Author Ursula Le Guin wrote that "legends of prediction are common
throughout the whole Household of Man. Gods speak, spirits speak,
computers speak." What Ms. Le Guin left out were consumers. Consumers
speak too. Volumes if you know how to read them.
Predictive loyalty metrics allow marketers to decipher consumers'
emotions, expectations, and imminent behaviors in the marketplace.
Happily, Brand Keys is an authority on customer loyalty. And, as real
loyalty metrics measure the direction and velocity of consumer values 12
to 18 months in advance of the marketplace, they allow us to identify
future trends with uncanny accuracy.
Having examined these measures in 4Q 2009, we offer 11 trends for
marketers in 2011. Interestingly, in symbolism and spiritualism, the
number 11 is said to possess qualities related to intuition, honesty,
understanding and, is also supposed to represent the ideal. The number
is said to provide both insight and inspiration. For marketers, these 11
trends will have direct consequences to the success - or failure - of
next year's branding and marketing efforts.
1) Value is What the Consumer Says It Is
Excessive spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by
a reason-to-buy at all. Only the consumer can tell you for sure. The
appearance of ubiquity will be trouble for brands with no authentic
meaning, whether high or low-end.
2) Brand, Meet Value
Brands will increasingly become a surrogate for "value." What makes
goods and services valuable will increasingly be what's wrapped up in
the brand and what consumers believe the brand means.
Marketers will have to comprehend what really drives their category, know
what consumers really expect, and where to focus both process and brand
efforts. Yes, Zappos sells shoes, but their brand equity lies primarily
in the emotional driver of "service" - how they get shoes to customers
and accept returns.
Brands increasingly must stand for something beyond just rational items.
Brands can't, however, just "stand for" the cause du jour. Doing what
others do, just because they're doing it, won't work very long or very
effectively. Corporate social responsibility efforts will need to be
believable, sustained, and engaging. Some of the strongest will come
from those brands that connect the public and the personal in today's
5) Differentiation Can Be Emotional
Differentiation remains critical to brand success as the proliferation
of products and services available to consumers continues. While true
innovation does exist when it comes to the offerings available,
increasingly differentiation will come from what the brand offers
emotionally to consumers ¬especially as the ability of brands to mimic
and get "me-too" products to market quickens.
6) They're Talking to Each Other Before Talking to the Brand
Social Networking and DIY media-exchange of information outside of the
brand space will increase as consumers become more comfortable with
their power to get the true story on products from total strangers.
Brands will need to drive positive feedback out in the virtual world
like never before, necessitating a deep understand of their categories.
Influence by friends will also increase. If consumers trust the
community, they will extend trust to the brand. Not just word-of-mouth,
but the right word-of-mouth is what matters. Look for more websites
using Facebook Connect to share information with the friends from those
sites while trying not to annoy anyone.
8) Putting the Brand Into Their Hands
It's increasingly handheld technology that facilitates transactions.
Brands that make it hard to buy on the small screen will suffer. Watch
for promotions and coupons to continue to explode, especially if the
brand can customize that experience.
Look for increased competition, and not just from traditional brands.
The internet changed the game from consumers feeling they had to know a
brand to even consider it. Ubiquitous awareness is replaced by strong
word of mouth and positive viral sharing. Knowing what drives a
category, what consumers really expect, and what creates loyalty, can
give you a meaningful advantage when entering new and uncharted
categories populated by strangers to your brand.
10) Exponential Expectations
Brands are barely keeping up with consumer expectations now. Every day
consumers adopt and devour the latest technologies and innovations, and
only hunger for more. As app technology becomes more entrenched, brands
will be expected to deliver in that space. Look for even more apps to
appear in 2011.
11) Engagement is Not a Fad
It's the way today's consumers do business. Period. Marketers will
continue to use engagement methods like the right platform; program;
message; and experience. But there is only one objective for the future:
Brand Engagement. Attaining real brand engagement is impossible using
out-dated awareness models.
Accommodating these trends will require changes on the parts of how
companies measure, manage, and market their brands. And, yes, change
can sometimes be terrifying. But change is, more or less, another
chance. However, for brands that ignore these trends, it could very well
be their last.