It’s been a tumultuous year for the media industry – and a time of intense change for advertisers too. Technology has come of age to allow consumers to take increasing control of how they engage with, and help shape media content, just as revelations of state spying and tabloids’ manipulative and often illegal practices have arguably hastened their rejection of hitherto trusted brands and authorities.
Against this backdrop, the coming year should hold great opportunity for those brave enough to create new rules of engagement. Here’s my guide of what to expect in 2014:
1. Brands who invest in communities’ wellbeing will be safeguarded from real backlash damage
Havas Media’s 2013 Meaningful Brands study showed brands such as Google and Facebook riding high in the rankings, owing to their strong performance in improving people’s individual sense of well-being. Meaningful Brands and their performance against the stock markets show that the demand for companies to go beyond their traditional marketing and business parameters and add to our well-being and quality of life is an essential requirement to the long-term success of a company. However, tech brands performances on measures relating to community wellbeing were very low. As I argued this summer, this should sound a warning bell to those at the top of these brands. Our annual survey shows that companies that consistently hold-on to the top spots are those that perform well in both individual and community wellbeing contribution, such as P&G and Microsoft. With some predicting a tipping point in public approval of mega tech-brands in 2014 amidst tax-dodging, spy-agency colluding allegations, I predict stormier waters ahead for the brands that don’t act now to invest in measures that improve communal well-being, to shore-up against a coming ‘tech-lash’.
AOL, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple and LinkedIn are already united to call for reforms. They know work must be done to restore the public’s “trust in the internet”.
2. Growing awareness about the use of #peopledata will fuel potential rejection of popular dot com brands
With the NSA email and social media spying revelations tracking all over the media, a backlash over how people’s data is being used by companies like Google and Facebook is surely inevitable. Move over Big Data – the big debate in 2014 will be over #peopledata not #bigdata as consumers better understand the profit Google, Facebook and Twitter generate from their personal information and demand more control.
3. Brands must be agile in the #ageofdamage era
As smartphone penetration increases, companies must be spotlessly authentic. If reality does not match up to a brand image, the camera-phone shaped weapon in every employee and customer’s pocket will ensure they are publicly named and shamed. In 2014 companies will need to be alert to potential brand damage on social and old media and ensure they are agile enough to respond in an honest, clever and authentic way to hold-on to their credibility with consumers.
4. Sustainability and “shared values” will shift to centre stage
As brands become more accountable, and consumers become more engaged and able to influence and comment on their practices, competitive margins will be won and lost in non-traditional areas. Doing the right thing as a brand will no longer be a nice to have, it will become a necessity. Starbucks’ tax-avoidance revelations at a time when many were suffering due to Government cuts, led to customers voting with their feet, while ongoing revelations about Gap’s use of sweatshop labour has led to a boycott by some. Business practices will need to live-up to scrutiny and become accountable in 2014. I predict that CSR will be hung out to dry as a term and “meaningful” will be made central to marketing strategies as its longer term benefit on loyalty and brand preference is better understood.
5. Brands will be expected to do more to save the day
Brands (especially the profiteering, tax-evading dot coms) will be looked at more and more to play a pivotal role in helping solve the world’s problems, such as fuelling economic growth and job creation, putting an end to corruption, as the scale of their influence on regulation and Government action in these areas is recognised.