The pace of change, disruption, and fragmentation in many industries can sometimes overwhelm even the savviest and experienced of us. There is a very solid level of know-how and experience required to successfully drive marketing and brand strategies and to execute in excellence. Even more so in the future.
Let´s have a look at what I think the main focus areas and aspirations of successful brands will be in 2014:
Being Best in Product and Services Development and Delivery
At the heart of successful marketing and branding is – and also in 2014 and beyond will be- a great product and/or service creation and delivery. Successful brands, products, and services will have a higher level of personalization in order to become more relevant and meaningful to consumers. Besides rational features like quality, price, customer services, etc. the brand decision process will become more emotionally-driven. Strong brands will identify and communicate appropriate emotional values to differentiate themselves and to establish close bonds with consumers and customers. More than ever, and to actively engage today´s high-expectation consumers, brand will need to be more focused to develop products and offers which grow the whole category they´re operating in and not only their own products.
Being Best in Collaboration
In 2014 organizations and marketing managers need to quickly position themselves in this new open, and more collaborative economy. An economy characterized by speedy change and permanent disruption. On the one hand, brands from different industries will work more closely together. From R&D to joint marketing initiatives. On the other hand, the phenomenon of consumers co-creating content and products, and sharing ideas will continue to grow. For instance, Airbnb topped 10 million guest stays since its launch and now has 500k properties listed worldwide.
Being Best in Retail
Brands, being confronted with showrooming, e-commerce and cost-conscious, always connected consumers, need to make retail more relevant to consumers and customers by combining off- and online elements into one single multi-channel distribution strategy. They need to deliver direct brand-to-customer interaction with the help of innovative technology (e.g. touch screens, sensors, interactive cameras, Wi-Fi- and 4G-connectivity, LCD screens), by providing opportunities to experience products (see, feel, touch, smell, hear, taste) before and during the purchasing process, by providing easy-to-understand and stimulating product presentations and merchandising solutions, by offering expert staff, consultation facilities, samples, etc. Good examples are Nike, Wal-Mart, and Ikea.
Being Best in Communication
Content is king. That´s nothing new anymore. Still, many brands seem to confuse quantity and quality, since there exist so many exciting communication channels and platforms. Just writing up keyword rich blog posts and some articles don’t cut it anymore. Brands have to say something meaningful and insightful to customers while entertaining them at the same time.
There is a great need and opportunity to develop unique brand experiences that engage consumers deeply and comprehensively, that stimulates word of mouth, and that generates a lot of user-generated content. Further business impact will come from very targeted niche communities from co-operations with credible and influential brand advocates.
Utilizing storytelling techniques – while getting away from the transactional relationship – is a very powerful technique and will help to create a strong emotional bond with your customer. Storytelling, although one of the main business buzzwords in 2013, is nothing new and is very much at the core of every great brand´s DNA. Videos, pictures, and songs will become more dominant in the future. Working best they will be blended into one consistent story (e.g. P&G´s Proud Sponsor of Moms). Some weeks ago Instagram announced that it would join the visual playing field, alongside other messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp to enable consumers to share personable moments. On top of being compelling, your content needs to do two things. One, create an emotional connection with your brand, and two, drive customers to action.
Speed and Spontaneousness will be crucial, too. Real-time communication and feedbacking means to interact and to respond quickly to any relevant occurrence, question, etc. Brands can use e.g. Twitter feeds during certain TV shows, sports events, etc to communicate live and instantly with existing and potential new customers. It will take planning, flexibility, humor, creativity, and courage.
Being Best in Using Customer-Focused Technology
Mobile technology and communication will become even more important. Already now half of all social interaction happens on mobile platforms. In consequence all brand communication must be designed based on a mobile-first perspective. Responsive design has almost become a basic requirement, and it’s important to tailor each piece of content to the device or channel where it will most likely be viewed by the consumer. Mobile technology will soon replace all other communication devices as the predominant means. No doubt, in 2014 we are going to see a huge increase in location-based marketing.
Other key technologies are Streaming and On-Demand media. They are rewiring the way consumers think and process information. People are getting used to having everything customized and delivered instantly, when and where they want it.
Also Cognitive Computing will further evolve, i.e. systems learning and interacting naturally with people. Rather than being programmed to anticipate every possible answer or action, cognitive systems are trained using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to understand and to predict. Applying this to marketing will help managers to better understand and communicate with customers.
