This story first appeared in Sustainable Brands December 27th, 2012.
I help clients build futureproof brands, so a predictions article seems a natural fit. And because collaboration with my network of global experts is part of building those brands, I’m blessed to stand on the shoulders of giants when looking ahead.
So without further ado, let’s launch right into it. My futureproof brand 2013 predictions (with a little help from my very talented friends).
1. The Implosion Of ‘Greed Is Good’ Brands
Futureproof Brand Pillar: Sustainability
I leaned on my friend John Marshall Roberts for this one. John is a best-selling author, behavioral scientist and founder of Worldview Thinking. When I asked him to polish the crystal ball he told me “The individualistic worldview, focused solely on profit, is continuing to decay. Obama’s re-election gave it another kick – expect continued collapse of this worldview, and the brands it represents, in 2013.”
But will we suddenly be inundated with brands that put the humanistic worldview first? Not necessarily. “There is going to be a rise of companies that succeed against all status quo wisdom” Roberts says. Think Tom’s Shoes, with its ‘buy one give one’ philosophy. Or Zappos, selling insane service to build a shoe business in the unlikeliest place – online.
Roberts also sees an incredible number of startups in 2013 – an unfortunate / fortunate result of the implosion of greed is good brands. With those startups will come many failures, and many steep learning curves. So watch out for the rise of brands that teach people how to work in the 21st Century.
Futureproof Brand Pillar: Innovation
Catherine Courage is the SVP of Customer Experience at Citrix. One of her big accomplishments has been to usher in radically different workspaces for her company.
“A lot of what we define as ‘work’ is going through culture change. People – especially in tech, are feeling more empowered to reach further.” says Courage. “It used to be about execution and time. Now it’s more about innovation and ideas and inspiration. Incrementalism is out!”
The spaces she helped pioneer – huge areas covered in post-its and whiteboards – have fostered hypercollaborative teams, accelerated ideation – and bigger, bolder ideas.
“Design thinking has allowed us to punch through the incremental innovation rut.” emphasizes Courage. “The more people we bring into the collaborative process, the more walls we (literally) knock down – the greater the innovation we create.”
3. Valuing The Intangible
Futureproof Brand Pillar: Insight
When I asked best-selling author and leading green business expert Andrew Winston what he thought would make the news in 2013, he replied without hesitation “Learning to value the hard to measure, both externalities and intangible benefits.”
Winston is talking about valuing natural resources like air and water, along with outputs like carbon – previously completely dismissed or grossly undervalued by businesses.
Winston believes consumers are waking up to the fact that businesses need to take responsibility for what they use, and create. This is partly due to the growing recognition that we’re fouling our home, the empowerment consumers are feeling through social media, and the growing business case for sustainability.
Look for companies putting their footprint front and centre, and finding new ways to build consumer preference with it.
4. The Rise Of Mobile
Futureproof Brand Pillar: Design
Internet analyst Mary Meeker noted that mobile web traffic as a percentage of all internet usage increased from 4% in 2010 to 13% in 2012. And the Wall Street Journal predicted mobile ad sales to increase threefold in 2013.
What does this mean? Mobile is becoming the ultimate aide – always at our side, always ready with answers. And we’re intuitively turning to it, as we turn away from our desk.
Speaking with Chris Fleck, VP of Mobility Solutions for Citrix, I began to understand that this trend was about much more than simply finding recipes while at the grocery store.
“Far more companies are going to go with a BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, policy.” said Fleck. “With information migrating into the cloud, mobile or pad devices are going to become potent business tools during the day, while they do double duty as social tools at night.”
Fleck is quick to point out that bugbears like security are being designed out of the mobile world. “Mobile device management and mobile app management – these tools are providing a level of protection that IT heads need in order to feel OK about the march of BYOD.”
Long story short – look for 2013 to be the year that people migrate en masse to the more intuitive design of mobile devices.
Futureproof Brand Pillar: Insight
Facebook becomes a public company. Shareholders clamor for profit. The result – more user data is sold to advertisers. What ensues?
Social media expert Nicholas Kinports believes we’re about to see a unprecedented privacy backlash as more users realize their data is being used to target, and sell to them.
“You just have to look at what happened at Instagram” says Kinports. When the photo sharing site announced it would be selling user photos, there was an uproar. The result, although it’s still early days, appears to be a tail-between-the-legs retraction.
Futureproof Pilars: Purpose and Insight
Daniel Epstein is the founder of the Unreasonable Group, an irreverent, bold incubator of companies that want to change the world.
Epstein believes 2013 will see the ongoing shift toward corporate vulnerability. “Imagine a company 10 years ago saying they didn’t have all the answers, they couldn’t figure it out. Today, we’re seeing a huge shift to collaboration, sharing pieces of the puzzle, and asking for others to help us along the way.”
Although this is partly a nod to companies declaring their sustainable intentions and admitting they have a long way to go, I believe there’s something much bigger, and more positive at work.
I was working on Proctor when AG Lafley decreed that the consumer-goods giant would aggressively seek innovation from outside the company. This invitation to collaborate revitalized Proctor.
Today, I believe consumers are looking for far more hybrid solutions, and searching for companies that can put their corporate pride aside to accelerate innovation by teaming up with others. The more vulnerability happens, the better for all of us.
7. The Rise Of The Expert
Futureproof Pillar: All Of Them
I firmly believe that 2013 will see the expert class rise from the ashes of generalists like ad agencies. A former creative director myself, I am amazed at the number of experts I can tap for my projects. They are all hyper-connected and comfortable working across time zones. And they are capable of building project teams that put most marketing, ad and design firms to shame. I believe this trend will continue, and amplify in 2013.
The Futureproof Brand Future Is Unwritten
So there you have it.
I would just like to close with a caution. The reason I created a practice around futureproof brands was to help brands survive and thrive in a world of increasing change and chaos. In a world like this, what’s heresy today becomes old hat tomorrow.
Key to building a futureproof brand is to remain nimble, and build in both deep consumer insight and constant feedback mechanisms. Only that way will you know if what you predicted is actually coming to pass. And if it will still be relevant tomorrow.