Our team works with clients across all industries and geographies, offering them a global view of the many changes businesses are facing.
Saffron’s annual end of year roundtable brings together our team of strategists, designers and programme managers to talk about some of the trends we have observed and some of the scenarios we predict, or indeed hope for, in 2019.
Around the table:
Jacob Benbunan, CEO
Luz Erhardt, Chief Client Services Officer
Fernando Ortiz-Ehmann, Chief Strategy Officer
Ben Knapp, Chief Growth Officer
Charlotte Black, Senior Strategist
Claire Huxley, Strategist
Rose Robertson, Marketing Manager
RR: What will best-in-class brands be doing in 2019?
Convergence will trump digital in experience design
Digital is not a goal, but a mindset: one that’s now so obvious it is hygienic. The focus on digital will finally give way to a focus on experience, which cannot be digital only. Experiences are constructed in digital, physical or virtual worlds and the convergence of all of the above will be the core of the conversation for 2019.
A more holistic approach to brand touchpoints
Too many businesses are still playing catch-up when it comes to proving their brand delivers what it promises. The brand has a place in their advertising department, but too often it doesn't influence crucial touch points like hiring, product development or customer service. Brand is means to an end that businesses can use to get results faster and more effectively.
Brand-led customer experience design
We will see a rise in brand-led customer experience projects in which customer-centric service design will not suffice. The experience needs to be further boosted by ensuring it is connected holistically to the brand.
RR: What changes have you experienced in the way we work with clients and what do you foresee for 2019?
Brand as a long-term guide, not a one-off project
We have seen a move towards clients seeing us as a long-term partner and advisor when facing the challenges of brand governance. By overcoming silos, making the case for change and offering a roadmap to make results real we have been able to impact businesses far more extensively than on a shorter project basis.
There is an opportunity for businesses to use their brand to drive change inside and outside their business and expect to see the shift to this type of relationship continue in 2019.
More Agile projects
Greater numbers of client projects will be delivered using an Agile project methodology, as these ways of working are being widely implemented within their own organisations.
RR: How have global trends affected brands this year, and what implications will there be for 2019?
A battle to regain trust
In the era of Fake News, #MeToo, Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, trust is a rare commodity. 2019 will see businesses needing to prioritise building authentic, meaningful relationships with their customers above all else. The greatest winners of the next decade will be the ones who can deliver on this and prove their lasting value!
We are living in an age of transparency, where one of the greatest tasks is to turn your critics into your champions. How to do this? Start from the inside; nothing can be changed in the long-term outside, if it has not come from the inside. Bring employees on the journey. Equip them to tell your story, empower them to participate in your evolution and engage them with your brand purpose! Whether they are speaking to customers, building for customers or part of the backbone of your business that supports everyone else...this is where true trust is built for the long-run.
Brand will be tested by another global recession
There is a new and significant recession in the making. Businesses that understand that brand can navigate the choppy waters of change will survive, whilst those who refuse to change will perish.
Cross-cultural brand management will continue to demand greater flexibility from businesses
The challenge of managing a brand so that it engages a known audience is big enough. Now add the variables of great distance between the brand managers and their audience as well as a different language and culture. Cross-cultural brand management requires often big leaps of faith and a rather higher degree of brand flexibility than the inventors of the terms 'corporate identity' and 'brand' would have allowed for.
RR: After a year in which we’ve seen great interest in Employer Brand projects, is this set to continue in 2019?
Greater recognition of the importance of Employer Brand
The surge in cultural identity projects will continue as businesses realise the potential of Employee Value Propositions and are keen to know how best to leverage brand inside the organization for employee experience.
Growth of a service mindset will challenge internal cultures
Companies that have been focused on the engineering, manufacturing, marketing and distribution of products are confronted with the need to establish a service culture. This doesn't mean customer service but rather fostering a mindset that creates relevant and differentiated services to replace or work alongside products. This is a cultural challenge and a bigger one than most product focused businesses care to admit but one that must be faced.
RR: And finally, what do you think we’ll see from leading brands in 2019?
Place brands built for residents, not tourists
Places have become so successful at attracting business and leisure visitors that they run the risk of losing their authenticity. It's important for neighbourhoods, cities, regions and nations to remember that it's the people that live there that will welcome and interact with visitors. If a place brand doesn't work for the people that live there, it has no chance of working for anyone else.
A more creative approach to Naming
Naming companies is becoming harder and harder, with clients struggling to get hold of their first-choice names. There are simply fewer names available, with internet and trademark processes increasingly mature and sophisticated.
With businesses increasingly competing on a global level, names are being taken across borders, adding a layer of complexity to the process.
Brands will need to be more open to coining completely new names, combining two words together, or taking roots to form new ideas. Saffron clients like Lyntia, Vueling and Powen have all benefitted from this approach, which can seem scary - but the harsh reality of today is that simple, good names are becoming rarer. Once brands accept this, an exciting world can open up with endless possibilities to be creative.
A sonic branding boom
Brands are becoming more interested in how best to leverage brand for audio now that devices such as Amazon's Echo are finding their way into homes (and businesses?). Audio will become the new battle front.
The fall of Facebook
Facebook will suffer the consequences of concentrating too much power under one company and will be forced to divide into Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Mark Zuckerburg will be asked to go in light of long-term damage to the brand caused by data scandals and political manipulation facilitated by the site.