Being Best in Data-Driven Customer Experience and Customer Services
Big Data was one of another major buzzword in 2013 in many organizations around the globe. It´s a fact that with today´s technology we can collect, analyze, and process tons of (consumer) data to better understand consumption patterns, to evaluate commonalities and differences, to anticipate trends, and to identify new business and product opportunities. The real task, however, is to use all of these information – and by respecting possible and legitimate privacy concerns – in a way as to match them with real consumer wants and needs in order to improve the experience of your customers: e.g. new wearable devices likeSamsung´s Galaxy Smart Watch to improve personal health.
The key is not merely measuring what happened, but trying to predict future outcomes, i.e. to understand why and how it will play out in the future. Analytics have to go from passive to active.
Moreover, collected and stored data need to be used to establish personal, trustworthy, and – most importantly – respectful relationships with existing and new customers. Big data needs to to be seen as a vehicle to dramatically boost an organization´s customer obsession and not its capability to spy on consumers and customers. Companies must implement whichever needed security measures to avoid discussions like currently happening at Target.
Being Best in Corporate Social Responsibility
Companies clearly should make some 2014 resolutions to ensure their CSR and sustainability efforts start off on the right foot in the new year. While it’s more or less standard practice for companies to address the environmental and carbon impacts (e.g. resulting from their operations and products) time has come to take a closer look at how climate change (e.g. storms, floods, resources scarcity) could impact the company from the outside in and across their entire supply chain.
With the gradual depletion of many resources some organizations are e.g. intensively searching for novel alternatives to the materials currently used in their products. An evolution and necessity which will need to be more widely applied. One example is Nike which already some time ago has started to research for more sustainable textiles by partnering with the U.S. State Department, NASA, etc. Other good examples are Coca-Cola and Nestlé.
Leading brands will further stimulate employee engagement around CSR by having already started turning to gamification or micro-volunteerism to make engagement easy, fun and personalized. German airline Lufthansa has been running for some years a company-wide initiative called HelpAlliance which supports nearly 40 projects in 19. Responsibility for a project of this kind is always assigned to an employee of Lufthansa. These employees donate their free time to helping people in developing economies. In return they receive some support from the company for THEIR project.
Finally: The Need of Having the Right Organization, Processes, and People in Place
Misaligned organizational structures and processes often hinder the flow of information and know-how across across brand, marketing, and business goals. There needs to be a close integration between traditional marketing programs and digital initiatives on the one hand and between marketing and other departments on the other hand. As brand managers for the most part are responsible for the overall performance of a brand, and most recently also for an increasing volume of content and messaging, moving forward they should also have the digital marketing managers within their teams and having them report into brand management.Brands need more active senior leadership support and focus than ever. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are in an ideal position to help facilitate and advance these efforts.
There is also a strong need for an improved alignment and reorganization around agency selection and management. It is known that more traditional agencies often still lack digital expertise (which normally they would not admit). As a consequence brand marketers are managing not rarely various agencies at the same time. In the future this would need to be simplified and streamlined to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the marketing teams.
Last, but not least, when hiring for marketing and branding expertise, it is advised to look for a top technical skill set (e.g. candidates having a very solid marketing basis, first comprehensive digital branding and media experience) and core characteristics such as the ability to cross-communicate, to connect to business goals, to show strong backbone, to be willing to convince senior management to implement new methods, and to be willing to permanently learn and to constantly educate the business.
Marketing and branding in 2014 will require more than ever the integration of marketing into all business efforts and departments, including customer experience, design, sales, and product development.
CEO, Green Cheese Media Group, Inc., Sr. Partner Brand.gineering and Best-Selling Author
Actually, the future of communication for brands will be creating your own immersive content networks that use stories with theatrical/dramatic structure (The word “story” is so overused. Most of what I see is bad storytelling, not all stories are created equal) and those brands will start dominating over TV or media networks. Nobody cares about advertising and almost everything I see from most major brands is still a sales pitch with a very thin story. Smart brands will be sponsoring entire customer immersive affinity story-based networks.
To summarize: “Continue following Intro to Business Principles, outlined in future tense.”
North67 Internet Marketing
Definitely brand collaboration but to the next level. 2014 will see the continued growth of social collaboration. Successful brands will embrace their social followers not only from a customer service standpoint, but as part of their culture and desire to respond to new ideas. In other words “Know Thy Audience” and respond to your customers needs.
