London branding expert Leila Fataar of Platform13 urges brands to rethink their digital strategies to keep ahead with cultural shifts and tech advances. These are her thoughts.
A few cultural shifts are happening now and brands need to react quickly in order to stay relevant in the very near future. Culture spans far more than music, fashion and art – politics, even technological advances are cultural and so is the way people behave. There are clear indications that consumers have lost trust in digital content and brands. Too much generic imagery is uploaded, and a lot of it bears the now mandatory #ad hashtag. This is true of the feeds of brands and influencers (with a rise in fake accounts) alike, meaning that social media is losing its authenticity and originality. 84% of all conversations happen in dark social, i.e. messenger services. Brands can’t get in there – unless they manage to create content or in-real-life activity that is compelling enough to end up on dark social, one person telling the next in good old word-of-mouth fashion.
Brands need to re-think their strategies, stop copying one another and find the nuggets that make them unique – the thing that will ultimately create truly original content and stop consumers’ thumbs moving while scrolling through their social feed. One way of doing this is to work with expert talent and cultural voices in your field to help create products and communications, to open up and embrace transparency and let consumers see behind the ‘curtain’ as opposed to upholding a carefully guarded surface. If a brand’s working with, say, an amazing sneaker designer, they’d benefit hugely from giving this talent a platform in which to share expertise and authentic stories.
AR, which is making strides forward, could help bring these stories to life in ways we’re just beginning to see – for the ‘woke’ consumer, AR offers a chance for brands to show their history and supply chain in new and exciting ways. In whichever ways brands choose to communicate, consumers will only sit up and take note if they feel a brand is helping them navigate through cultural shifts, adding value to the world (but not necessarily in a way which is worthy) and demonstrating that they have a reason for being. By 2020, some major players will no longer be with us due to complacency. Remember what happened to Kodak and Nokia?
Another momentous shift is the rise of voice search services such as Alexa and Siri. Kids of today go up to the Apple TV and talk to it – it’s becoming normalized and it’s been predicted that by the end of 2018, 40% of searches will be voice searches. At the moment, people mainly use the technology to look for a hairdresser, for example, as opposed to searching for brands, but the transition will happen fast, so brands must figure out how to optimize themselves. Websites cannot be found this way as voice search is semantic and very different from keyword-driven Google searches. The question is – will websites be redundant in the future? Elsewhere, Google has announced they’re moving from mobile-first to AI-first and by the end of 2018. Also, Chrome, their biggest browser, will have ad blockers installed. All those ads that programmatic has found will be blocked… It’s a huge transformation, and brands better be quick on their feet to keep up.