ANTHEM SIGHTINGS: 10 Trends Shaping the World Today

Keeping up to current trends is essential for companies, which strive to be relevant to the fast-pace world and meet ever-changing consumer demands. In this piece, which is an abridged version of ANTHEM SIGHTINGS, Vol. 2, 2011,  the most notable trends of today are covered—some of them root in old approaches, and some seem to be completely new, but all of them are shaping modern marketing efforts and influencing our perception of brands. The author of the paper, Kathy Oneto, Vice President, Brand Strategy in the San Francisco office of Anthem Worldwide, made a list of ten current trends and their examples from all around the globe, demonstrating the processes redefining the marketing industry right at the moment.

1. Branded Cities: Cities branding for economic development

This issue of ANTHEM SIGHTINGS starts with the trend, which is not new, but extremely powerful and never-dying. We brand everything, from clothing and cars to people and events, so creating a unique image for the city is quite a natural thing. Branding cities, giving them a recognizable logo and motto is just like adding new features and tones to promotion of a trustworthy product, it’s challenging but rewarding—one of the recent projects of this kind is development of new vibrant, positive and catchy identity for London (ahead of Olympics 2012) and Moscow. What about creating a city (or city district) and its image from square one? One of the examples of these ambitious projects is Lavasa, an urban-planning project, which was designed to create a new city from scratch, using the most cutting-edge technologies and approaches, making it a business project. “Built on the principles of New Urbanism, Lavasa is a place where people can live, work, learn and play in harmony with nature… fulfilling their dreams of a better life and lifestyle,” says the “Lavasa will eventually house more than 300,000 people in five distinct ‘towns.’ It will also have a world-class medical campus, luxury hotels, boarding schools, sports academies, a Nick Faldo–designed golf course, a space camp, and, its developers hope, animation and film studios, software-development companies, biotech labs, and law and architectural firms—in short, all of the knowledge industries at the heart of the ‘new India’.” The city, which still raised some controversy during the process of the construction, is one of the most ambitious projects of this kind so far, with its ‘Life in Full’ core concept, the brand idea developed in cooperation with the U.S. office of Landor, which is to attract both new citizens, firms and investors. The other examples of improved models designed to update cites and turn them into a product were spotted in China (Shanghai areas rebuilt under the ‘Better City, Better Life’ tagline for the 2010 World Exhibition in the city), South Korea (Songdo International Business District), and Russia (the Skolkovo Innovation Center, a science and technology area outside Moscow).

2. Back to the past: Old is made new again

Нistory moves in cycles, this rule perfectly applies to marketing, as well. In fact, things that used to be popular come up to the surface again, causing huge buzz, and brands never miss an opportunity to capitalize on this trend. Hollywood spends a lot of time producing spin-offs and remakes, and consumer brands are treating shoppers with goods that rose from the ashes to revoke nostalgic feelings and just show how the life was twenty or thirty years ago. Some of the manufacturers use retro elements in their packaging and advertising (like Tide did recently) or launch products with old and much-loved formulas (like PepsiCo did with its Mountain Dew and Pepsi ‘throwbacks’, which will become part of the company’s list of permanent offerings) and models (Nike launched an Air Jordan 13 Retro Playoff sneaker, its original version was introduced in 1998). Kathy Oneto figured out two major reasons why brands just love to reverse time: “First, the past speaks directly to a product’s or brand’s heritage, and heritage is one way for a brand to demonstrate authenticity or ‘realness.’ Second, for Generation X and Boomers, nostalgia brings up potent memories and emotions…that evoke strong emotions of comfort.”

3. Make it matter: Connecting with Millennials

Reaching young adults, building strong and intimate ties with people aged 17-34 now (born between 1977 and 1993) means paving the road to future success. But what does it takes to convince younger consumers that the brand is really worth their attention? Old approaches don’t usually work here. As the author of the piece states, “they [Millennials] seek in their brands what they see in themselves: real, transparent and genuine voices”, thus “to appeal to this mass, you need to be sure that there is meaning behind what you do,” “there must be a real emotional element for Millennials to embrace, as well.” Is it easy to say, but a hard thing to do? Not really, if you understand the core principles. Younger consumers can easily become a brand’s ambassadors in social networks, since sharing online feedbacks (both positive and negative) on everything they see is just part of their life. The generation of Millennials can easily create a new brand if they see a gap, and do this just with a snap of a finger (or a mouse click)—that’s how the group-buying website Groupon or AirBnB, which revolutionized the way people rent places while travelling, were created. Another way to reach the hearts and minds of the Gen Y representatives is to offer them an opportunity to shop and contribute to a good cause at the same time, which is just what Toms did with its One for One program (the brand gives one new pair of shoes for kids in need for every pair of shoes purchased)—there’re numerous examples of such beneficial programmes, revolving around charity, ecology and animal protection, and most of them are targeted at younger consumers.

4. The zeal for real: In authenticity we trust

People want to buy sustainable goods, they tend to purchase ‘real’ products made with love towards the product and the person who will use it. There’re two ways to be original and authentic: to have a rich heritage (like Ben&Jerry ice cream) and be made of natural ingredients or use craftsmanship and outstanding technique. Consumers like it when brands have strong beliefs or missions—this adds the realness to their image as well, and can help the brand look authentic even if it’s quite young. People appreciate being told truth, which can be even not that sweet as might be expected—Burt’s Bees used this and now indicates how natural its products are right on the label (the company is striving to make 100% organic personal care products, but so far only 50% of its line is fully natural, and the brand openly says it). Another way to get people trust a brand is empower them to introduce some changes in its life or influence the brand to update old approaches—like Domino Pizza did, which completely revamped the 50-year old pizza recipe based on its consumers’ comments.

