1. Filling the value gap
Recent years have seen consumers tending to be more daring, liberal, experienced, and open to trying out new products and services. But they also have enhanced expectations as to the value the brand should be giving them. Understanding the consumer and offering them the value they crave, brands will fill the gap in expectation and profit from delighting customers.
For example, watch out in 2013 for the imminent arrival of Amazon’s first smartphone offering. If Amazon is able to integrate its current ecosystem, encompassing millions of retailers and hardware offerings, and integrate its storefront features with the new technology, it will be well on the way delivering value to customers.
2. Integrity as competitive advantage
Widening economic imbalance and social unrest have led to a build up of consumer mistrust in corporations, governments and media. A now skeptical audience is reassessing its relationship with companies, and brands are making integrity a new form of competitive advantage. Essentially all the touchpoints of a brand lead up to trust. Empathy, transparency and never failing a consumer are now more important than ever to building brand equity and differentiation in the eyes of the consumer.
Ben & Jerry’s recently became certified as a B-Corporation, a designation that measures and benchmarks the social impact of a company, giving transparency into the sincerity of its social mission. Excerpts from the company’s B-Corp certification assessment show that 45 per cent of Ben & Jerry’s cost of goods sold goes toward investing in and supporting small-scale suppliers, and its lowest-paid hourly workers make 46 per cent above the living wage.
3. Meaningful environmental action
With the ever-expectant role of recycling playing a part in product packaging, products are finding great value and environmental benefits in extending the lifecycle footprint of a product. Now brands are able to bring to life their corporate visions and essence, which engage audiences as well. These will bring increased brand engagement if they are seen as a signal of larger intent to take more meaningful environmental action, rather than just talking about it.
As part of beer brand Molson Canadian’s Red Leaf Project in reforestation, the brand released coasters made of seed paper, which grow into a tree when planted. As of the end of 2012, 1 million coasters have been distributed via bars and select crates of beer.
4. Dynamic pricing strategies
Brands are ever competing on the point of price, and 2013 will be no exception. New dynamic pricing strategies, which differentiate the way a brand is seen within the marketplace, will play a big part next year. Improvements in real-time information are now allowing sectors to experiment with such innovative models. This is allowing brands to offer the consumer a much more flexible way to purchase goods.
Take for example the Singaporean-based app Ticktoc, which offers consumers real-time data on waiting times in restaurants and other food vendors. This data is allowing merchants live feedback on demand and can alter their prices for a competitive edge. Expect to see more brands implement real-time pricing formats in the future.
5. 'Made for China'...and other emerging markets
There is an increasing shift from products being ‘Made in China’ to products that are ‘Made for China’. This trend will continue to spread to the rest of the emerging markets, as consumers will appreciate products that are tailored to their needs, wants and desires, either for practical reasons (shape, size, features) or because of the deep-rooted desire for recognition (cultural pride, heritage, lifestyles). Hermès’ Chinese brand Shang Xia is a perfect example of a brand that has leveraged its current equity but refined it. Its luxury stores sell ready-to-wear and decorative arts inspired by Chinese culture.
6. Telling unique stories
Brands that are seeking distinction within the market and wish to connect with consumers at an emotional level will need to get better at storytelling. Understanding where opportunities exist between emotional aspects of a brand’s category and how consumers view the brand will ultimately provide the best opportunities for telling unique stories. Roaming Cow yoghurt, from Australia, is more than a brand, it’s an economy. The simplicity of the design reflects the simplicity of the philosophy, and a unique story that is passed on to the consumer. 10 cents from the sale of each pack is re-invested back into cow welfare, farmer education and land management. (Disclosure: Roaming Cow is a Landor client.)
7. CSR journeys
The New Year will witness a daring shift in the relationship between ambitious brands and socially responsible ones. There will be a shift away from simply broadcasting environmental benefits toward brands that market their story in a more engaging way. Focused brands that are on a journey toward a more sustainable and socially responsible future will benefit from an audience that has increased brand awareness. However, consumers will not go out of their way for brands unless they truly believe in the larger overall vision. Here transparency and sincerity will play an important role in engaging consumers.
