As strategists, freelancers, business owners, marketers and everyone else, it’s key to understand cultural shifts as they impact brands and consumer behaviors.
This week, I had the opportunity to present five socially led trends at “General Assembly” in NYC.
Being a strategist with a background in social and consumer psychology, every year I create a sum-up of the key points for an understanding of the consumer of today. I have taken some time to analyze a handful of different reports, as well as observing consumer behavior and trending topics online, to curate a list of overlapping cultural and socially led trends.
The result is an actionable deep-dive into socially led cultural shifts that will impact brands and consumer behavior in 2020.
Brands mature to platforms with purpose
In 2020, more than ever, consumers will choose to support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their own beliefs and values.
Brands no longer belong to the company that invested in shaping, growing and monetizing them. Brands are now community property, belonging not only to shareholders but also to employees and customers, who now are the ones that really influence others to buy.
Instead of just standing for things like luxury or reliability, they are also beginning to stand for more value-based things like inclusion, generosity, and environmental stewardship.
Therefore, to create a true community and be relevant, brands need to stand out and stand for something, find an insight-based purpose and enable their audience to engage and participate in the brand.
- Culturally relevant strategy: Find the insight-based purpose that aligns with your audience’s beliefs and values. To do so, analyze who your audience is, what they stand for, what challenges and pain points they face. Gen Zers and Millennials, for instance, believe it’s important for companies to take a stand on issues such as human rights, equality and climate change. This suggests that brand purpose will be even more important for future generations.
- Brand Voice: A strong brand voice will be more important than ever for being vocal about your brand mission. Pretty pictures aren’t enough in 2020, followers want to know and support what a brand stands for beyond its products.
- Organizing and empowering like-minded people: Now, with consumers having a real stake in a brand’s success, it’s time to rethink engagement models. Brand management becomes community-driven – it is about building around like-minded groups, including consumers and fans, as well as employees and influencers. Think about how you can enable the audience and community to engage with and participate in the brand. Perhaps customers can act as sales partners, or participate via crowdsourcing to fund new innovations/products, or even invest in a company’s growth. There’s no harm in asking consumers to commit more or do more on behalf of the brand.
Mainstream social media can often feel toxic, full of bullying and harassment.
At the same time, people are getting increasingly fatigued by having to perform online – and with tools like Instagram Close Friends and Facebook Groups, the public feed feels less and less interesting and important.
So in 2020 consumers will seek meaningful connections in online communities. They’ll embrace smaller and more intimate digital spaces that facilitate respectful and meaningful connections, let them interact with like-minded peers and allow them to truly be themselves and find a sense of belonging.
The rise of more discreet, intimate spaces offers an opportunity to talk to people where they’re more emotionally engaged and open.
- Identify Trends: This development can be a great tool for brands to better engage with consumers around product development. In these closed spaces, people are more engaged and give honest, unfiltered feedback.
DESIGN FOR QUALITY TIME
As brands run out of channels that consumers pay attention to, earning consumer time gets harder and harder.
The time consumers spend interacting with brands, on phones, and engaging with content is limited. With Apple’s Screen Time, consumers are becoming more aware of the time they spend online and are trying to spend less time stuck on their devices.
For brands, this means competing not just within their own industry, but with phones, podcasts, games, and online streaming services.
In order to earn the consumer’s time, brands need to start to design for quality time.
- Valuable Content: When it comes to their online time, consumers want to consume relevant, quality and authentic content that actually helps them in their real life. Brands will need to offer consumers and followers valuable content, providing a content experience suited to their needs, questions and expectations. With platforms such as Instagram hiding likes, and changing their algorithm from likes to saves, we have already seen the first steps in this direction. Long-form video posts and micro-blogging on Instagram and Facebook are some of the formats that respond well to this trend.
- Human Experience: Another way of becoming part of consumers’ “quality time” is by engaging with them in real life. With experiential marketing and IRL experiences that give consumers social experiences and time, brands can become part of consumers’ “quality time”. As they usually spend it with their friends and families, they tend to give it more social value than “lonely screen time”. Innovative brands will invest in experiences to break through to consumers.
TREND 4: Social Self-Care
With a general openness around mental health and emotional wellbeing, self-care is having a moment right now. And with our always-on notification fatigue, there’s a sense that our everyday overuse feels unhealthy. In response, there’s a desire to change some of our habits.
Our relationship with our personal devices is growing increasingly complex. We don’t necessarily want to be cut off from the internet, we just want a better relationship with it. So consumers are actively trying to balance their digital lives to protect their wellbeing.
In the wake of increased mental health awareness, people are starting to take a more measured approach to digital consumption.
Also, social media platforms are changing and introducing more wellness-focused tools, such as Instagram’s test of hiding likes in certain countries. Communities are beginning to self-regulate how they use social media.
Social media, it seems, is getting a long-overdue health check.
Brands will also have the opportunity to get involved here.
- Whether it’s creating content that supports people’s emotional health
- Or supporting people in enforcing healthier habits
Trend 5: New Work Culture
Constant pressure to be on fire, personally as well as professionally, is causing many to burn through their reserves. Due to a growing focus on wellbeing, individuals are questioning the always-on lifestyle, so those consumers will look to brands that help them battle the burnout.
Taking action represents a huge opportunity for brands. In the future, the mental wellbeing of employees will be just as important as the supply chain or a company’s environmental footprint.
The best companies will recognize this new shift and re-orientate their internal culture around it.
In a world in which internal company culture is an increasingly important part of a brand, making meaningful changes that reduce stress and potential burnout will send a powerful signal to the world, and to potential customers, about who you are and what your brand stands for.
Commit to a long-term mission and build a constructive, truly relevant, meaningful and supportive social space. Think about how you can create new communities and foster new connections that are also truly relevant, meaningful and supportive.
Think about the interest groups, tribes and collectives that look to you and could see you as a credible meeting place. Think about real-time, pop-up communities and experiences that let you connect to your customer.
If you can create a truly CIVIL space for consumers to come together online in 2020, then, in the long run, the rewards will be huge.
A special thanks to everyone who came to the event & General Assembly and Fiverr for having me!
Sources: Trend Watching, globalwebindex, Harvard Business Review, We are Social, The Future Laboratory, Forbes, Fast Company, Magenta, Smart Insights
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