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Woman with gifts

In the last of our 8for16 trends blog posts we consider how, in an era of instant price comparisons and product reviews, brands must foster direct emotional connections with consumers who expect consideration and customisation at every turn.

Relationship marketing has never been more important and in 2016 art will triumph over science and imagination will matter at least as much as effective data crunching. Given that it’s about five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one and that on average loyal customers make up 20% of a company’s business but 70% of sales, it’s well worth investing in cultivating and keeping them. As it becomes ever easier for shoppers to access multiple providers and switch loyalties on an hourly basis, organisations must show that they are attuned to their needs and willing to give back. In place of personalisation gimmickry will be more meaningful connections with individuals that transcend bespoke packaging options.

At the heart of this will be great customer service – which researchers have shown triggers the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved, sometimes even increasing heart rate.  Millennials are looking for a hybrid experience that combines streamlined user-friendly digital options with empathetic solution-focused human assistance on hand where appropriate. Amazon Fire users need only tap the Mayday button to connect face-to-face with their own personal tech advisor. And all organisations will need to become more proactive –listening to social complaints and checking in with customers and letting them know what to expect rather than waiting to hear from them.

Reward schemes will need to be increasingly relevant and personal to encourage consumers to spend more and keep coming back. Harvey Nichols’ new Rewards app is a fast track pass to exclusive personalized perks and stylish money-can’t-buy privileges.  As well as rewards, each loyalty tier will have its own set of benefits such as gift wrapping, express alterations and at-home styling. Companies will be looking to splice customer spending data with social media intel to deliver hyper-personalized rewards. Global travel rewards currency, Avios launched a hyper-personalized campaign, ‘Do More with Avios’ enlisting the help of customers’ friends and family to use banner ad spaces to nudge collectors to spend their Avios points on doing things together.

We’ll see Emojis pop up everywhere from menus to feedback forms as companies find more direct and intuitive forms of engaging their audiences at every stage of the purchase cycle.

Emojis are no longer just the language of teens – four in five UK adults use emojis on a regular basis and more than 60% of over 35s identify themselves as frequent users, saying they express their feelings better than words. Aloft Hotels TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji Room Service is designed to meet the needs of its guests who simply have to text an emoji of what they want to the hotel’s front desk and within minutes, the delivery is made. Even Goldman Sachs recently launched its report on the spending habits of Millennials with a 22 emoji executive summary on Twitter.

Targeted experiential campaigns are also on the rise with 87% of consumers saying live events reach them more effectively than television advertising, and 98 percent saying a live event motivates them to buy a product, according to EventTrack. Mobile tours, pop-up stores, in-store experiences, entertainment partnerships and sampling events are joined by direct to consumer activities such as Uber bringing kittens in need of a home to meet stressed out workers in need of a cuddle. Gen Y and Z in particular want memorable on-brand experiences that provide them with personal content to share online. This Christmas Burberry is allowing customers to star in and share a personalised version of its Christmas ad alongside celebrities such as Elton John and Naomi Campbell via the “The Burberry Booth” at its flagship Regent Street store.

Ultimately trust – in 2016 more than ever – will be dependent on delivering great brand connections and genuinely personal experiences at all stages of the customer journey.



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Return to first principles

We’ll see rapid changes in consumer behaviour, as the sharing economy mainstreams across markets. Nothing is sacred – expect new models for everything from finance to healthcare, as the next generation rips up the rule books and reimagines the future.

Reinventing the Wheel

As a highly respected and outspoken advocate of ‘first principles’, Elon Musk is channeling his inner-Aristotle, who first coined the term nearly 3,000 years ago.

Aristotle said that a first principle is the “first basis from which a thing is known” and that pursuing first principles is, ostensibly, the key to creating step-changes in thought and action.

In a 2012 interview, Musk gives a clear and concise description of Aristotle’s teachings:

  • The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy… we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done or it is like what other people are doing… iterations on a theme.
  • [With] first principles… you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, “What are we sure is true?” … and then reason up from there.
  • Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour.”
  • With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”
  • It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”
  • It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.

It’s that thinking that helped Musk (and the team) create and develop PayPal and has been integral in his pursuit of Space X and Tesla. It is also the kind of thinking that has led to the development of Uber, AirBnB, KickStarter, Funding Circle and many, many more disruptive companies.

Many people have made causal connections to the development of the sharing economy to the idea of first principles. While there is myriad anecdotal evidence to support such assumptions, the history and heritage of first principles mean that it is unfounded.

That said, it is safe to posit that the increase in availability of connective technology will bring about an acceleration in such innovation and thinking.

Let’s All Share

The roll-out of UberPool demonstrates how people are searching for different value exchanges… The sharing economy has disrupted many notions of ownership beyond recognition.

From Millennials and beyond, the paradigm has shifted away from antiquated notions of ownership and toward the concept of access. Access to experiences, to people, to information, to ideas.

