Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Societal, Technology and COVID-19 Trends

As marketers, we need to stay abreast of societal and technology trends. Here are some trends that will have large impacts on our lives:

Societal trends:

  • While globalization continues, nationalism and "buy local" trends increase
  • Rise of the global middle class while the US middle class stagnates
  • Increased tribalism in the US
  • Global climate change and its consequences - increased catastrophic weather events, pandemics, environmental hazards, damage to cities and infrastructure and creation of refugees leading to national security risks
  • Increasing anxiety throughout the world
  • Increased feelings of alienation among those who cannot keep up with societal and technology changes
  • People connecting through tech (social media, smart phones, online communication platforms)
  • Organized religion continues to decline while personal spirituality increases
  • The role of women becomes more dominant in society, including in leadership roles (causing a backlash from men who feel threatened)
  • Aging population, including increased aging at home
  • Fewer and fewer people are employed by large organizations, while the gig economy continues to grow (putting pressure on how health care is paid for)
  • There is a continued decline in materialism and consumerism. People have been moving from purchasing products to purchasing services and experiences for decades. A more recent trend is toward simplifying one's life, especially as the average age in the US increases. 
  • There is continued movement from capitalism to socialism
  • Cohabitation among unmarried partners continues to increase
  • Legalization of marijuana, popularity of CBD
  • Emergence of "fake news" - What is real? What is truth? The sophistication with which fake photographs and videos can be created is increasing. This will increase tribalism as different tribes will have completely different perceptions of the facts and reality itself. 
Technology trends:
  • AI in customer service, especially in telephone and online support
  • Digital assistents (e.g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Facebook M, Blackberry Assistant, Briana, Hound, Amazon Echo [Alexa])
  • Computer vision (including facial recognition)
  • Autonomous driving, ultimately leading to decreased job prospects for truckers, taxicab drivers and even Uber/Lyft drivers
  • Continued automation of an increasing number of jobs, including in the white collar sectors (e. g. medical internists and contract lawyers)
  • 3-D printing (this has applications across a wide variety of industries and even makes it easier to make things at home)
  • 5G data networks
  • Cloud computing
  • Blockchain technology (can aid in sharing money and other commodities with others, proving identity and ownership of assets, run a decentralized marketplace, vote, manage healthcare records, trade cryptocurrencies, etc.)
  • Business use of personal data including all of the marketing and ethical implications of this
  • Data analytics, leading to personalized and predictive products and services (including in the medical sector)
  • Data risk, leading to more jobs in this area
  • Extended reality (virtual environments, human-machine interactions)
  • Telemedicine, mobile medicine and self-diagnostics using wearable technology
  • Continued dominance of tech companies whose online platforms benefit from economies of scale and network effects (leading to more super rich entrepreneurs)
  • Decreased ability to remain private online and even off-line (due to security cameras, smart phone tracking, automobile tracking, facial recognition, etc.)
Trends emerging from COVID-19:
  • Increased use of online communications (e.g. Zoom, GoTo, Join.Me, ClickMeeting and Cisco WebEx)
  • Increased delivery of services and experiences online (e.g. online concerts, theater, fitness routines, etc.)
  • This will speed up the growth of home delivery services of everything
  • More people will work from home, leading to the downsizing of company offices
  • Increased need for a comprehensive national health care policy that works for everyone, including the reemergence of the "single payer" option
  • May lead to a desire for less consumerism and more balanced, simplified lives
  • Will push people toward online commerce, speeding up the death of struggling retail brands and shopping malls - shopping malls will need to reinvent themselves
  • Loss of jobs/income and decrease 401K and IRA asset values may either reduce household budgets and spending or delay retirements and extend working years
  • Urbanization has been a long term population trend. People have been moving out of smaller towns and rural areas where there are fewer jobs. They were moving into urban areas. New York City, Boston, Seattle and other major cities were the most popular destinations. Then those metropolitan areas became too expensive so people began moving to less expensive medium-sized cities. COVID-19 has created a mass exodus from major population centers back to suburbs, towns and rural areas. Will this trend continue or is it a temporary trend?
These are a couple of other blog posts I have written on trends:
Brad VanAuken's Brand Aid book has sold more than 25,000 copies, been translated into several languages and is used by business schools throughout the world to teach brand management and marketing. If you haven't read it yet, get your copy here.

And here is a great new book about retail trends by an expert on the subject, friend and former HBS classmate, Steve Dennis. Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption

Monday, May 11, 2020

Brands, Ethics and Authenticity

I have written a lot about how brands can tap into deep attitudes, values, hopes, fears and other emotions to sell their products and services. Compared to selling attributes, features or functional benefits, this works extraordinarily well. Having said that, far too many brands have as their foundations these deep emotional promises, promises that are hollow because the brands' products and services don't actually deliver what is promised except in the mind. I have come to realize how unethical this is. Yes, it is very powerful to sell dreams, but what if the dreams are false dreams?

I will use one example to drive this point home - Marlboro. Marlboro has a 40% share of the tobacco market, far more than twice the share of the next brand, Newport. It has been an extraordinarily successful brand. What does Marlboro sell? Rugged freedom. Independence. Self-sufficiency. Adventure. The Wild West. The simpler times of a black and white world where right is right and wrong is wrong. What does it deliver? Addiction to a substance that causes cancer and death. Does this aid in real freedom? Yes, one is free to be as self destructive as he or she wants to be in a free society, but is this the type of freedom the brand purchaser is really seeking?

As marketers, if we have consciences, we must check our urges to create "knock it out of the park" marketing campaigns if those campaigns deliver on powerful but hollow claims, especially if our brands' products are harmful to one's health or society as a whole. We must be better than that. It may be more difficult to develop equally compelling campaigns that are ethical and authentic, but ultimately, we will have not harmed anyone. That will help us sleep better at night. And it will help make the world a better, not worse, place.

Here are some related blog posts:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth - Personal Branding

You are invited to a comprehensive series of workshops on personal assessment and life management including: 
* Discovering personal patterns of motivation and enervation
* Thinking deeply about what you believe
* Better understanding your personal style and your strengths and weaknesses
* Creating a personal credo
* Crafting a personal elevator speech
* Drafting a life plan
* Creating an authentic brand for yourself

The first introductory session was held on Thursday, May 14 from 12 noon until 1 PM Eastern Time.

Here is a link to that session on SlideShare: Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth

Here is the registration link for the next six webinar sessions: Full Workshop Registration