It was a fascinating year for Saffron, working with some of the world’s best-known and most successful brands.
We’re lucky to have clients all over the world, from a huge range of industries, so each year we ask our consultants to share their reflections and predictions at our end-of-year roundtable. We ask what trends have they observed, and what will be important for global brands in 2020?
How have global trends affected brands this year, and what implications will they have for 2020?
The unstoppable force of purposeful consumerism
The reaction against this year’s Black Friday sales was indicative of increased consumer awareness of the relationship between what we consume and the effect it has on the supply chain. Companies have woken up to the idea that shoppers are starting to crave meaning in the brands they select, and mass discounting events look distasteful and wrong in the age of climate crisis and greater public awareness of supply chain issues.
In 2020, brands will be working harder than ever to conquer consumers’ hearts in the hope of eliminating the ethical dilemma of shopping and consuming. The tool they will use? Purpose. Brands are realising that they can ensure splurging and virtue are not mutually exclusive when buying serves a greater cause. But they will need to reflect on their promise to the consumer and tell their story in accordance with their overall brand strategy.
Chief Client Services Officer
Brand-connected gender equality
Since the #MeToo movement began, survivors of sexual violence and harassment have spoken out and demanded action, inspiring a collective movement that has led to historic progress. But there’s more to be done and the business community is a key stakeholder with the power to keep it going. Over the last year Saffron has consulted with prominent companies to build a brand-led position on their gender equality, diversity and inclusivity strategy. We are seeing more interest in this as one way for companies to not only create an inclusive culture but to differentiate themselves beyond the cookie-cutter, compliance-led HR initiatives to win the talent war.
Brands taking a political stance
The political turmoil of the past few years has emboldened brands to take a stance on political issues in a way that would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Whether by commenting on a hot topic issue (Brexit, anyone?), or aligning themselves with a specific party (and therefore its voters), brands are increasingly ignoring the adage that they should steer clear of the ballot box. And with the 2020 US Presidential and Congressional Elections fast approaching, this trend looks set to continue. It will be interesting to see which brands choose to pick a side, and whether they will do so in a way that seems authentic, rather than opportunistic.
Personalisation has become a necessity
Personalisation is becoming less of a novelty and more of a necessity for consumers. Consumers have come to rely on personalised recommendations, trained by experiences such as Netflix’s algorithmic feed based on watch history, or Instagram’s feeds serving content they like. Personalisation has become a basic expectation; if it doesn’t work specifically for us, then we are just not as interested.
Business Development Executive
Travel and Hospitality brands have been particularly interesting partners for us this year. Travellers are looking to connect with destinations more authentically, staying in and exploring one place for longer. This has led hospitality brands to deepen the focus on the experience they provide and the idea of rejuvenation and rest for harried urban workers. The return of a ‘concierge’ approach can be seen from Airbnb to luxury hotel brands as they are increasingly mining the possibilities provided by their locations to meet travellers’ demands, looking to provide valuable connections with real people and experiences.
What will we see from leading brands in 2020?
Technology companies and surveillance
Tech companies commonly grouped under the “GAFA” acronym will need to tackle the complaints of surveillance capitalism as civil society wakes up to the need to regulate these companies in the same way as those in the physical world are. Lawmakers, not tech bosses will need to get to grips with this issue - beyond the simplistic question of taxation - before civil society takes to the streets.
Brand will be seamlessly linked with sustainability
Sustainability will become an intrinsic part of a brand, no matter its industry, strength, stage or geography. It will transcend associations with brands that have an association with the topic due to their brand purpose and promise. Sustainability has become so deeply embedded in society that brands will incorporate its dynamics and codes into their brand strategy.
Chief Strategy Officer
As marketeers, we have heard time and time again “facts tell, stories sell.” Indeed, storytelling is the main currency for brands in today’s fast-paced, digitally-driven, overly-automated society in which humanity is a premium. But even the most powerful stories can fail to connect and capture the audience’s precious attention if not delivered in the right way or moment. Marketeers will need to balance both art and science more than ever in delivering to their audience’s needs and finding new ways to encourage brand engagement. For example, the use of data analysis to listen (with consent) and then applying AI to respond to enhance brand experience can help ensure that storytelling goes to market in the most effective way. AI will help us predict customer behaviour and ensure effective engagement, whilst storytelling will become more data-led. Developing a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and priorities is the key to effective communication and the way to avoid directionless creative.
Monolithic brands will demand greater flexibility to express unique aspects or features within their products and services. After such a long-term trend towards monolithic solutions, marketeers and brand consultants alike have a desire to widen the parameters of their brand expression to flex, allowing for unique 'sub-identities' utilising the masterbrand's visual toolkit and experience DNA.
When Brand and HR converge
Internal culture plays a crucial role in brand-building for any organisation. In our age of extreme transparency and sky-high expectations for corporate social responsibility, we will see brand and HR move closer together. Employee and customer experience will go hand-in-hand and any branding project will need to consider its impact on the employer brand.
The rise of Personal Branding
People are central to making brands what they are. We predict that there will be a rise in demand for developing Personal Branding for C-Level executives; those that represent their company in the public eye as Chairman, CEO or a member of the Board of Directors. With greater public scrutiny of businesses and those that run them, it’s inevitable and it’s critical.
Voice technology will become the new normal
As we see a shift towards voice command-activated technology in 2020, the process of refining the user experience will continue to advance. Brands will compete to master the channels provided by Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri until there’s little space left to innovate.
New Business Executive
Independent brands are increasing in popularity
The continuing rise of independent brands is being enabled by disruption in the structure of retail, with ecommerce enabling smaller brands to reach larger audiences than when they were shackled to locations. As shoppers turn to purpose, independent brands that can tell compelling stories will continue to win business from stale, global consumer brands that find it harder to play to consumers’ growing desire to demonstrate their uniqueness.
The middle-class explosion
The number of people considered to be in the ‘global middle class’ is expected to more than double, from 430 million in 2000 to 1.2 billion in 2030 (or from 7.6% of the world’s population to over 16%). The World Bank predicts that by 2030, 93% of the global middle class will be from developing countries like Turkey, India and China. We will see global brands starting to factor this into their investment more and more in 2020, tailoring their global brand strategies for local markets. Ikea India opened its first online store in 2019, building on its first physical store in 2018, with products aimed at all Indian purses. Apple will bend to the Chinese government for a shot at the market. BBVA acquired Garanti in Turkey. Expect brands to bend their approach to appeal to this new segment, worldwide.
New Business Executive
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