Leveling the Playing Field for Brands and Customers in 2021 - Woman in medical mask receiving boxes

Leveling the Playing Field for Brands and Customers in 2021

For many brands, COVID-19 has been an unavoidable forcing function, causing them to act quickly on changes that would otherwise be years in the making. It’s also been an incredible leveler, provoking otherwise slow adopters to upscale their investments in technology solutions, improve their digital capabilities and evaluate more closely how they communicate with their audiences. COVID-19 has forced us all to reflect on many things as companies, brands and individuals — our behaviors, values, purpose and how we communicate.

I want to share three pertinent and timely trends brands can take with them, adapting how they communicate with their audiences.


Retrospective resolution

For brands to thrive, there is now an increased urgency for transparent communications. Silence could be more detrimental to brand reputation than ever before. Owning up to your brand’s past mistakes and questionable history will earn consumer respect more than sweeping past wrongs under the carpet. In our Brands in Motion study, 74% of respondents said they expect brands to take a stand on important issues.

Microsoft has exemplified a brand taking a stance, meaningfully aligning its actions to its purpose. In 2020, Microsoft announced its bold goal to go carbon negative by 2030. Leaning into the notion of retrospective resolution, Microsoft pledged that by 2050, it will remove the equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere that it has emitted since its founding in 1975.

Knowing better and doing better is something brands should be prepared for, integrating their values into CSR plans in an authentic way. When brands communicate their purpose and align purpose with their strategies and decision making, better success can be had.


Presence-free living is here to stay

With COVID-19 accelerating the world’s shift to remote working and a more socially distanced world, consumers are understanding the cost of appearing in person — and these habits are likely to stick. In our Brands in Motion study, 67% of respondents said technology liberates their workstyle and 75% embrace technology to learn how to better their lives. The desire for brands to introduce technology behaviors that put the consumer first isn’t anything new. As people adapt to working from home and find alternatives that can help keep their families safe, there’s a space for brands to tap into this trend in new ways. 

Remote working site, WFH, has created a platform for workers to connect with job opportunities across the world, allowing them to work remotely, anywhere. Not only does the platform address the world’s worrying unemployment rate due to COVID-19, it also allows employees to save money and have the security that they’re working with employers which encourage working from home, rather than in an office.

Presence-free living has shown consumers what’s possible, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t craving the return to work and social aspects of their lives in some capacity. Brands can find success if they acknowledge consumers behaviors have changed. Think about how your brand can tackle the presence pain points and find convenient digital alternatives.


The voice of the stakeholder customer

Like never before, 2020 saw customers connect to the brands they love and the issues they believe in. The trend of the stakeholder customer will see empowered customers expecting to have two-way communication with the brands they invest in. The more your brand dials into this trend, the better it will provide desired products and services to its audience. As long as these new offerings align with your purpose, of course.

French skin care brand, Nidé has found a refreshing way to develop a deeper relationship with its customers. The brand allows the Nidé community to submit new product ideas for development, with cash rewards for each stage the product manages to pass. Once the idea reaches over 2,000 votes from the Nidé community, it goes into development. It’s that simple type of two-way transaction that establishes trust and respect from customers. It also creates space for a constant stream of dialogue and allows you to stay better informed with the community you’re fostering.


Brand survival in 2021 will be about existing for the benefit of multiple stakeholders, not just shareholders. Customers are demanding their voices be heard, and if brands weren’t listening to them before, they may want to start paying attention — or fear being left behind. When it comes to communicating, think about how your brand is engaging authentically with its stakeholders, be it loyalty incentive programs or customer board meetings. Not sure how to get your brand’s voice heard? Reach out, we know just the place to start.

March 10, 2021

Ruth Allchurch
Managing Director, UK
Executive Managing Director for EMEA