A RECAP OF BRANDEMONIUM
By Megan Nicollerat & Megan Palmisano
“In the complex retail landscape, finding your way is hard unless you follow the leader – the customer.” – Lisa Destefano, Home Depot.
Brandemonium, an international marketing and branding conference held in Cincinnati last month, was a reminder of what’s important in marketing products or services – but with a new spin. We all know the customer is key, but with changes in technology, expectations, preferences and so on, the relationship between brands and customers has shifted. Gone are the days when customers relied on brands to lead them to what they need. In today’s world, brands now rely on customers to show them the way. Brandemonium reiterated that as the business landscape changes, we too as brands and organizations must adapt and evolve to keep pace with customers.
Lisa Destefano, Vice President of Brand Marketing and Creative at Home Depot, shared that the increase in the do-it-yourself mentality over the years, fueled by the popularity of platforms such as HGTV and Etsy, has produced a shift in the company’s model: offerings are now driven by the customer.
Over the course of two days, more than 60 marketers, branders, and advocates shared how their companies are overcoming the challenges of connecting with the customer of today and tomorrow. Below are three topics that rose to the forefront.
Technology continues to completely transform the business landscape, constantly reinventing how content is created and consumed. Cutting-edge product and service offerings by industry leaders such as Google (instant, in-depth content search), Apple (integrated, high-quality products), and Amazon (expansive product depth and near-immediate accessibility) are continually raising the bar for companies in all industries to offer products and services faster, cheaper, and of higher quality in order to hold their ground in the consideration set.
According to a study conducted by Google last year, 20% of today’s searches are made using voice technology
To meet these exponentially increasing consumer demands, it’s now more important than ever to anticipate consumer needs and intersect them at the sweet spot: finding the right person at the right time and putting the right message in front of them. To do this, more and more businesses are turning to tools such as Machine Learning for assistance in refining their marketing strategy, which has serious implications for creatives, marketers, researchers, and others trying to reach modern, digitally-driven audiences, because Machine Learning has impacted the way in which consumers behave cognitively.
As an example, customers are becoming increasingly reliant upon voice assistants for instant content access. According to a study conducted by Google last year, 20% of today’s searches are made using voice technology, a number expected to increase to 50% by next year.1 To capitalize on this, companies would do well to prioritize SEO such as Alexa, Siri, and other voice assistants reference third party websites for voice query validation. Some companies excelling in this space include Bank of America and Fidelity for financial questions, Food Network for recipes, and Sephora for beauty inquiries, as information from these companies are often some of the top returns for searches referenced by voice technology. Businesses can continue to find success by harnessing the ever-changing tech landscape to find unprecedented ways to earn their place in the minds of customers.
SOCIAL IMPACT & SUSTAINABILITY
Today’s consumers support companies that go beyond their bottom line. Shoppers appreciate and financially reward establishments that embody brand activism by demonstrating a values-driven agenda and showing concern for the planet’s health and the future of society. The most successful activist brands aren’t afraid to take a stand and take steps to change the world. In turn, they empower consumers to do the same, establishing a resonance that engenders brand loyalty. Perhaps one of the most exemplary brand activists is REI – notably one of the first corporations to opt out of Black Friday madness. By eschewing the bottom line and closing stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, they exemplified an authenticity true to their brand mission by instead encouraging employees and customers to get outdoors.
Sustainability is also a key tenant of brand activism. Sustainable companies have seen as much as a 16% higher rate of growth on average versus conventional industry competitors.2 These brands are putting sustainability into practice by adopting eco-friendly packaging, donating a portion of their proceeds to environmental causes, or even building high-efficiency office spaces. Going beyond the bottom line allows for brands to adopt a somewhat human element that fosters a crucial connection with consumers.
90% of millennials stated they would switch brands to one that is aligned with a cause
On the topic of sustainability and brand activism, Rashidi Hodari from Beam Suntory asks, “Are you headed in the right direction and are you moving fast enough?” Since 90% of millennials stated they would switch brands to one that is aligned with a cause, organizations are being prompted to shift focus toward brand activism.3 While packaging, pricing, and messaging will continue to be top considerations, a brand’s values and involvement will only continue to increase in significance. An example of how Beam Suntory has risen to the challenge is by getting involved with a cause that hits home for their organization. After Hurricane Maria tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017 (where Cruzan Rum, produced by Beam Suntory, is manufactured), the organization took action to assist their employees and the people of the island. Beam Suntory has provided upwards of $2 million dollars in support of disaster relief in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico.4
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Customers of today and the future are looking to connect with brands on a deeper level – they want to see that brands care about making a positive impact on the communities in which they serve and brands that represent them. Rani Mani, Head of Social Influencer and Enablement at Adobe, summed it up well when she said, “Companies need to show what’s behind the curtain to humanize the brand.”
By 2044, the current majority in the United States will be the minority.5 With a huge population shift on the horizon, brands and organizations need to evaluate their products and services and determine how they can better meet the needs and expectations of their new consumers.
As the population continues to diversify, it is imperative for brands and agencies to address the changing needs of a wider range of consumers. Consumers need more content that they can connect to: content that aligns with their beliefs, values, and perspectives. Within an ecosystem of inclusion and diversity, organizations can create content that resonates wholeheartedly with consumers. More diversity in thoughts and ideas can help fuel innovation, enabling companies to design more meaningful products and services.
IN THE FACE OF ALL OF THIS, HOW CAN MORE TENURED BRANDS (AND EVEN NEWER ONES!) COMPETE TO STAY RELEVANT?
Knowing your consumer is undoubtedly important to the business equation, but what does this really mean? Understanding their beliefs, motivations, and the causes they care about can help brands establish a stronger connection. Organizations can ensure they are hitting the mark more effectively with the help of more intentional consumer research. With targeted and specific research goals, organizations can uncover actionable insights that fuel larger organizational strategy conversations – so companies can make decisions based on strategy, not assumptions.
In the modern business landscape, companies poised to make more agile business decisions are better positioned to stay competitive. Take a look at your business processes. Are there any areas that can be reevaluated and streamlined? The goal is to construct as lean a process as possible in order to get concepts and products to market faster in a business environment that can change at a moment’s notice.
Be Open-Minded and Inclusive
As the population becomes more diverse, so should organizations. Whether it is through hiring practices, work processes, or in corporate culture, organizations can truly benefit from becoming more open-minded. A company that is more representative of the population is not only more likely to be in tune with customer needs and wants, it can also lead to a culture of openness and idea sharing, fueling new ways of thinking and innovating that ultimately helps the company grow and evolve with customers.
Storytelling and newsworthy branded content helps your brand speak from the heart. Instead of acting on your company’s purpose, think and speak like a purpose-driven company. A purpose-driven company actually improves society, and people can point to what they’re doing beyond industry norms. These organizations help consumers understand that individual changes can make a difference that can impact the world. Create relevancy, then speak to customers through meaningful narratives they can personally relate to; offer tools to take action and connect your purpose to theirs.
Interested in learning more about Brandemonium 2019? Check out Seed Strategy’s post on the event!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
As Marketing Manager, Megan Nicollerat oversees all of Burke’s marketing initiatives and works closely with multiple departments at Burke to increase her knowledge and expertise on research techniques.
Megan is Burke’s lead designer and graphics consultant. She partners with project teams to visualize research results via infographics, storybooks, and other means to facilitate actionable insights.