Founder of forecasting trends agency Kjaer Global Anne Lise Kjaer outlines the social and cultural forces that will shape the future of marketing
The best marketing is driven by a whirlwind of social and cultural forces – and it is only by monitoring these patterns and behaviours that marketers can transcribe them into groundbreaking ideas.
Expect to see eight major social influences mould all marketing and communications in the coming decades. Once we have a positive impact on people and planet, with an ethos to match, “purpose”, it will enable profit, to follow.
The global brain
Digital neural networks and evolved augmented reality technology have created new opportunities in areas such as politics, education, media, health, commerce and leisure. The growth of dedicated social media MBA programmes, for example, has already redefined learning. Mobile education is predicted to value US$70bn (£14bn) by 2020 and the emergence of massive open online course (MOOCS), will result in an educational transformation.
This will lead to the rise of the global brain, as social media, open source learning, MOOCs and special interest networks proliferate – taking “people power” worldwide. The global brain is already growing at an exponential rate and by 2020 as many as 40bn digital devices could be connected. This will profoundly affect communication strategies, enabling fast and accurate decoding of multi-layered information.
Strategic master data
As big data merges with social content, we see the emergence of new strategic software and tools to predict behaviours and buying attitudes. Tracking real time sentiments will enable brands to deliver better experiences. But this trend has also led to questions around the definition of personal boundaries because what is technologically possible is not necessarily morally acceptable.
Ultimately, companies must let people decide how their personal information is used. Marketers need to build solid, trusting relationships, where radical transparency about security and rights of customers over their data is a given. Reputation management remains a priority, as a brand promise of deep engagement must be totally aligned with what people experience.
According to the Meaningful Brand Index by Havas Media, people in the UK wouldn’t care if 90 per cent of brands disappeared. This will demand soul searching from marketers who will be forced to ask questions such as: “why does the brand exist” and “why should people choose our products or services?”
Organisations have to reconsider how they deliver real value – a system of “weconomics” where people are respected partners rather than just consumers. Already we see new disruptive crowdfunding models, challenging established ways of doing business and inviting people to own a share in the start ups they buy from.
The mobile global workforce is estimated at 1.19 million – as people migrate for career development, life experiences and to discover new cultures. We will see a demand for affinity networks and familiar touch points that let us learn and share across conventional borders. These global citizens are market influencers, demanding higher standards in every aspect of life.
Their future migration and lifestyle choices are not only dictated by jobs, but also by positive cultural and political conditions. Technology is integral to both cultural mobility and brand engagement. To deliver real value and engage with the true needs of the global nomads and tomorrow’s talent, agility, convergence and seamless services must be incorporated into each and every offering.
Health and wellbeing
Prepare for a health revolution as new innovations in personal digital analysis help us ensure a balance in health, fitness and diet. This trend is set to explode as healthcare professionals become involved in designing health management systems and monitoring for prevention rather than just healing. There will be another social change as business – not government – will become the primary driver behind a “betterment” agenda.
According to Edelman’s 2012 Goodpurpose Study, 87 per cent of global consumers believe businesses must balance the interests of society alongside commercial interests. For marketers, this means moving their companies into a wholehearted culture of betterness – one that offers clear and demonstrable benefits for staff, stakeholders, community and planet.
Building social capital – collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups – is essential to 21st century business success. This will require the creation of a diverse group of leaders that includes more women.
The business case is clear: Harvard University research shows that female leaders deliver better bottom lines and their approach strongly correlates to the social capital markers of transparency, innovation, wellbeing and community engagement.
This trend is being fuelled by people’s desire to support products and services that match their values and lifestyles. From lifelong education to health monitoring, new products will be delivered at an incredible speed, although human touch points and genuine customer service remain vital components in customer loyalty.
In a more democratised digital world – one which allows individuals to become self styled experts – communications must evolve from top down messages to a dynamic multi-way narrative. In the future, your brand will not be defined by what you say it is, but by how people experience and share it.
We must rethink current unsustainable levels of consumption – this means deciding what is “enough” to lead a comfortable and happy life. It makes sound business sense to start with a strategy of maximising social value by optimising conditions for human happiness within the planet’s capacity.
One potential model is “happinomics”, a mindful economic approach that considers the definition of “plenty” not just in terms of wealth, but also connectivity and wellbeing. For marketers, this means guiding informed and intelligent choices and engaging in honest debates on the global challenge of living better with less that explore options beyond unsustainable business and consumption models.