Building powerful brands is like investing in the stock market – you need to anticipate and respond to important shifts in context, but you also can’t panic with every market fluctuation. It is important to distinguish between fads and game-changers, to get the fundamentals right, and to hold a long-term view.
With that in mind, we have focused our perspective for the year on three trends and three fundamentals that too many forget in their pursuit of trends.
WHAT WILL CHANGE IN 2014?
1. We’ll ditch our inferiority complex
2014 is a big year for South Africa. Cape Town is the official World Design Capital for 2014 and in April we celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa. Our stature as a creative hub is growing and we have come a long way as a nation. Expect celebrations, reflections and a fair amount of election hysteria. Africa is booming and South African brands are expanding across the continent, and we will stop seeing ourselves as late adopters of Western trends and start feeling genuinely proud of local products, innovations and customs.
What it means for brands
Celebrate your African provenance and build relevant African stories into the narratives you weave. Use local ingredients and skills. Define a new kind of premium. Instead of Italian and French names for products, how about something isiZulu?
Work for the public good, pick up the slack where government is struggling with service delivery and find ways to tap into the spirit of nation-building that will dominate this year.
2. Shopping will come to us
Online shopping was slow out of the blocks in South Africa, due to the poor speed and penetration of the internet. This is changing fast, as brands like Yuppiechef and Zandos have moved from cult status to mainstream and the retailers, such as Woolworths, start taking online shopping seriously. With the meteoric rise of smartphone use in South Africa, online shopping will become common, and consumers will expect to be able to buy wherever they are (and however they like – expect to see much more ‘build your own package’ options too).
What this means for brands
Product brands need to confront the scary reality that they may lose the in-store touch-point. Invest in relationship-building, such as quirky, personalised after-sale emails. Make sure that you are so well loved that shoppers will choose you from a drop-down menu.
Retailer brands need to build easy, integrated and seamless shopping experiences across digital channels and physical stores. Understand how context influences the new shopper journey, integrate purchase opportunities into your marketing and be ruthless in your simplification. There are opportunities for collaborations, such as Kalahari.com pick-up points in physical stores, or pop-up stores for online brands.
3. The great content tsunami will gather pace
Content marketing has been on the rise for the past few years, and marketers will finally have to accept the radical idea that they need to be what their customers are interested in, rather than trying to interrupt it. On digital and social platforms this means thinking more like a publisher or a breakfast show producer than an advertiser – creating interesting, relevant and engaging content that adds value to your customers’ lives. You want to be the video on YouTube that everyone is watching, not the video that that they endure for five seconds while hovering over the ‘skip ad’ tab. But it’s also not a ‘digital trend’ – content is everything that your customers choose to engage with, from music festivals to seminars.
What it means for brands
Get a deep, personal understanding of what your customers value and enjoy so that you can create platforms that catch their attention and earn their love. Look beyond traditional category needs and think about how your brand can relevantly add value to their life. Red Bull, for example, gives their consumers energy through sporting, music and lifestyle events.
WHAT’S NOT GOING TO CHANGE IN 2014?
1. It will still be about insight, not data
Everyone is talking about Big Data and it certainly is going to make marketing much more precise, measurable and effective (one it becomes better understood). Behavioural analytics will prove to be hugely useful for design, messaging and media choice, but there is no substitute for deep insight into the motivations, context and desires of your customers. Numbers can’t give you that.
2. It will still be about creativity
Never in the history of the world have attention spans been as short as they are today, or marketing messages as prolific and overwhelming. Getting noticed is no easy feat, and it requires bold, raw creativity and smart thinking. Branding that plays it safe will simply get lost.
3. It will still be about respect
Consumers love the brands that treat them with respect, and they can spot a fake from a mile off. Don’t produce a poster that says you put the consumer at the heart of everything – actually behave like you do. Listen to your customers’ ideas and feedback, incorporate them in ideation, communicate openly and honestly and never, ever treat them like you know best.
Al Mackay is content strategist at Yellowwood.