For example, the intensity and consumerism of the ’80s gave way to a decade that celebrated antiheroes and authenticity. When we slide too far to one extreme, we are forced to examine ourselves and our values.
The years prior to the pandemic were characterized by extremes that we were collectively beginning to call into question. We asked the right questions, like, “Is the time we spend buried in screens making us feel lonelier instead of more connected?” But we didn’t take much action.
Then our world changed overnight. But from this emerged a clarity -- or unmasking -- around how we lived our lives. When people question everything and marketers’ playbooks become irrelevant, where is the upside? Here are some guideposts for brands to consider as they navigate this new world.
Look forward, not backward. You need to be asking questions like, “What’s next?” instead of, “What has worked in the past?” Interrogate the data you have available to uncover new audiences and problems to solve for them. New audiences unlock new opportunities for your brand to drive relevance. Look at population shifts, behavior and cultural trends to understand how your audience’s needs are evolving and to uncover authentic ways your brand can engage with them.
Go right to the source. Co-creation is one way brands are building authentic, forward-leaning experiences for their consumers. Whether it’s Nike enlisting kids already steeped in the metaverse to create a digital world centered around the Air Max brand with Roblox, or a chain of car dealerships in the Midwest scouring Reddit to better understand how to fix pain points for next-gen car shoppers, building brand experiences alongside your consumers ensures that you are moving forward with them in authentic, meaningful ways.
Serve, don’t sell. Our bullshit meter is at an all-time high. This has made it more important than ever for brands to have a clear vision and core set of values and be unwavering in the actions they take to back those up. From big actions -- like Airbnb offering temporary housing in neighboring countries for up to 100,000 Ukrainians -- to small but mighty actions like fostering an inclusive and flexible workplace for your employees, what you do matters.
Favor progress over perfection. Disruption requires an unwavering conviction to favor bold, transformational ideas over safe, incremental ones. We live in an age of uncertainty where we can’t be deterred by failures. We need to use them to learn, iterate and move forward quickly.
Some of our most sought-after and inventive brands (e.g., Uber, Airbnb, Venmo) were created during times of reinvention driven by upheaval. They came out on top because they were willing to break category rules, unlock opportunity and find unique ways to serve new audiences. Brands that do likewise now as we course-correct from our societal overwhelm are likely to become the most inventive and sought-after brands of our future