What’s different for brands in 2020 vs 2010?
Matt: 2010 was post-GFC. It was a tough time but businesses and economies ploughed through. Now in 2020, COVID-19 has in many ways levelled the playing field. Direct-to-consumer has accelerated rapidly.
The focus on Gen Y/Millennials is different, too. Brands have been wrapped up in Millennials and where they would spend their money but the days of appealing to age-based categories seems to be on the way out.
Brand purpose was important before, but it’s vital now and 2020 is about more than straight profit. Brands must think about their stance on the environment and sustainability, workers’ rights and other issues because consumers are thinking about it and demanding to know it of the brands they choose.
And honesty is everything. Authenticity has been growing in importance for a long time but now, more than ever before, people can see through the veneer of advertising. Consumers can and will judge a brand on its actions, verbally, socially and financially.
Simon: Facebook was more collaborative in 2010. The early days of brand advertising on Facebook were really freewheeling, customisable and experimental. Now it’s a lot more restrictive and we rarely work with them.
The power balance between the big multinational brand and major retailers has shifted. Whilst retailers have always dictated the terms, requiring payment for positioning, promotions, etc… now they compete directly against brands with their own products (that pretty much mirror and copy the leaders in each category).
Having said that how exciting is the food and beverage industry? We’ve seen a massive shakeup over the last decade. Look at all these amazing plant-based food brands, functional beverages, vegan and non-meat movements. Brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat are now mass-market players. Again, it’s tapping into what Matt said about the wider societal changes.
Lastly, I think the opportunity for digitally led, vertically integrated challenger brands is huge. Too many legacy brands have stalled, driven by cost-cutting and efficiencies rather than innovation – and that creates opportunity for upstarts to gain a foothold – we all know what’s happened to video stores in the face of Netflix and streaming, or standard taxi services with Uber. It’s quickly moving through finance, insurance, banking, health… change is happening and if you’re playing defence then your time as a company and brand is limited if you don’t evolve.
What advice do you have for brands looking forward?
Matt: Reset. Times are changing so look at what your purpose is, how you connect with the wider world, how you sell. Think about how you can improve that. Can you make a positive difference by doing things differently? Your customers and employees expect it, so re-engage and get that fire back.
Aim high. Don’t be afraid of being afraid – that feeling is good. It means you’re doing something that gives you energy. And in that vein, be human, be honest. It all goes back to your brand purpose: know what your voice is, what you stand for – and use it to make a difference.
Don’t self-prescribe solutions. Start by identifying the problem and get experts to focus on helping you build the solution. An ad campaign can’t do that – it’s just a veneer. And don’t be afraid to change or try something new.
Simon: I would say focus on the business challenge, not the execution. If we understand the challenge, we can solve it. Be open to being wrong.
Think strategically and for the longer-term. Put skin in the game to find sustainable solutions, not band aids.
Aim to build something special. It’s not about a campaign or execution, but the sum of things done to add value to the business. Build the company and the brand that becomes the benchmark that others look up to.
And it’s important to understand what good work is. Not the work that wins awards, the work that moves the needle and has an effect on the business. Look for work (and partners) that can help you to build real measurable value.
Here’s to the next 10 years!