Marketing trends come and go, sometimes as swiftly (and pitilessly) as the evening tide. Experts croon about them at the beginning of a year, and in the middle of the same year bloggers cheerfully take joy on those that fail to catch fire. It’s just not easy to catch the right trend wave. Should your company jump on the Instagram advertising bandwagon and what happened to Snapchat as the next big thing? Maybe virtual reality is not blowing up, but can’t we trust augmented reality? What exactly is going on with bots and artificial intelligence? I know we’ve tried a few here at QuestionPro.
With all this said, we can rely on some “big idea” marketing trends that transcend the yearly sequence of products and services—mainly because they have worked very well with established brands. These ideas are hard to measure with short-term analytics, perhaps frustrating financial departments because they are so psychological or “meta.” But in many ways, these trends are priceless because they deeply motivate consumers into action. As research reveals:
Let’s look at these high-horse notions that have helped create many unicorns.
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek took the business world by storm with his 2009 book, Start With Why. Sinek admits that he wasn’t conveying anything innovative, but distilling what made famed brands or individuals successful, from Apple to Martin Luther King Jr. Sinek’s formula is simple: Most companies go sequentially with the “what,” “how,” and “why” as their business model. Instead, they should reverse it to the “why,” “how,” and “what.” As an example, both Apple and Dell make the right electronics for their audiences. “We make great computers,” is the “what,” which Dell embraced. Apple, on the other hand, started out with “why.” We all know which brand is more popular.
The answer is that everything Apple makes is designed to challenge the status quote and make people think differently. This core message (or “why”) then infuses the company’s “how” and “what,” regardless of product. As Sinek explains, people buy “why” you do something, not the “how” or “what.” Consumers subconsciously want a company that believes in what they believe in. With Apple, that’s a whole generation of geeks, artists, and trendsetters.
The truth is that most companies don’t worry about the “why” until way down the branding road, and audiences often smell that as disingenuous rat.
Oh, making money is a result, never a “why,” in case you were wondering.
Design thinking is increasingly popular today, embraced by companies like Google, Samsung, and GE. It is a form of visual strategy that actively incorporates empathy, imagery, and success/failure predictive models. Design thinking sees all possible roads, with the starting point a deep understanding of audience needs and the ending being success with a disruption in traditional assumptions.
Here is another summary of design thinking: “Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, design thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods.”
Design thinking almost sounds like sci-fi, something a computer on the Star Trek Enterprise could handle; but the reality is that it’s been used for decades by the military, admitted and explained by a former Lieutenant General of the U.S. Marine Corps:
Design thinking creates a mental imagery of what an operation should look like — again, even before actual planning. It’s that squishy area of the conjunction of visualization, projection, and all manner of creative thinking that most people in uniform are not comfortable discussing. It’s not easily quantifiable, you see, but every commander should have a mental imagery of what the operations should look like, as well as the skill to make that mental imagery into a plan. I believe that bridging that gap is critical to developing and executing coherent plans and operations.
Along with instant coffee and duct tape, add design thinking to useful things the military gave society! And in market research, we’ve shown how design thinking can transform research surveys for superior data.
I’ve used it before in articles but let me repeat this quote by Seth Godin: “Marketing is no longer about the products we sell but the stories we tell.”
Why is storytelling important? Because the old legacy ways are dying and a new generation of consumers wants things differently. As Seth Godin once said, “Marketing is no longer about the products we sell, but the stories we tell”.
We live in an era where millennials are very frugal and Gen Zers are radically cynical. Robust advertising, alluring deals, and sultry selling just aren’t going to work with these two demographics (who will soon hold a majority of the spending cards). Beyond these younger demographics, most consumers have learned to ignore intrusive marketing and want to make meaningful connections with brands.
What’s more, storytelling works: we retain 70 percent of information through stories, but only ten percent from data and statistics.
The “why” helps in establishing a rapport between a brand and audiences. Design thinking offers a map of possibilities that optimizes the buyer’s journey. But a story needs to be told as consumers increasingly want products and services that provide experiences and moments they can share with the world.
Effective storytelling should connect the story of the brand with the story of audiences, and how both are on a fantastic adventure of self-discovery and just a better life. This involves plenty of interaction and mutual growth on various channels.
Back to Apple again, we can see how the mystic and counterculture story of Steve Jobs was relatable to those audiences I mentioned above (geeks, artists, and trendsetters). As another illustration, we can see how the story of Google attempting to organize all the world’s information resonates with a global population craving for free information on the internet.
Does all this sound like it should be in a Tarantino movie and not your marketing campaigns? When expressing your brand, all you must do is simply consider these thought-leader tips:
With a healthy mixture of these “big idea” marketing trends, your brand can rise above the many yearly trends (or leverage them better) and do what it was meant to do: directly and meaningfully interact with audiences.
This article originally appeared in qSample.