From substituting subscription services for ownership, to evolving how gender influences products, the norms that have governed how brands acted will be challenged in 2019, according to a trends report from global brand consultancy Landor.
Landor analyzed innovations, consumer behavior and attitudes across myriad industries and the changing marketing landscape to determine the top trends for the coming year.
Focusing on the brand experience is critical in 2019, says Tiffany Vasilchik, chief growth officer at Landor.
“As technology becomes so integral to every experience, many brands are concentrating on engineering friction-less and seamless experience -- but this can, in effect, commoditize many brands,” Vasilchik tells Marketing Daily. “Creating an experience that conveys your brand in a unique and important way may be more important than efficiency.”
One example is Blue Bottle Coffee. The brand uses an elaborate, slow-pouring process, which turns getting a cup of coffee into a performance. “It takes longer to get served, but customers love it,” she says.
The norms that have dictated how brands routinely act will be challenged in 2019, according to the forecast. As gender becomes more open and inclusive, an increasing number of companies will turn away from “him” and “her” products and brand for “all.”
“While gender neutrality is on the rise, we’re not advocating it for every situation,” Vasilchik says.
For example, a recent survey said that only 18% of Americans want a “gender-neutral Santa.” While the sample size may have been questionable, it illustrates the point that not every brand has to be neutral.
“It’s OK for brands to be feminine or masculine or neutral -- in fact, gender non-binary choice is also on the rise,” Vasilchik says. “What is most important for brands is to make conscious choices about gender and how it’s manifested in their brands. Ensure the brand teams making those decisions are acting on sound insight and are, in fact, gender-balanced.”
Consider voice assistants, for example. Most are female. Most brand characters, such as the Pillsbury Dough Boy, are male.
“Why is there not a gender balance in these brand representations?” Vasilchik asks. “Do companies have a particular branding reason for making their voice assistant female or character male? Choices like these should be made based on awareness and an understanding of what brand personality they are hoping to convey.”
Other trends highlighted in the report: Brands across industries will have to incorporate health and wellness into their products and services, and companies will create customer experiences that appeal to emotions, rather than simply perform a function.
“More than ever, brand marketers need to make purposeful choices and not be afraid to take a stand, whether is it going beyond traditional gender norms or using the brand as a platform to weigh in on societal issues, like Nike did with the Colin Kaepernick ad,” Vasilchik says. “They need to understand their purpose and how that manifests across every aspect of the brand experience and make deliberate choices about what benefits they want to provide and how they engage the consumer.”
Then there's the rise of the “subscription economy." As younger generations continue to favor borrowing over ownership -- especially for large ticket items -- subscriptions that provide on-demand products and services will become the norm for a growing number of sectors and products.
Millennials and Generation Z are turning to flexible on-demand subscription services for cars (Access by BMW), luxury jewelry (Flont),textbooks (Cengage), cooked pet meals (Butternut Box), clothes (airCloset), and furniture (Lisa).
And as the fan base for esports competition continues to grow, traditional sporting leagues are embracing virtual and augmented reality to put spectators right in the game.
For example, the NBA’s AR Portals app allows fans to immerse themselves behind the scenes with their favorite teams; it can even turn any flat surface into a court for practicing shots.
“Consumers want to be 'in the game,’” Vasilchik says. “Whether we’re talking about esports or consumer products, customers want to have a voice and a role and actively engage with brands that interest them. Marketers should look for two-way dialogue and increased interactivity with the consumer. They shouldn’t be afraid to talk directly to their customers on social media.”