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4 Trends Changing Brand Storytelling in 2021

1/13/2021
— Kass Sells, Global COO/President of International 

The past year has changed the way we use technology — maybe forever. This is an exciting opportunity for brand storytellers. It’s a reset on how communicators, marketers, data analysts, technologists, and creatives work together to reach and influence audiences.

We believe that communications can be a catalyst for positive change. And with so much change happening in our world, now is the time to double down on what we do best — using technology to help our clients tell their stories in new and powerful ways, and to inspire our audiences and ourselves. Here are the four trends I believe are changing brand storytelling in 2021:

 

1. Embracing our globally connected world

The globally connected world has arrived. Now what?

Take advantage of it. This is the moment when we not only rely on each other, but when brands can flex their muscles for their audiences. An example of this is Spanish fashion brand Balenciaga. When fashion shows ground to a halt, the brand showed what was possible by launching its latest fashion show as an interactive, futuristic video game for its worldwide audience. Given that most of us aren’t traveling or having many in-person experiences, brands have online audiences yearning to be captivated. having the right tools in place to create digital and interactive experiences is the best way to express your brand.

 

2. Understanding how security is changing

2020 changed everything for cybersecurity. What will 2021 bring?

The old saying “with great power comes great responsibility” feels like it was created with 2021’s tech brands in mind. Cybersecurity stories saw a 1,165% increase in the past year; with more sophisticated and complex attacks, every brand has a cybersecurity story to tell. Working with WE, Trend Micro lived its purpose of making digital information safe by equipping reporters with valuable trend data on cybersecurity threats and countermeasures. These stories not only connect with consumers and business leaders — they also help niche issues, such as DDoS hackers, reach a broader audience. Our ability to use data responsibly goes hand in hand with purpose, and doing what’s right goes hand in hand with making sure your customers’ data is secure.

 

3. Using data and analytics to get creative with audience insights

Smart partnerships can turn data into knowledge.

All of this helps us to deliver the powerful stories we want to share on the right platform. Not everyone knows what to do with the data acquired from their platforms, yet when you find the right partner, doors can open. We’ve worked with clients to use their data in the launch of a nationwide campaign, tapping into millennials’ behaviors. Years of trend watching helped Aruba elevate its #GenMobile and IoT campaigns to reposition the brand as a thought leader at the cutting edge of networking. It all comes back to deeply understanding your audience and how you might reach them, and how you can use data to elevate your brand’s stories, products and campaigns.

 

4. Rethinking physical offices and employee engagement

How can you gather and address a distributed workforce?

Office culture has changed, and the desire for a flexible way of working is now the norm. Perhaps it was a long time coming. The future of office culture will be about maximizing team collaboration and client connection, leaning into our purpose to create an environment where everyone belongs. I see the office as the new base camp, the place where you go to plan, meet, strategize, recharge and ultimately to retrain and prepare to go back into the world ready to help clients tell their stories in powerful ways. If the office is the base camp, then teams and clients reach the summit together.

Yet with a distributed office structure, how will employees feel like a part of an organization’s everyday decisions? In our research with Quartz, we saw that before COVID-19, only 20% of business leaders prioritized employee engagement and workplace culture. With office culture totally disrupted, employee engagement will rely more on new tech, new tools and new processes.

We’re helping many clients find new ways to interact with their employees, whether  through webinars, video conferences and online training sessions, or productivity platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meets, and other two-way or multichannel communication tools.

 

Let purpose light the path forward

A strong purpose helps brands be nimble during tough times.

Purpose is the thread that pulls everything together: The stories you tell, the employees you connect with — they all must resonate with what your business believes in. A higher purpose provides meaning and drives the impact of all work.

We must now think about how we execute these plans and show up bolder. The gift of disruption is that we must change to survive. Once we understand how to survive, we quickly learn that it’s not enough — we want to thrive, and we want our brands to succeed in new and powerful ways. As leaders, brands and organizations, we must lean in and embrace innovation to change like never before. Start your year by finding your purpose, seeing the positive parts of our “all digital, all the time” existence, the disruptions to cybersecurity, data and insights, and the rethinking of in-person work. Change is hard, but it is also an opportunity to thrive, producing our best work and results.

If you’d like to talk more about navigating change and how to make these trends work for you and your brand, we’re always excited to have a conversation.