By Dimitris Michopoulos, Managing Director at Weber Shandwick
Heading towards 2030, the communication of brands and organisations will be tied closer and more directly to their reputation. And this reputation, in turn, will depend largely on the reputation of their leaders. Although these conditions may sound familiar, they are in essence completely different—and, quite often, opposing. It seems that we are moving from the era of creative thinking to the era of creative wisdom. But first things first.
New data which are already… old
As we move towards 2030, all the drastic changes that will take place in the communications sector will happen because of shifting conditions and demands. Some of them are already underway, namely Big Data, 5G and the Internet of Things. Our everyday lives are bound to change forever. Augmented Reality is already here, while Artificial Intelligence, although still in its infancy, has already made its presence felt. Unsurprisingly, in the communications sector, two things that will go through rapid change are image and video—more precisely, the live or recorded transmission of events, underlined by the presence of the entity transmitting the event.
Live streaming will transmit the event. And the presence of the entity will guarantee the event’s prestige. This means that the reputation of a transmitted event will be certified by the reputation of the one transmitting it.
This sounds like—and, in fact, is—an antidote to fake news & photos. Ultimately, an effective one but also uncontrollable. There will still be many carriers of events; furthermore, they will not be limited to traditional news sources. They will also have many important technological tools at their disposal. However, their own reputation will be just as important.
The prestige of brands and organisations in the new decade.
There is already a trend in communications that closely links a brand or organisation to its own reputation. As such, consumer choice is also closely linked to the reputation of the product or service. And although today we consider “responsibility” as a feature that’s merely “nice to have”, this will soon become the key factor in selecting a product or service. This means that while brand leadership remains important, the person or team responsible for the creation of the brand will become just as important. Managing an organisation starts with the proper management of the organisation’s self. And an organisation’s communication effort starts with a campaign about itself, long before we get to the communication of its products.
Super micro targeting to achieve mega results
Big Data has brought to the fore many expected changes in privacy protection. Yet it also changes the way consumers are being targeted. Segmentation by age, education or sex will continue to exist, but it will be highly inefficient. Tracking our everyday habits—even though it lacks our actual signature—forms the profile of our daily routine and the choices we make. In essence, it tracks our movements, our preferences and, ultimately, our viewpoint and personality.
As a result, communication will target specific personalities rather that population segments. And the tools used will become much more than encyclopaedic knowledge; they will actually have all the characteristics of Big Brother, to whom we will offer full access to our lives. It goes without saying, then, that any Big Brother’s credentials have to be impeccable. To be more precise, the brands that enter our lives via a Big Brother will have to exude extreme confidence and prestige, given that we, as consumers, will be allowing them access to our privacy and, perhaps, our security. And although this sounds rather annoying, it will soon become our daily reality.
The strategy behind Thought Creativity
Just like today, leaders in 2030, will be called to create communication strategies for their own organisations or brands. The difference is that ten years from now, creative thinking will not be enough to attract consumers segmented by age or demographics. Instead, what will be required is a strategy (thought creativity) by which the organisation or brand will prove that it has the requisite reputation that will permit entry into the lives of consumers with a carefully predetermined profile. The key factor in all of this will be one’s reputation, essence and purpose. And whether a campaign is largely successful or not will hinge upon not only effective management but also the wisdom behind this micro-targeting. This is what will characterise love brands in 2030—with one main difference: The word “love” will not mean “lovable”, a trait which could be attributed simply to a creative marketing effort. Instead “love” will signify a product that offers clarity, validity, safety, reliability and, most importantly, vision. Only then will we allow a product to enter our personal space and become intimate with our lives—partly or wholly. (And if you guessed that the term “vision” isn’t here by accident, well, you’re right.)
Welcome to the era where brands have a higher purpose
So far, all we’ve been talking about can probably be described as technical or technocratic. Indeed, it’s technology that’s stimulating such profound changes in the field of communications. This begs one last question: in the years to come, will there be a place for emotion? How will a brand manage to enter the hearts of consumers? As always, life itself provides the answer. In modern societies all over the world, successful brands serve—methodically and effectively—at least one social purpose. And the leaders of those brands stand firmly behind such decisions.
The technological revolution we’ve going through didn’t happen by chance. It has been the result of global challenges, mostly ignored by those political leaders who were supposed to unite forces behind a possible solution. This huge gap is being—and will continue to be—filled by the superpowers of brands.
The era of neutrality in communications, the trend to keep one’s distance from matters of great importance, has passed. Very soon, our planet will be in need of brands with firm views, headed by leaders who are acutely senstive to critical issues. In the very near future, we will come to love brands that address or own sensitivities and concerns. And this will become the key deciding factor, not just in why consumers select those brands, but also in the way they and their leaders communicate with the audience.
Brands will only become Love Brands if they express well-founded opinions and offer solutions to problems which politicians, technocrats or religious leaders have failed to address. The word “love” will not refer to cutesy products that ultimately lack conviction but to brands that reflect all that’s important to us and we truly love. Choosing such a brand will be a conscious decision and will serve a purpose. And we will be just as demanding about the leaders behind those brands.
Luckily, in the years ahead, communication will still tug at our heartstrings. We will continue to be sensitive to—and love—what’s important to us. In fact, we may do so in a deeper, more conscious manner. We will seek brands—and leaders—that are practical yet full of essence and meaning. People and things that serve a higher purpose, for the benefit of all of us.