The successful brands of 2020 are more like Christianity than they are like Christian Dior: They inspire devotion, connect on a deeply emotional level and turn their consumers into evangelists who spread the message on their behalf. They inspire and engage a world that is characterised by more customer participation and complexity, more customer control and connections, and the limitations brought on by more and more corporate compliance.
The continent will have been the driver of global economic growth for more than a decade by 2020 and we hope that the smart African companies will have been outcompeting their global competitors by being closer to the ground, more relevant and more innovative. We also believe that increasingly disruptive climate change and labour relations will necessitate the growth of brands who think about things differently; who give up the zero-sum logic of the previous era and embrace a new kind of purpose-led business.
The five key shifts that will accelerate us toward this future are:
Everything is about touch. We live in a world of interactive glass, and screens will come to dominate not only our phones and homes, but objects and billboards and walls. We drag, drop, expand, switch and buy with our fingertips.
Winning brands are those who help us connect by being human. They nurture our humanity in a world of technology, and facilitate real interactions and meaningful experiences.
All products deliver a service with a social intent.
Winning brands turn their products into service propositions and brands that get this right know that their products are only a small part of the picture. They ask themselves "what problem am I really helping to solve?"
Take Nike, for example, who has switched from being an apparel product brand to an integrated health and wellbeing service - helping customers train and track and get motivated, releasing digital apps and accessories, as well as organising events such as Run Jozi to 'take back the streets' and make people feel confident and driven.
Brand equity is measured on the balance sheet using montetary terms. But what is the social value of your brand? Can people put a value to your values as a company?
Winning brands are those that have aligned their values and behaviours to the societies in which they live.
For example, Dove's campaign for real beauty is driven by the purpose to help women have a healthy respect for themselves.
The value chain is no longer command-and-control; it is driven from the other side - by demanding, ruthless, informed customers armed with the tools to destroy your reputation if you fail them.
Winning brands have become entirely customer-led and real-time responsive. They are obsessed with giving the customer exactly what he or she wants.
Customers have the data and the tools to compare you with competitors, so delight them every way you can. For example, with real-time pricing, allowing customers to notify you with the push of a button if they've found cheaper prices, and you'll reduce to meet them.
The planet is running out of resources. Water is scarce, electricity is expensive, supply chains are struggling.
Winning brands reinvent, reintegrate, repower and repurpose what already exists. They harness energy and use it in new, more powerful ways.
Their view on customer participation goes beyond a conversation, it goes to creating real, more effective business models, together and in a way that creates benefits for society at large.
Brands have shifted from being the makers of messaging to the shapers of feelings; from measuring their marketing plans to measuring their contribution to society; and from being the promoters of products to the inventors of value-added services. It's a brave new world out there in 2020, and the path to thriving in it starts with understanding why you should exist and then doing business in a way that aligns to this, doing business on-purpose.