Brand Ambassador, Donna Karan at Saks Fifth Avenue
Andreas, will you say more about brand storytelling in 2014? To what degree do you think it will intersect CSR?
Andreas von der Heydt AUTHOR
Country Manager Amazon BuyVIP, Leadership Coach, Founder ConsumerGoodsClub, Happy
Hi Mel, Great idea for a next blog article. Will certainly pick up the topic. Best, Andreas
Business Designer & Architect
2013 was the year of stabilisation. I expect to see new categories in 2014 and possibly the birth of a new organisation, which will have us all talking.
PRSSA National Diversity and Ethics Subcommittee member/ Arrow Online Managing Editor/ I.P.Director at Riverfront PR
Agreed! I’ve been trying to think what will be the next big thing in terms of apps/software and it’s hard! I think one of the big companies – Google, Apple, IBM,Microsoft – will come up with something that will blow us away once more in 2014.
Retail Private Brands & Consumer Brands: Strategy, Design & Business Consulting
Being best in collaboration is so true and relevant to all. It is what is making our world exciting….between retailers, suppliers, agencies, shoppers,,,,,
Category Management Coordinator, National Brands (OTC) at McKesson
Excellent article! I completely agree with the idea of having a Chief Marketing Officer overlook the brands.
Demand Generation and Digital Marketing Manager
Great article! I may be biased, but this seems to be the piece that will allow brands to really move the needle in 2014: “Being Best in Data-Driven Customer Experience and Customer Services”.
Social media may force big brands to become more personable in 2014.
General Manager at Foodex International
“RED BULL” through sports and outdoor activities!
Naba Kumar Jena
Head, Seafood Division at Shrine Seafood Products Co.
Parvez Ahamed is right Red Bull
Naba Kumar Jena
Head, Seafood Division at Shrine Seafood Products Co.
Parvez Ahamed is right Red Bull
IT Recruiter at Tech Star Consulting Inc
Google, then Apple
Digital Business Director
The last part quite true about agency management and what to watch out
CPA_MBA specializing in banks in Argentina and in Uruguay.
BackTrack at Free till we see
only the facebook affiliated…thts for certain
Contracts Administrator / Key Account Executive at Gulf Engineering Services Ltd
You’ve captured all the main aspects and i believe that having the right organisation, processes and people in place would definitely be an area of consideration this year as we see more organisations transforming through mergers and buy-outs.
CEO | Managerial Technology Research Int. AG
concerning the retail section: is there any ROI study with percentual increase of retail sales with supporting technology?
Winston Warrior, MBA
Strategic Marketing Executive and Thought Catalyst
Telling a brand’s story and connecting it with the consumer’s spoken and unspoken wants and needs is the bedrock. It’s a timeless principal.
Jean-Yves Piton, MBA ✔ 2nd
Proven Sales & Marketing Leader | Optimizing Performances & Driving Growth
Thank you for sharing such a great article and thoughts Andreas as we are rapidly approaching 2014. Given the growing focus on the customer experience, we shall see the rise of the CXO (Chief Experience Officer) to lead the experience and further drive revenue. Also, in a more customer-centric world, real-time marketing (particularly conversations) will play an even bigger role to reinforce the customer experience. Last but not least, would you agree that big data will get smaller to enhance the customer experience? I am referring to using big data and data mining to get more personal (targeted) with customers (as compared to consumers) in ways that make the experience even better.
Rajeev C R
Experienced Sales and Marketing Professional in Banking & Financial Service/FMCD/FMCG
Well narrated, best retailing and customer focused technology should come in the top. Thank you Mr.Andreas for the great post.
Financial Consultant at Hewlett-Packard
Great article. Bring them solutions that help to position them in achieving the exemplary attributes mentioned in this article. If you have customers who do business with these brands (or want to); help them by connecting the dots!
Global Executive Director of User Experience & Product Design
Mostly table stakes – brut great reminder read
Augusto de Carvalho
ASSESSORIA DE COMUNICAÇÃO INTEGRADA
“Para Viver um Grande Amor é preciso abrir todas as portas que fecham o coração…”// Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Social Media Expert at Tesco Mobile
Great little read. All basic principles but good reminder non the less.
Flora O. Omosevwerha 2nd
Head, Quality Assurance & Training for Customer Care, Etisalat Nigeria
Great article Andreas. Thank you!