5. How far can a brand stretch?: Start with credibility and permission

Are there any limits of a brand’s portfolio? To which extend can a brand add new lines? Naturally, nobody expects to see clothing collections within a nutrition or domestic appliances brand. The question is how far the brand can go here. Usually, brands enter quite predictable markets, using the logic—if you sell notebooks, your consumers might want to purchase items related to this products, like reading glasses, portable and rechargeable booklight, e-reader covers and bookstands (just like Moleskine recently did). In general, just every brand, which has been present on the market for quite a long time, has extended well beyond its initial niche with related lines—for instance, Toms has added eyewear collections, Skinny Cow is now offering candies in addition to sweet frozen indulgencies, and, which started as an online book shop, is now offering all kinds of products and even developed its own e-reader the Kindle, to name but a few. “But before considering which anchor to use to stretch your brand, always begin the discussion with credibility and permission—what are the limits of your brand’s relationship with its target consumer, and what will your consumer allow you to do?” asks Kathy Oneto.

6. Rethink reinvention

The term ‘reinvention’ might be quite confusing. When does a brand need reinvention, should it be done constantly or just under critical circumstances and—most important element here—how to reinvent. The most unconventional things happen when you take two (or more) totally different things together for a bigger impact. “This reinvention of business models and this behavior of association is taking place with the marrying of ‘the power of crowds’ and the old axiom ‘take small steps,” says the review. Non-profits can be a great source of inspiration for brands when it comes to reinvention. There’s a range of new programmes and campaigns, which connect people, who want to make their small investments to support other’s private businesses or creative projects or even education— is offering people to find investors for their businesses (each of them can give $25), My Major Company and for creative talent who are seeking funding to promote their talent forth and ScholarMatch for students, who need money for education. You take somebody who can contribute and those, who need contribution and create a mutually beneficial project. As simple as that. Brands should take this into consideration.

7. Contained quarters: For dine, play or stay

Now, you can sell a product even without putting it on shelf—a lot of goods are sold and purchased via online stores and this seems to be the future of marketing world. But those, who want to keep to traditional method of displaying their merchandize but want to do it with minimal expenses and maximum of creativity and innovation, are switching to pop-up stores. Using of huge containers comes to be the new turn of this trend. Now, to open a store, you don’t need to rent a shop or build it of mortar, spending much time and money—just take a container, and you will have what you want: a cheap and stunning vending space. Here are some examples, demonstrating that this trend is live and blooming: Smitten, an ice cream shop constructed using steel instead of bricks with iPads used as cash registers, Cinco Camp, “a boutique hotel constructed out of five 8’x10’ shipping containers and designed to blend into the environment to have the least impact on the land,” and an absolutely stunning container concept, a city rolling on wheels, created by Swedish architecture firm Jagnefalt Milton. The pop-up container trend fits the modern reality perfectly—when everything is changing in a blink of an eye, these temporarily venues are a true symbol of our busy times, as long as they can be moved and removed in a matter of hours (or even minutes).

8. Beautiful & purposeful: Bringing numbers to life

Infographics are nothing new—all kinds of charts and tables, which help absorb information easily, have been in use for years, but today primarily thanks to Internet the amount of information is overwhelming and we need it to be delivered in a more structured and clear way. Simple text doesn’t work here, audience needs data visualization, and web can offer great solutions to complete this task. For instance, can generate fabulous word clouds and via Google Public Data Explorer one can find lots of datasets relating economical and demographical issues.

9. Liquid precision: When forms defy function

We have always associated liquid with instability and something that can’t be worn or used just like as solid pieces. But the world changes. “Liquid tables for contemporary environments, retail display fixtures for LVMH and even sunglasses that visually defy logic but perform just the same as geometric counterparts,” says the piece.

10. See and be seen

Today, visual component is one of the most important ones in marketing. QR codes, which have entered our life quietly and gained real power over the previous months, can be spotted just everywhere—for instance, John Fluevog featured QR codes on the shoes of his recent collection (by scanning the codes, buyers could watch videos of how the collection was made), and Diesel integrated the QR elements into shopping experience—using the codes, shoppers could like the items and this information was posted on Facebook right away. QR codes lead us into a new dimension, much needed in our tightly packed world.

In the piece, the author also adds a few other trends, which are gaining popularity today: going local (supporting local businesses and initiatives), turning small (“Staples and Kohl’s will be rolling out smaller stores as they expand”), promoting happiness (Old Navy is calling people to ‘Put on your happy life’ in its recent promotion), renting movies online and celebrating ordinary people. In fact, all these trends are an example of reorganization and getting to clear and basic things, which is all about core values and making things matter (the ‘liquid’ trend seems to be the one that stands out here). Today, when we have more products than we can consume and the amount of information is overwhelming, we need everything to be put and delivered in the clearest way possible, we want to have an opportunity to get heard (that’s why all these project revolving around micro-funding and campaigns centered on ordinary people like in Levi’s ‘Ready to Work’ campaign and their positive emotions like Coca-Cola and the ‘Happiness truck’ initiative appear). Now, if you want to appeal to people’s minds, get rid of extra details and deliver products ‘without husk’, make ideas simplified but not diluted.