It looks like 2016 was a year of unusual business, unpredictable markets and uncharted Plan ‘B’s, worldwide. Closer to home, enough and more is being said and debated about the impact of demonetisation on the economy, markets, business and brands. Below these dramatic events here are some trends and questions that could trigger opportunities for your brand in 2017.
The new brand impulse
On the surface, it looks like the paralysed consumer is stumped and sunk in pursuit of the evading cash in his wallet he was so familiar and comfortable with. As we are noticing, consumers are delaying purchases, spending less for now and also giving the shopping spree a miss. And this is supposed to be the peak of the shopping season. This could eventually be altering the consumer psyche to re-calibrate and change the stack of want -to-have and like-to have products and services in their minds. A new list of impulse purchase is going to be replacing the current one. The degree of impulse has already changed.
The questions to marketers are, do you have the insights to create the next desire, the next impulse, and the next brand in the current changing consumer’s mind?
The new brand proposition
Considering there is now an abundance of real time information available to consumers to evaluate, compare and exchange notes with their peers and opinion leaders, consumers are factoring and comparing more rational benefits across categories as a new habit before a purchase. The degree of ‘discerning’ amongst consumers just got upped in the market.
Traditional branding wisdom has always directed brands to keep pushing the emotion quotient. Now with the fact that there is less money in hand (not necessarily in the bank), it is not to be mistaken for frugal- spending but is to be viewed as informed- spending.
The question is, is it time for your brand to rethink and re-tune the brand’s proposition tilting in favour of a rational benefit? Of course there has to be an emotional-connect.
The new brand positioning
Brand positioning, once cast, has always been believed to be for the long term, sacred and not negotiable. With the ever changing markets and unpredictable competition, brands seem to be losing their relevance overnight. Brand owners are being caught in a dilemma, to change the positioning here and now or to hang on to it for a bit longer. A brand’s positioning is no longer defined only against its competition. The brand’s category itself seems to be getting redefined.
The question to brand custodians is, should you be relooking at the brand purpose for the long term and keeping the brand positioning fluid to stay relevant in the market?
The new brand engagement
The recent years have taught the marketing fraternity a new facet called ‘brand story telling’.
With the explosion of various mediums, the need to tell a brand story has become acute and the importance given to the digital medium to deliver the same has become even louder. With every brand attempting to tell their story in a digital world, the consumers could be listening or merely hearing its content and not necessarily believing in the brand. To the consumer it could be just another engaging ‘story’ or content making him skeptic, not knowing how authentic the content and story is.
The question to the brand owners is, can you live the brand story and demonstrate brand authenticity for a stronger and credible brand engagement rather than limiting it to a digital content?
The new brand audience
In a world of rapidly evolving social and digital mediums, reaching out to a defined audience seems to be an easier task than to convert them into customers. The enormous amount of unleashed information and data could be confusing the potential customer or perhaps increasing his post purchase dissonance. To overcome this the answer seem to be in identifying a brand’s influencer as the new brand audience to target and leverage the influencer’s- connect to help customers make an informed choice or get the necessary assurance.
The question to marketers is, do you have a plan to invest in brand influencers as a marketing strategy or is it still viewed as a communication / PR exercise?
The new brand competition
It is said that branding is about everything a brand does and says. Indeed, everything adds up to a brand experience. Brand experiences are becoming the new measurement in a consumer’s mind, going beyond product features and legacy. A brand seems to be only as good as the last experience with it. The new competition is turning out to be between different experiences offered and experienced in the market. Not necessarily amongst brands in its current category.
The question is, is your brand ready to invest and create relevant new experiences going beyond communicating the brand’s USP and features?
The new brand medium
The new emerging payment mediums towards a cashless market are turning out to be the next potential mediums for brands to communicate and engage customers. The payment gateway user interface, the payment app screens, the card payment transaction and statement’s real estate etc. are the new opportunities for the brand to message and stay connected. The ‘new cash counters’ or virtual cash counters are the new windows to build a relationship.
The question is, is it possible to create brand pride and brand status by allowing the brand to associate itself with a pre-determined digital payment brand or a particular mode of digital payment?
2017 also promises to be a year of unusual business and unpredictable markets and unlimited opportunities with many new trends, some subtle, some in your face. If you listen carefully, they will be asking you questions. You could answer them to run your business, change your business, discover a new business or be part of business history.
(Pavan Padaki is a brand practitioner and author of Brand Vinci.)