3 Ways to Raise the Bar with Your Customers in 2021

2/9/2021
— Daniel Blank, Deputy General Manager and Head of Digital, Germany 

Remember in the late ‘80s and ‘90s when the term “cocooning” (meaning to protect ourselves and provide comfort) was trending? The trend was about staying home and getting comfortable. As a teenage computer geek who'd rather spend most of his afternoons in front of a PC, I welcomed this trend. More than 20 years later, that term still brings a sense of familiarity — however, this time, the reason for staying home is different.

At some point, we will emerge from our places of safety to find that — in a relatively short period of 12 months — a lot has changed, especially when it comes to technology. In our global Brands in Motion study, 75% of respondents reported they embrace technology to learn how to better their lives, which means the pressure on brands to deliver is increasing. I’ve had a lot of time to evaluate what will continue to help brands thrive in 2021, so here are my three insights into how brands can raise the bar with its customers to drive positive change this year:

1.     Reach for new ways to be human to the core

The ultimate goal in a communications campaign over the past decade may have been bringing people together in a community. However, 2021 will be about the individual customer’s experience with your brand and finding new ways to be human to the core.

In Germany, discount supermarket chain Penny ended the year on a high with its purpose-driven and emotional 2020 Christmas advert. Towards the end of a challenging year, it captured the cohesion and empathy COVID-19 brought to many of us. Penny even committed to donating sales of its chocolate Zipfelmann treats to charity. Another great example is McDonald’s Germany’s tongue-in-cheek contact-free delivery service advert, and its ability to ease our worries as we protect ourselves and others. 

With parts of the world staying home for another couple of months, connecting to your audience “on the go” may not be as important as it was. Your customers are spending more time in front of screens, and some are perhaps escaping into VR worlds. Get creative and use these new avenues to transform your campaigns to develop a deeper bond with customers.

2.    Tap into “edutainment”

“Edutainment” (the idea of entertainment such as TV or gaming, with an educational spin) was key for informing and connecting children and adults during COVID-19. In South Africa, we worked with mobile network company Vodacom to increase learner engagement with its e-School platform, allowing young children to keep up with their school work. This educational platform for families proved vital as school doors shut. It was crucial that the benefits of this platform were communicated quickly and effectively, working with influential parents in the market to get the message out. As we move in and out of lockdowns around the world, these platforms will become incredibly important to children’s educational development and provide stability.

In 2019, there were 645 million podcast listeners, globally. And for 2021 and 22, it’s predicted that number will go up to 1 – 1.3 billion. Podcasts have filled the void created by social distancing, allowing us to stop and listen more deeply. Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité hospital in Berlin, has been using his platform to share weekly updates on COVID-19, drawing in millions of users at the beginning of the crisis. Customers still want to be informed, and there are multiple streams to connect them to the world. Brands can give customers the choice to take control of their own development. Virtual platforms aren’t just for entertainment anymore.

3.   Dial up transparent communication

We’ve seen hospitality sectors battle with lockdowns that affect their everyday income, while others in “white collar” jobs find comfort in working from home. This has resulted in some people saving more money, investing in products such as home furniture and even driving a spike in gaming. (Congrats to the lucky ones who acquired the new Xbox or GeForce graphics card at launch last fall.) Yet despite the disparities, many customers are thinking long and hard about the world — 74% of people expect brands to take a stand on important issues.

For fashion brands, this isn’t always a seamless process, but there are a few brands that are dialling this up. Although outdoor brand Patagonia has always been clear about its purpose-driven mission, luxury brands such as Burberry are realising how they can pivot areas of their business strategy for the better. For instance, Burberry has tied into its philanthropic arm, The Burberry Foundation. With 54% of respondents from Brands in Motion wanting the brands they support to balance great products with powerful purpose and activism, it’s apparent consumers are keeping a close eye on where they invest their money.

Diving deep to cultivate your purpose is what will drive your brand to success — not only financially, but on a human level. A good, authentic purpose can help brands when tough questions are asked and the right decisions need to be made. In 2021, the mission remains the same for brands: Lead with purpose. Allow your shrewd storytelling and platforms to help customers understand who you are and what you stand for. Whether you communicate with your audience through a podcast, the latest tech innovation (anyone exploring Clubhouse, yet?) or a smartly directed campaign, we’re ready to help you share it confidently and with clarity.