The use of open source R&D was something that powered SpaceX and later drove Tesla. What Gen X talked about during their wellness retreats, the Millennials have brought to life; they have destroyed the illusion of ownership, thus beginning the end of the idea of a consumer and creating the paradigm of the user.

This shift will see a spike in combinatorial innovation, as users and brands remove the shackles of fixed thinking and start to fuse ideas and innovations from other fields and sectors.

The new ‘rock stars’ in business will be those who connect seemingly disparate ideas and make something fresh, or those who combine the best of two fields to solve a problem in an elegant manner.

One company doing the latter is Ossur, which recently trialed a mind-controlled prosthetic leg.

But the fun will come from those who push and play in equal measure. 3Doodler is one such company, creating a tool that allows for 3D printing technology to be placed in the palm of your hands, so that you can free draw sculptures in mid-air.

Play Left Field

Essentially, the take-away is this. Verticals should be viewed as ingredients in an ideas mixer. Blend them together in a shaker and see what concoctions you can make; some will be foul, but others could be the signature drink for years to come.


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We will see consumers take ownership of their personal data and become more sophisticated in how they integrate, benchmark and compare it, to gain insights into their behavior and improve their wellbeing. Brands that enable this will be welcomed into our daily lives.

Data, data everywhere

Aristotle declared that ‘Man is by nature a social animal’ and then proceeded to explore the notion of causality; suggesting that the choices we make have both cause and effect on the individual and on society, with each element intrinsically linked.

So, while the proliferation of tracking tools and technology has increased markedly over recent months, the evaluation of input and output is seemingly as old as civilization itself.

We may have lost some of the loftier and more worthy assignations of such data mining, but our hunger for sources shows no sign of being sated. From sleep cycles, food consumption, steps taken, miles cycled, coffees purchased, and much more, we have become addicted to monitoring and measuring our own life data, in search of the quantified self.

As the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets managed”, and people are measuring themselves and their lives in ever-increasing frequency and variety.

Under Armour has been a key player in the measuring and reporting of fitness stats to elite sports clubs for over a decade (including NBA, NFL and premier league football teams). Its $475m acquisition of calorie tracking platform, MyFitnessPal is a clear signal that the company wants to become the de facto brand for fitness tracking and implementation.

The data is only part of the story… What MyFitnessPal has been able to do for its 80m daily active users is deliver them data that they would not otherwise be able to obtain, in a manner that is easy to understand. It helps that the primary unit of measurement in this system is calories, but the platform makes the monitoring and measuring of them simple.

Einstein is famously quoted as saying that, “Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.” What does this mean for the ever-increasing swathe of data that floods the ether?

Making sense of it

Until recently, it was almost impossible for the average consumer to have access to such vast amounts of data or the computational power required for its translation. It was only business that had the means and the motive to play with it – and not all of them knew what to do with it. The challenge becomes the relationship with, and interpretation of, such data.

One brand hoping to build a strong data relationship, through leveraging its historic reputation and large and impassioned user base, is Apple. With the introduction of HealthKit, Apple has built a bridge for nutrition values, vitals, sleep analysis, body measurements, and other health data, hoping to bring consistency to the data feeds and create a more enjoyable and readily understandable user experience to its users.

Cynics could argue that this move has been made to minimize the blow of a seemingly lackluster sales performance of the Apple Watch (a relatively modest 1.9m units globally). Others will suggest that this is simply a sensible extension to Apple’s UI, as the iOS platform has become ubiquitous with so many people, that it makes perfect sense to put complex health data within a known construct.

What both Apple and Under Armour are attempting to do is to become the central platform for these interactions. They are both clear examples of pioneers in the health tracking space; giving their users direct connection between data point and action.

Such relationships and interpretations are easy to understand in the fitness world, but they have also spread into other areas. Insurance (specifically health) and banking are areas in which consumers are gaining value from the data their service providers have.

Insurance underwriters have been using complex data to determine the probability of various events and calculate a person’s premium. Translating this into digestible chunks and offering it up to consumers as a means of lifestyle choices and change is something that adds massive value to both parties, and it is this that is the central thought of Prudential’s Vitality Health Insurance, for example.

While it is perfectly sensible and understandable for health insurance companies to share and track such data points, it is not so obvious in which spaces other brands and tech should play.

In the US, MINT, which has more than 10m users and was purchased by Intuit in 2009 for $170m, acts as a conduit for financial information; allowing users to monitor their finances and receive advice and products (such as credit cards and loans) in return. The value exchange here is simple – it enables more speedy access to, and management of, financial data, while also connecting users with highly qualified options.

This leads us to some important questions… To whom should this personal data collation and interpretation be entrusted? By whom and how should it be policed and safeguarded? What value can be exchanged in all of this activity?

Actionable insights

The most valuable derivative from all of this data is actionable insight… without insight, information is useless. And without the means or motivation to take action, that insight can be damaging.

Thus, successful brands will be those who appreciate the relationships they have with their consumers, the data associated with them and how to pull all of that together in a manner that is both understandable and actionable.