Eyes Front and Centre…Looking at Trends for 2013

To start, clutter needs to stop getting in our way, writes Abey Mokgwatsane, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa

How do you break through the clutter in order to sound, look, feel and be different?

We as marketers have gone form an age whereby we would be exposed to 200 marketing messages a day to about 2000 bombarding marketing messages a day. So, how does your brand differentiate? Consider the following: technological and mobile advancements, marketing ideas and advertising campaigns have made it all possible for brands and business to have a meaningful relationship with their consumers. The following trends are relevant to any person or business. If, you’re in business of understanding and catering to the evolution of consumer needs, desires and expectations – look front and centre – here are some trends for 2013 …

Transparency

The proliferation of social networking has shifted the online space from a product-centric model to a customer-centric one. In turn this has affected business, and has pushed them to form a new level of transparency and authenticity that is now required, if not demanded, by customers.

If you’re a brand or business entering into the social media landscape, if not already there, requires razor sharp clarification of your digital strategy and sound know-how of successful interaction in a social environment. If you’re not clear on these objectives, you willing open up the door to criticism, especially if you over promise and under deliver. Customers are looking for brands to be genuine, honest and open – give them a reason for their loyalty and love.

Start seriously considering and observing brands, if not your own in the mega-trend of transparency. Expect to see brands be proactively informative and authentic about their values and culture. This will include on-going topics such as sustainability, environmental impact, quality and ethics. If these conversations are not already being seeded one can expect to see some serious reputation damage when consumers jump on the social “complaint” band wagon. Case and point McDonald’s social media and PR faux pas with the #McDStories Twitter campaign that got horribly out of control when consumers began relaying horror their stories. A campaign aiming to raise awareness of their successful Supplier Stories (a great example of transparency), however the #mcdstories hashtag did not go as planned and #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day instead.

Let this be a reminder that bad reviews are not the problem, but not listening to your customers, dissatisfied or not, is often at the root of the problem. There is virtually always an opportunity to settle an issue before it goes public, which business can solve for in their structure when looking at their customer journey. However, failing this, should you epically fail at least try and beat customers to the punch. Be proactive, transparent and authentic by up fronting the failure first. Let your customers see you as the solution as opposed to the problem.

Do Good-ery

It has become increasingly more important for bands to not just broadcast and control their message. The Information Age consumer has evolved to a point where they actively participate and engage with their favourite brands.  This means that when they choose brands to love, in fact, what they want to know is that their choices are worthy of that love. Typical CSR approaches, with a cheque handover housed in the HR or a financial department has become archaic. Expect to see more brands evolve themselves with sustainable conversations and legitimate do good business. Expect to see corporate CSR portfolios moving into marketing departments and away from financial directors.

However, this is not as simple as finding a charity and a “PR this” approach. Being able to profit and leverage your brand off your “do-goodery” means your marketing team needs to have laser-focus on an aspect of social engagement that suits your brands identity, in order to expect returns. You need a brand your consumers are proud to love. An example of who does this well is KFC. Their CSR initiative Add Hope is about feeding and filling hungry tummies through a R2 mechanism used to add to the customers meal in-store. Simple, clean and effective. They are in the business of food therefore it makes logical sense to be in the business of feeding. You know you are doing it wrong when you see a sneaker brand donating to feeding cause. Your consumer loses the connection and it looks like rubber stamping once again. So do good and mean it.

Africanese

Historically brands have seen Africa as the poor third cousin of the global economic family. Often used as a backwater opportunity for companies to sell their second rate merchandise. However, the reality is this – Africa’s consumer facing industries are expected to grow by more than $400 billion by 2020, according to a recent McKinsey report. The continent is about to explode with opportunities. While we have typically seen developed markets catering to emerging markets, we will begin to see the continent shift as local players begin developing and offering services and products catered to its people for the people – from emerging markets for emerging markets. Our peers will begin to tap in to the zeitgeist of what is current and relevant to them and begin to innovate. Expect to see a huge creative offering from our African counter parts as both global adapt themselves and new local brands begin to kick the dust.

However, be prepared to get your hands dirty, this is not a continent for sissies. You cannot work in Africa from the boardroom as it often doesn’t translate on the ground. Companies are starting to see gaps in their knowledge as they enter into Africa because they have historically never needed to gain knowledge and data for their new consumer’s attitudes and behaviour. Watch this space.

Data

This vision can now be realised with data’s newfound power. Data’s potential to build individual relationships, which has been the case even before Aaron Montgomery Ward invented the mail order catalogue in 1872, is no secret. Businesses have always had a fair idea of who its customers are, what they bought and why. In modern times, whole industries have been spawned out of data use. Billions have been spent using data to develop effective one-to-one relationships, however, today’s technological advancements make this dream a reality. Technology has created two fundamental changes that alter the way we generate, access and leverage data. Firstly, by exponentially increasing the volume of data generated, and secondly, by making the analysis of this data stream more feasible and accessible to many more businesses. These two technologically-fueled data tsunamis have forever altered the way are now marketing.

Social media, mobile phones and other data tools mean that billions of people on the planet leave mile-wide data trails, making for much richer data sources than ever before. This data explosion is coupled with our ever-increasing ability to slice and dice it. Computers are now better able to analyse the non-structured data surge, such as words, images, tweets, blogs and text messages. Whole industries are forming that help dissect this data into actionable and rich insights.


Author: Abey Mokgwatsane, Chief Executive Officer, Ogilvy & Mather South Africa
Date: December 20, 2012