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Managing Director and Principal at Dendro, serving as creative growth partners for ambitious leaders.
As we make our way out of the pandemic knowing we likely won’t have herd immunity in the U.S., what are some of the trends that will impact how brands connect with people? The future that will emerge years from now is often hard to predict, and many brands are still faced with a myriad of uncertainties, needing new playbooks.
After speaking with our network of clients and cultural experts, and reading loads of data on the effects of the pandemic, here are a few predictions to help organizations fulfill future consumer needs.
The Wellness-First Workplace
Health and wellness in the workplace will move from a “nice to have” to a new normal. During the pandemic, we have adopted many behaviors driven by apps, wearable technology and home-based exercise equipment. According to Mintel, almost half of adults feel more in control of their health since being at home more.
This fundamental shift will require organizations to adapt as people return to physical offices, expanding in-office perks to wellness perks. For example, many businesses are exploring four-day workweeks and extra parental support via companies like Cleo.
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Brand Stands Or Purpose-Washing?
Almost every brand has become a purpose-driven brand. Moving beyond mere marketing tactics, brands must find ways to demonstrate values and behaviors while proving that they are actively practicing their purpose. Some examples include Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, REI’s #OptOutside movement, Ben & Jerry’s stands on social inequities and Frida Mom addressing postpartum stigmas head-on.
According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 80% of Americans want brands to solve societal problems along with solving their personal problems. But 86% say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. This ushers in the important question: When is it right for a brand to take a societal stand?
There are many things to consider, but authenticity, relevance and action are necessary. It’s good to take a stand if it reflects the true values already inherent in the company. It’s often more successful if the stand is germane to the industry/category in which the brand competes. And finally, the stand must be supported by more than mere marketing, showing how the company itself is contributing in multiple ways to solve a societal ill.
Brand Bonding Experience
Putting customer interests first with flexible refund, pricing and change policies often leads to strong brand performance. A recent study found that, even during the pandemic, 87% of consumers say they are loyal to a few brands.
However, with online shopping as the new norm, brands must find new ways to demonstrate their value and optimize customer interactions. We’re seeing massive growth opportunities in improving customer service, removing friction and adding service add-ons, such as free consultations, coaching or advice sessions.
Upskilling Vs. Hoarding
Brands that are helping people upskill are winning. During the pandemic, 87% of people took up new hobbies and activities. People are much more likely to measure their own value by the things they know how to do versus the items they’ve accumulated.
For example, Stitch Fix, Peloton, Noom, Calm and Talkspace are built around adding a layer of advice to traditional products like fashion, exercise, dieting, mindfulness and therapy. It’s a huge opportunity for established brands to create new ways to connect with consumers.
One way to apply this trend is to assume you’re not just selling product, but instead sell advice. What advice could your brand credibly supply to consumers? Can you make them better cooks, investors, drivers, readers, artists? Enable consumers to better themselves and acquire new skills.
Hyper-Local Future And Hygienic Demands
Consumers’ shifting interests, combined with remote working, have driven a surge in “localism” around the world. According to research from Shopify, 61% of consumers said “they plan to buy from local and independent retailers six months from now.”
Consequently, companies will face a higher demand for hygiene. Pre-pandemic, people might have focused on price, service and cuisine when choosing where to dine out. But Covid-19 has sparked a shift in people’s priorities, with sanitation becoming a key factor when choosing a restaurant.
Isolation Yields Togetherness
The most missed in-person activities during the pandemic were social gatherings: only 40% of Americans planned to gather during the holidays in 2020 prior to the vaccine rollout.
Brands can connect deeper with customers by focusing on sharing and enhancing relationships offline. Our memories are watered down by shallow virtual interactions. Physical togetherness has become our most precious resource, and the desire to create memories creates an opening for brands to help facilitate shared experiences.
Zero Waste As The New Necessary
We were already questioning the practices of inefficient and wasteful goods, and during the pandemic we became even more mindful about them. According to Mintel GNPD, 69% of food/drink introductions globally in 2020 included an on-pack claim about environmentally friendly packaging. Moving forward, consumers will start to pay more attention to durability and the ability to reuse goods. This means brands will need to put an emphasis on recycled and upcycled materials to stay relevant.
Consumers have adapted their behaviors to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic to different degrees. It has prompted lifestyles to shrink, revolving mostly around our homes and neighborhoods. Many have reprioritized wellness over work and balance over ambition. As a result, people are reevaluating how they want to spend their money and time. Now is the time for brands to improve and innovate offerings that will let your customers know their interests are first.
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Author: Brandon Murphy, Forbes Councils Member