Director-Business Dev n Operation at PF n Group
Director of International Marketing & Global Branding at Britax Child Safety
Really good article
Senior Project Manager, Gov Healthcare Solutions at Xerox
Good one. Being best in retail – “deliver direct brand-to-customer interaction with the help of innovative technology” I think organization should be more and more mobile capable and focus more on branding and positioning using mobile advertisement and positioning.
Marketing with results
It is good that almost every industry is starting to adopt the best in retailing practices. Nobody likes a hard sell. People like to be consulted and to get advice. Even car dealerships are starting to pay salaries and no commissions and this goes down to more comfortable buying experiences and less likely to scare a consumer away. Being best in communication is not just about storytelling anymore. It is about cross senses communicating. People want to hear and not just read about the product. If they can go somewhere and see the product along with a desciption and hear something as well it is even better. The more senses you can engage the better the sales will be. Social Media should be utilized in a big way and not just to get your name out there. Social Media polls, and comment sections that are actually read and responded to when appropriate all bring about better experiences. Company’s should monitor the media regularly. Too many allow vulgar comments to be put up on social media sites and just allowed to sit there. This is a big turn off and makes a site less friendly. Consumer comments can impact a facebook post or linkedin post just as much as the initlal post/article can. Personally, i think all public comments should be moderated before appearing to everyone is a must. If you do not have the time to edit your posts than you do not have the right organization/process in place.
Senior Project Manager, Gov Healthcare Solutions at Xerox
I agree. Social media will play a major role going forward.
Marketing VP/CMO, Agency Strategist, Growth Catalyst
Good insight, but as a former CMO I see a different challenge ahead. Over the past 5 years, marketing leaders have been deluged in learning how to shift their focus from selling cycles to buying cycles. We’ve implemented content marketing, drip campaigns, WOM, lead nurturing, etc. — all geared toward “helping people buy” instead of traditional selling. The problem? The rest of the C-Suite hasn’t been attending the same shows, reading the same books, or watching the same Webinars. The result is a disconnect as the C-Suite still expects Marketing to execute e-blasts, sales promotions, and self-serving PR to support the Sales organization in “making the numbers.”
Marketing Manager at Barlowold STET
Great article. Thanks for sharing.
CEO at TransgressiveX
Interesting article – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. In a simply summary, it looks to me like it’s all about how well brands and their owning companies (which increasingly are visible and inspected) exchange value with their various stakeholders: consumers of course, but also recognising that a brand’s role is personal and social and societal.
Head of PR at Virgin Holidays
“Marketing and branding in 2014 will require more than ever the integration of marketing into all business efforts and departments, including customer experience, design, sales, and product development.”. Damn right.
The best brands will find the nexus of interactive, social and experiential marketing. It’s coming in 2014.
Didier Luke Nkunga
Sales and marketing at Barclays Capital.
When a product, service or organization is all about the functional benefit, this is not enough for them to thrive in 2014, they must add emotional and self expressive character to whatever they are doing in order to survive in the coming years.
Jake Austria 2nd
Everything`s New… I think ,,, Human habit lol…Nice Article 🙂
SEO Consultant Kansas City, MO NetGeniusLive.com LLC
Hopefully the biggest brands revisit their online /off-line holiday season strategy…I recommend a budget that lowers overall investing in brick and mortar operations. This years’ brick and mortar holiday sales revenue dropped by 20%. I predict a large number of brick and mortar stores to start offering dropshipping programs to get their world wide web revenue up.
Marketing Executive at TEC
the future of branding is increasing day by day.. but we cannot neglect the importance of customer loyalty factor .. good communication after sales services all the things important to build brand .and emotional attachment too .but the monetary factor have a greater impact .. people are having dual trand they are risk taker but as far as risk aversion .. price sensitivity.replica marketing and non-traditional channel are the biggest threat for the company.. as IT improve the communication but still their is alot more improvement demanded to deal with it
Everyone is so focused on what comes next- the future. In reality, the things that a business should come to terms with are what they are selling and why. The how will inevitably change with the times.
Helping companies display their brands and products at Exhibitions, Events and in Retail environments across Australia.
Great comment and some fantastic thoughts to ponder as we approach the new year. I know in the Exhibition and Events industry many of us will take on some of the challenges raised.
Head of Specialist Channel – Nestle Purina PetCare
Nice article…how to create an integrated marketing campaign throughout all channel
The Danny Mansion
The core points made in this post are valid but NOT new. This information applies to this year and in 2012.