How will brands as we know them look in 16 years time? And how will our relationship with them shift? VT explores some of the latest thinking.
Think of the brands that fill our lives today. The ones who make us laugh on Twitter, the ones we trust our lives with (airlines, car brands, insurance etc), and the commodity brands that we couldn’t manage a day without.
Then take a moment to think about the fact that in 1999, Amazon was a quirky online bookseller – widely ridiculed as ‘Amazon.bomb’ by analysts, who pointed out that the company had never turned a profit. Apple was a niche computer company that had just released a new range of colourful iMacs and sat at number 273 in the Fortune 500 list of companies. The predominant ‘social media’ brand at the time was Friends Reunited.
Change is good. And this rate of change is expected to double by the time we reach 2030 according to WARC. And then what will that look like? There are beliefs that brands as we know them in 2030 will no longer exist: the empowered consumer with all their choice will prove very difficult to please for some of the current ‘mega brands’, and they’ll fail to deliver. In the last 15 years we’ve become animals of a digital world: we use social feeds to communicate to brands and we tell our life story through content posted on Instagram and Facebook. God, even my dictionary detected that Facebook needed a capital F, such is it’s power in our lives now.
There’s a new playing field out there for brands now. The abundance of data they collect is only set to rise, and as consumers become increasingly aware of said data collection we may well see data become a currency. I will receive a preferential interest rate from NatWest if I agree to share my transaction history. I will pay a lower premium to Aviva for my car insurance if I allow it to monitor my blood alcohol level, how frequently I blink when driving and the speed of my car. My Nectar card won’t just reward me for what I spend with participating retailers, it will also let me earn points by posting positive comments over social media, and by disposing of branded packaging responsibly.
Over the next 16 years Admap has predicted that we (the ‘consumers’) will redefine richness, limited production and careful distribution will replace the latest ‘must-have’ handbag or shoes, and the best restaurant in town will no longer be Balthazar or Bocca di Lupo, but the private kitchens accessible through Eatwith. McDonald’s will no longer be the preferred hangout of disaffected teens with nowhere else to go – it will be a social hub for time-rich retirees in search of coffee and company. Nike, Durex and Heineken’s target audience won’t be in their twenties and thirties – they will be in their fifties and sixties. Rather than hosting youthful, hopeful graduates, Google Campus will be a breeding ground for ‘grantrepreneurs’ – older, asset-rich entrepreneurs with a lifetime of experience and ideas to draw upon. I find it most interesting that there will be a new fluidity to perceptions and behaviours as people live very much in tribes not in demographics.
So what is the future of brands? Their role will become more subtle and our relationship with them more sophisticated. We will be far less inclined to see ourselves as ‘consumers’. They will value and respect our data as well as our spending power, and they will sell us services instead of ‘stuff’.