Future Shock

The image above is not a still from a poorly investigated failed blockbuster, nor is it from a Woody Allen sci-fi comedy film. It’s a seriously conceived live installation from a 1970s science and technology conference fair in the U.S., hailed as the “Typist of the Future”. It went viral this spring, with many a Facebook chuckle as it was passed on from one fan’s disbelief to another. The reason why so many of us find this image particularly amusing because the future is here, and it certainly does not look like this.

In fact, the future has happened faster and better than expected. It is certainly not rigid or contained. It’s liquid, it’s responsive, it’s lean and it’s on the move all the time. This is evident in the way consumers now experience our brand, how media is converging, how we develop products, how we engage through our content, and how we track our success. We have evolved past our own expectations and must now keep up with the new landscape we have created. Take a moment to pause time and review where your brand is in its evolutionary state:

1.Consumer Experience:

The first step is evolve with, and preferably a step ahead of, the next generation. The upcoming generation of consumers are digital natives. Which means that for them, media is already social. For a brand to still be questioning ‘what to do about and how much to invest in social media’ is therefore unacceptable.  The YouTube Generation, or Gen C for their passion to create, curate, connect in their community, will be our prime prospects. According to Google and YouTube’s research, 91% of them sleep with their smartphone nearby and for the majority it’s the first thing they check in the morning. The combined influence of Gen C communities will make them the largest consumer generation ever, estimated to spend 510 billion USD in the USA alone this year. 85% of them consult their friend network –online and offline- before making their purchase decision. More and more they will be influenced by brands that share their greater values, brands that have a philosophy they can believe in – a brand purpose.

Red Bull gives you wings (or an astronaut suit)

2.    Purpose:

 Brands that evolve to not just survive but also thrive with be those that adapt to these expectations with a strong sense of their own purpose. What is brand purpose? Quite simply, it is why your brand exists in the world. It is what makes your team and all the other employees motivated to get out of bed and work every day.  It’s what you want to do for your consumers. What’s more is that your purpose will drive your business. In his book Grow, former P&G CMO Jim Stengel explains how 10 brands from Millward Brown’s top 50 list, tracked for 10 years, outperform in terms of ROI by 400% when compared to Standard & Poor’s top companies list. Purpose and the ideals a brand stands for are what make the difference between a Red Bull and its efforts to energize the world, giving its community ‘wings to fly’, versus any another energy-providing drink. It’s the difference Dove makes towards its ideal of real beauty while it supports young women’s self-esteem through an active cause foundation against body image disorders. Purpose resonates. Dove Beauty Sketches became the most viral video ad of all time in May 2013, with 114 million views and 3.74 million shares in its first two weeks.

Google Glass

Google Glass

3.    Product Experience:

Your brand’s purpose should radiate through your products and services. It should help you anticipate needs to reach breakthrough consumer innovation. Google defines its role as being ‘your personal assistant in everything you do’, which leads the vision for its development of better search, email, maps, and its entire range of information-organizing products. Google saw an opportunity in how consumers struggle with accessing information on the go, innovating to create the ‘heads-up’ technology of Google Glass. And slated to launch in 2016, Google Car promises a safe, helpful and smart driverless car experience, already successfully beta testing in San Francisco and Singapore. Great products are about seizing an opportunity for an unsatisfied, emerging need and delivering a relevant experience.  With the advent of 3D printers becoming available to more and more people, the future of products lie in the power of communities. Brands will make prototypes available to consumers to customize and share their own designs, ultimately building a personal experience of the product in their own homes and sharing with others.

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches reveals a heartbreaking and heartwarming truth

4.    Shareability:  

What makes something shareable? It’s not “great content” alone. Think of when someone tells you a story – you may be shocked/amused/impressed/laugh. But wanting to retell that story to a friend is another process altogether. There is a science behind what is highly shareable and what makes videos go viral. First of all, you have to get them in the first 10 to 15 seconds. No one has time to spare hoping that investing in your story will be worth it in the end. Second of all, content must evoke a sharp emotion –funny, surprising, exhilarating- from your audience. Preferably positive, as according to Unruly Media and Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science’s research: videos that elicit high intensity, positive emotions are three times more likely to be shared than videos that elicit low intensity, negative emotions.’ Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches was analyzed to be shareable mostly because of being positively true, heart warming and exhilarating.

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you are doing everything in your power to ensure your content is shareable.  Do you have the right sharing tools provided on the platforms they are active in? Do you know what you want the audience to do once they are done with the content? Is there a role for them to participate? Is it based on a hot topic in cultural context? Is the title explanatory and inviting? Oreo’s 100th year campaign to make the historical cookie cool again yielded a 230% increase in Facebook fan engagement, powered by a brand team making sure each piece of content was highly relevant every day and moment, capturing links between the Mars Rover, the Tour de France, Batman’s Dark Night and more. The greatest example of shareable content in the home appliances category is still Blendtec Blenders, which holds the all-time consistently viral record. Since launching their YouTube channel in 2007 to show exactly how their blenders can blend anything, they have successfully proven their point with the iPhone 1,2,3,4 and 5, iPad, Kindle, Nexus. Their sales drove up 500% in 2008, 700% in 2009, have 580.000 subscribers on YouTube, an average of 28 million views per video and lead the market having won the ‘most durable Blender’ mindshare.The numbers back up the power of sharing.

Oreo celebrating the Mars Rover

Oreo celebrating the Mars Rover

4. Social Science: Make big data work for you.As the confusion about what to do, how to share and what to track on social media settles and algorithms have emerged, the best thing about digital and social media are the plethora of tools we have to measure ourselves by.We now know that the power of traditional paid media alone is weaker than the power of earned (conversation related to your brand online and user generated content), owned (content and platforms you own) and shared media  (communities where you collaborate with fans). According to Forbes’ AdVoice, we will no longer be able to segment social content based on how it originated – it will be “owned by origin, paid to scale, earned due to its quality” – because of the sharing cloud. Therefore, we should be looking at not just “likes” but engaged users and the engagement ratio among our Facebook fans and Twitter followers, examining which post types and stories perform best, their viral reach beyond our fanbase, and what methods we can use to amplify our content. Google, for example, recently introduced the value of mobile calculator, which Adidas used to examine how mobile searches drive in-store visits and purchases. They now know that 20% of mobile store locator searches result in visits and that they can use mobile to bring a 680% incremental increase in ROI and are modeling future path to purchase communication and pricing accordingly. Keep in mind that the rules of engagement and success are also constantly evolving, and tweak your goals as you go. Take your Facebook page for example – you may have a different goal before you have 50.000 fans, when you have 100.000 fans. Once you hit the million fan point, you will want to be focusing less on acquisition and more on keeping your current fans engaged, and getting close to your future fans.


Now, flash forward to your brand’s future. What do you see? Are you aligned with where your future consumers will be? What equity can you translate and transform to be more relevant? Are your products and services aligned with all you could be? What needs to be eliminated so you can move faster? What do you need to evolve?

Digital, social and mobile, the world is yours.

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