While CMOs across industry and geography begin to map out marketing and communication strategies for the year ahead, here are bonus trends to consider when making plans for 2017 in this fast-breaking and increasingly competitive business landscape.
Bonus Trends 2017:
Look for More Collaborative & Visual Driven Purpose, The Rise of Platform Commerce, Communication & Exclusivity Marketing
As we get closer to the end of 2016, the trends that will shape 2017 are becoming more and more apparent. Recently I shared a list of marketing focused concepts that will emerge in the coming months. Following is a bonus list of the top 5 general business ideas that will dominate the landscape in the year ahead that any executive or entrepreneur should keep top of mind:
The SHARING Economy
The art + commerce driven economy will evolve from that of a Warhol imprint (think the last several years of Warhol inspired ads everywhere and the rise of pop art) to one significantly influenced by his disciple Keith Haring.
Haring took the idea of art + commerce equaling innovation to the next level honing in on the notions of accessibility and visual purpose.
Haring pre-dated acclaimed graffiti bandit Banksy with his underground subway scrawlings, seeking to make his art accessible, but to also showcase the power of visual imagery in conveying influential messages. In a world where images clearly trump words everywhere we look from Instagram to Emojis, Haring’s influence is palpable. Snapchat, perhaps the king of visual imagery, which recently rebranded itself as just Snap, even just released its Spectacles glasses product designed solely to help consumers capture and share unique visual imagery.
Haring used his one of a kind visual communication to imbue a sense of activism around critical societal issues like drugs and AIDS. There was the infamous Crack is Wack series and the memorable Stop Aids collection.
Brands are increasingly turning to visual campaigns like this on platforms like SnapChat to engage authentically and effectively just as Haring first did three decades ago.
UNICEF partnered with SnapChat to share images drawn by children in West and Central Africa. The pictures were about lives, fears and losses because of the rise of Boko Haram. The disappearance of the images after a few seconds emphasized a sense of lossthat set a perfect tone for this powerful campaign. UNICEF also asked viewers to participate by sharing their own images of what they would be afraid to lose, which is a perfect form of engagement for Snapchat’s 13-25 demographic.
The WWF in Denmark thought that Snapchat would be perfect to capture the “transient, instant, unique, yet [temporary]” nature of endangered species. Temporary images created a sense of loss and urgency, but unlike the UNICEF campaign, the WWF didn’t have a clear call-to-action, only asking Snapchatters to take pictures of the campaign to snap to friends. Despite this omission, this campaign is still a powerful example of the impact a temporary image can have, and reinforces the need for a concrete call to action.
As I highlight in my book We-Commerce, the sharing influence can be seen taking shape in the new age of business, with companies of all shapes and size, and across all industries, demonstrating the need to act with a sense of purpose each and every day, not just around sustainability or philanthropy efforts. Using commerce to instill purpose and not just profit is ubiquitous today and clearly mimics Haring’s use of art to activate meaningful change.
We will only see more and more of purpose in general, with visually inspired social activism by brands leading the charge, in the year ahead.
The Age of Collaborative Purpose
The sharing or collaborative economy is growing daily around the world and quickly morphing into a recognized driver of purpose as much as democratized access and convenience.
As the eras of purposeful business and sharing collide, the impact has been massive and far-reaching. By combining the core tenets of profiting with purpose with the new notions of trust and borrowing vs. ownership the collaborative economy is based upon, the global business landscape is experiencing a groundswell shift as powerful as the one felt in the days of the Industrial Revolution.
As this movement continues to evolve, we are seeing the new economy positively impact all walks of society including: innovation, economic development, equity, safety and implementation. Examples of this are rampant as both cities and emerging market regions around the world seek to harness the awesome mettle of this new economic engine to drive meaningful growth, development, transformation and collective purpose.
This is a refreshing twist as for far too long the power of collaborative consumption and its groundbreaking innovation has been relegated largely to the topics of ride and home sharing. The far greater opportunity to view the sharing economy as a massive economic shift that is positively altering the way we live work and play and impacting areas as far ranging as urbanization and sustainability, has unfortunately been mostly overlooked.
