forward as people have become accustomed to shopping online and most of them will not quit easily when the pandemic ends.
Apart from the traditional e-shops, the sales channel through social networks has been growing thanks to the launch of Facebook Shops, Instagram shops or Pinterest Shopping Ads and Catalogs. For this reason, brands should be able to let their fans shop directly from posts they come across on social networks.
Chance favours the prepared mind
In times of uncertainty and unexpected events, be it a pandemic, an economic crisis or extreme weather, prepared mind is becoming a new virtue. Thanks to preparation, people are more resistant. According to Foresight Factory, consumers will seek to improve their immunity system, work on their mental health, save for a rainy day, and make stock of basic food and other needs. People will also want to learn and acquire new skills to continue to be attractive on the labour market. The desire for better readiness is the breeding ground for brands that can give people a helping hand in this respect.
In October 2020, Bank of America launched a new service for its clients. It is called “Life Plan” and helps clients set their life goals, tracking their achievements, be it in finance, family, health, labour, or free time.
The need to engage consumers in brand building is not new; however, the trend has strengthened as a result of the pandemic. According to the spring survey by Deloitte, up to 64% of marketers have admitted that they have changed the way they engage their customers in their marketing activities this year.
Another survey, in which Deloitte asked over 7.5 thousand respondents, shows that up to 56% of them got involved in the communication with a brand this year, e.g. by writing a comment, a review or giving an advice on the functioning of a product or service. 15% of respondents engaged in the product design and 14% created their own content for a brand. Young gen Z consumers are more active in this respect. Most often, consumers engage in the communication of the electronics, beauty and personal care, health, fashion, beverages and food brands. When people start creating something for brands from other sectors, they are usually doing so on a regular basis. For example, BMW fans have not hesitated to propose car design tweaks.
Thanks to the work of fans, brands receive very authentic and trustworthy content that is in high demand in times of uncertainty. Moreover, consumers give them the necessary feedback and the right responses to the feedback humanise the brands.