W Singapore Hotel in Sentosa Cove has raised the bar in green hotels and especially bringing its message across to consumers. Its use of energy efficient technology, from air conditioning to lighting units, as well as rainwater harvesting, allow the building to save S$930,000 a year in energy costs. But more importantly, it engages consumers in their longer term vision of a sustainable future.
8. Beyond luxury
Luxury is no longer the height of what money can buy. Beyond-luxury trends will be a dominant movement going into 2013. Luxury goods have become more and more accessible to a larger audience and no longer have the prestige appeal that they once had. Now brands are going beyond the point of luxury that we once knew and are creating a new segment of positioning: ‘Ultra Luxury’.
Within Singapore, demand for ultra-luxury homes priced at S$3,000 per square foot trebled recently. But this trend is not only for properties and cars. Ultra-luxury vodka will be a big part of the Singapore party scene in 2013. ELIT by Stolichnaya is the newest offering for the elitist drinkers in town, offering a liquor devoid of any imperfections due to a unique distilling process. The result is a delectable clean spirit and an empty wallet in the morning.
9. Fractional ownership
Economic instability has meant that many people are now not able to spend the same amount on lifestyle goods as they were a few years ago. 2013 will see the continuing trend of ‘Lifestyle lending’. This trend will see brands offer fractional ownership of a product or service, allowing the consumer all the benefits of owning the item at a fraction of the cost. Leasing lifestyle businesses offer the possibility of continued upgrades to the very latest offerings, with the ability to maximize the number and variety of experiences, allowing consumers to access otherwise out-of-reach luxuries.
This trend has gathered momentum recently as BMW launched a one-year car sharing pilot in Munich, called BMW on Demand. The scheme allows customers to use various models of cars at different times of the year instead of being tied to one. The program will last 12 months, and a driver can book a car in a specific colour and trim either in person, on the phone or over the Internet.
10. 'Liking' the real world
A world of social trending and recognition is already fast upon us, but as of yet commentary is mostly restricted to online platforms. Real-world liking will see a deliverance of social trending feedback into real-life environments. This transparency will give brands an opportunity to be truly open with consumers and allow further engagement through proactively showing and proving they have nothing to hide.
Only brands that have the utmost confidence in their product (and themselves) will be able to go this open with its audience. In Brazil, fro example, C&A has introduced special Facebook-integrated hangers across its stores. The hangers display the number of times items have been 'Liked' on the brand's Facebook store, updated in real-time, so that shoppers can see the popularity of specific products.
11. Customised products
Gone are the days of acceptance of mass-produced items with a one-size-fits-all approach. Individuality will play a large part for boutique brands moving into 2013. Consumers are standing out by owning, wearing, eating, driving and enjoying those products and services that (most) others don't.
For example, Bardot is a boutique ice cream store in San Francisco where customers can design and create their own ice creams; not just in terms of taste but also the graphic appearance of the icing. This specialty approach to understanding what the audience wants and delivering a unique user experience is key to market success. (Disclosure: Bardot is a Landor client.)
12. Serving 'pre-sumers'
In today’s economy, consumer expectations are forever increasing, as they not only want the best but also want it before anyone else. Thanks to increasing popularity of crowdsourcing platforms and new manufacturing along with the cult of entrepreneurialism, consumers are increasingly becoming pre-sumers: those who purchase goods in advance through engagement with products and services pre-launch. Similar to Kickstarter, Singapore-based ToGather.Asia is the first Asian crowd-funding portal targeted at projects around the region. The site allows creators to submit creative projects, where users can pledge money to projects, in return for the promise of rewards at a later date.
2013 will likely see many interesting new trends develop throughout the year. It will be down to individual brands to recognize these trends and act on them in order to make the most out of them.
The article first appeared on Campaign Asia