The opportunity for purposeful collaboration in emerging markets in the year ahead is massive. The elements highlighted by local providers – access to more work opportunities in struggling employment markets, and a pre-existing culture of sharing assets – may contribute to the fact that on-demand services have encountered limited opposition in these regions to date and will likely continue to flourish without abatement.
Collaborative purpose will also go hyper local. A great recent example of purposeful sharing is UK based start up OLIO. OLIO connects neighbors with each other and local shops so that food can be shared instead of thrown away. They are trying to reduce food waste which is a huge problem in the UK and globally (50% of the £10 billion of good food wasted in the UK/year comes from the home). They currently have over 55,000 users, and have been used over 200,000 times to share surplus food.
In our emerging world of placing the “we” over the “me,” the collaborative purpose movement in business is just another example of the awesome power of We-Commerce and proof of the longevity and transformative power of our new economy. OLIO’s mission statement perhaps describes what our new world is about best: “Small collective actions can lead to big change.” Look for more and more collaborative purpose efforts, from brands big and small in 2017.
Harvard Business Review recently focused on the rise of businesses of all sizes using platforms instead of mere products to drive company growth.
As the debate continues over the real “sharing” behind the sharing economy, the new platform strategy boom may provide real insight into the undeniable impact that collaborative economy businesses are having on the broader global economic landscape and entrepreneurialism overall.
As often is the case, many great tips on agile innovation can be seen in smaller start up businesses and applied to larger traditional companies to help foster new growth and innovation. This has been the case with the new platform centric approach to doing business, which most definitely got its sea legs with the likes of sharing economy companies like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit.
That said, as 2016 continues to cement itself as the year the collaborative economy made a true imprint on corporate America, some key lessons for the year ahead can also be learned from major companies as entrepreneurs work to adjust to the new platform driven marketplace.
If we look at GE and Microsoft working to transform and grow in size and scale by switching to platform business models instead of product centric or pipeline driven ones, the impact of collaborative commerce on broader business becomes evident.
Platform businesses that bring together producers and consumers as Uber and Airbnb do are capturing increased market share and transforming how competitive edge is achieved. Yesterday it was through product differentiation. Today it is through scale and impact. This is a trend that will only continue to rise in 2017 and the idea of a “platform” vs sharing economy will gain traction.
As a new approach to business continues to flourish amidst the “WE” or collaborative economy, a corollary collaborative approach to marketing and communication becomes imperative.
At the heart of tackling this new reality, is building collaborative ecosystems for brands that drive two way communication and meaningful engagement. This is where the idea of creating collaborative content platform models that function in essence as “entertainment studios” comes into play.
By placing a collaborative approach to innovation, marketing and communications at the beginning of the supply chain of invention, successful brands can effectively leverage cultures of collaboration to positively impact both commerce as well as meaningful communication.
Leading companies seeking to mimic the winning efforts of brands like Marriott and Mondolez, both with in-house brand studios of their own, will follow this type of three step process in the year ahead:
- Development: Think of a Brand Story as a Movie that is Being Written & Cast
- Production: Think of Your Content Platform As Your Movie Set
- Distribution: Imagine All The Ways In Which You Can Sell Tickets to Your Show
Platform Driven Exclusivity
As products by price point continue to be more and more commoditized, creating winning experiences has become the Holy Grail to capturing consumer attention. That trend will evolve in 2017, with leading brands leveraging platforms to engage consumers and offer them exclusive access. As the on demand environment has democratized the notion of access, exclusivity has emerged as the new hallmark of luxury.
A great example of this notion is Lee Jeans who launched a campaign across 32 cities in China to promote a range of heat-retaining denim. Consumers were asked to get outside and explore while tracking their movements with the Warmth Tracker WeChat app platform. Warmth Index points were accumulated when users scanned QR codes at scattered locations. By collecting points, users could earn Magma Fusion denim products and access to exclusive events.
This type of platform driven exclusivity will continue to emerge as a must do for brands seeking competitive differentiation in the year ahead on both the b-c and b-b fronts as exclusivity arrives as the new “black.”