The future unmasked

Golden Goose md Adam Bass highlights the post pandemic values that he expects to resonate in the years to come.

Given the world’s predictable unpredictability over the past 12 months, only an idiot would attempt to make forecasts based on the next 12, so here are mine.

As a brand strategy kind of guy, the most noticeable change resulting from the pandemic for me has been a subconscious resetting of humanity’s core brand values. In an attempt to predict the implications of lockdown, I’ve laid out the post pandemic values that I expect to resonate in the year(s) to come:

Home – value what we have

For most global events – Moon landing, Kennedy assassination, 9/11 – you can rely upon people to remember exactly where they were when they happened. For Covid-19, we were all in the same place: at home. A universally enforced ‘grounding’ has made the importance of home undeniable. Whether that be the house you live in or the planet we live on.

In the short-term, home upgrades and sales of big ticket items will rise as people spend their Covid nest eggs on new beds, sofas, mattresses and home furnishings –  according to Furniture Today consumer demand throughout the second and third quarters of 2020 reached record levels.

In the long-term, the environmental impact of our choices will need to be baked into new products with many companies, like Oatly for example, already printing their Climate Footprint on their packaging.

A universally enforced ‘grounding’ has made the importance of home undeniable.
A universally enforced ‘grounding’ has made the importance of home undeniable.

Focus – one to one contact

With everyone being at work, on call, online at home with endless distractions the value of real focus has risen almost as sharply as bitcoin. Brand owners are using every means possible to grab your attention but even when they do they are only ever an email, WhatsApp, news update, Amazon delivery or skip button away from interruption themselves.

When real life returns we’ll remember the massive value of attention: the bartender who recognises you, the moment of silence when an audience’s collective jaw drops, the connection between comedian and heckler – all things that we have lost in this new interruption economy. Brand owners and retailers will need to get in on this act, offering in-store personalisation, customisation and giving consumers a product that compensates them for their attention. Rather than interrupt consumers, brands will need to align with consumer’s common values and be part of the conversation, so more relevant content and viral tweets than ever before. If you have a video production company for social media posts, your time may well have come!

Purpose

Aligning with consumers values and achieving viral standout won’t be enough, however. 2020s brands will need a strong purpose to really sustain consumer interest. Consumers who saw brands taking an active role supporting the NHS during the crisis aren’t going to accept that those brands are just commercial signposts with no role or social responsibility – especially as all brands now have an active social media account with its own personality.

If you are a brand owner you need to assess your stance on the issues of the day and decide what your purpose is going to be, if you don’t have one you might need to partner with a brand that does. Charities are going to need more help than ever before so the potential for charity style tie ups between brands that need a purpose and charities that need funds should create an interesting array of products.

Our new found freedom of expression could take inspiration from flashier historic times, such as those seen in Bridgerton.
Our new found freedom of expression could take inspiration from flashier historic times, such as those seen in Bridgerton.

Freedom

After a year’s worth of drab, grey sweatpanted boredom I think we can safely say the post-Covid era (when it eventually arrives) is going to be bright and colourful. Get ready for an overdose of psychedelic showstopping fashions and outlandish looks. This newfound freedom of expression is also going to take inspiration from flashier historic times – think regency fashion from Bridgerton – who knows maybe the periwig will come back into style – I certainly need one after lockdown.

As a brand owner you might want to update your packaging and style guide to meet this new demand, alternatively manufacturers might want to invest in brands that can offer them authentic patterns and prints from those bygone ages… now if only I knew an agency that represented a brand with a lot of historically authentic, patterns and prints…

Local

As home has become more important, so have local connections and neighbourhoods. This means that customers are heavily incentivised to support those businesses within walking distance of their own house. Big brands are not just going to stand by and watch however, to remain relevant they will offer increased personalisation.

Brands will start moving on from the Facebook model of ‘share your data with us and we will sell it to other people’ to ‘share your data with us and we will offer you personal choices’. This already happens but, so far, has been very app based and not particularly user-friendly experiences.  Personalisation at retail will also increase as stores try to replicate the feeling of ‘local’ supplier.

Obviously these are just a few attempts at forecasting the future in respect of licensing and haven’t even touched upon the radical effect of videoconferencing which will massively impact office life, sales, meetings, transportation, internationalisation of licensing… but best not to overstretch the prediction envelope… after all, anyone who saw 2020 coming would have been locked up for real, way before lockdown actually hit.

Adam Bass is md of brand licensing consultancy, Golden Goose. He can be contacted on adam@goldengoose.co.uk.

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