How brands can weather the coming years of entropy

UM's outlook for the years ahead details how things like decentralization and a need for escape will shape consumer interactions.

The Canadian edition of UM’s annual Outlook report comes from the agency’s digital strategy team, looking at the new technologies, market forces and shifts in consumer behaviour that it expects will be changing the media landscape over the near future. But after looking at cultural changes and behaviours from the past two years that will become permanent and which ones will recede, UM says what becomes increasingly clear is that the only common theme of the 20s will be entropy – the tendency for all things to go from order towards disorder.

This also means consumers are more inclined to define and ground themselves in purpose and expect brands to play a role in that journey.

Power to the People

As the result of the erosion of public trust and the push for decentralized power, there is still a push to make things easier and more through the democratization of access. Things from companies like GameStop becoming a “meme stock” to a trucker convoy descending on Ottawa, people are dissatisfied and distrusting of existing economical and political power structures. Brands have gradually introduced initiatives designed to fill the trust gap and UM believes brands need to put the organization’s values front and centre to foster a community and turn customers into advocates. However, the focus needs to be more focused on the tangible benefits a brand offers, instead of an empty rallying cry – focus on building a community, instead of starting a revolution

Lifecycle Loyalty

Between sustainability concerns and rising inflation, consumers are going to be looking to maximize the lifecycle of the things they purchase. But this is another area where the growing reliance on data will be important: to adopt a fully “cradle-to-grave strategy,” UM says brands will need to take advantage of their intelligence sources to anticipate their consumers in moments of need: when they finally need a replacement, when they need added functions or just a refresher from a brand. The focus should be on precise anticipation, instead of constant communication.

Kelvin Mak, director of digital strategy and partnerships for UM Canada, says the future will lean heavily on brands collecting and using consumer insights and data more intelligently.

“Media and advertising that provides utility for a consumer in exchanging their data will enable brands to build relevant bespoke strategies that speak to their consumers in a more one-on-one fashion.”

The Multiplayer Internet

The time is now to test out campaigns that bring consumers together virtually, says Mak.

“We’re building the foundational blocks of the metaverse right now, and while the days of everyone engaging in a VR world is still some ways away, placing a greater emphasis on tactics that focus on live consumer interaction will help brands identify what works for them.”

The report says the metaverse represents a moment in our culture where value and emphasis are shifted towards our digital presence rather than physical. It’s a mindset, as opposed to a specific product or digital world. Brands wanting to make inroads in the trend can leverage the idea of time-shifted togetherness – the ability to be with your social groups while being physically apart and at a different point in time. This shift helps tackle a quintessential Canadian marketing conundrum – the significant concentration of population in a few major cities and allows brands to reach relevant audiences from coast to coast, transcending the limits of geographical scatteredness in Canada.

The Great Escape

The speed at which things – world events, breakthrough technology, and trends – emerge and change has led to a growing appetite for escapism. Whether this escape lies in a physical or digital realm, or both, Canadian consumers’ mindsets are shifting from the always-hustling, results-oriented mentality to one that is more deliberate in what in life, exactly, needs to be valued. The report says brands that want to fit within their consumers’ mindset and align themselves to it need to understand what makes Canadians tick to know how they can authentically fit.

Mak adds, “Brands will need to continuously define their purpose and understand how they line up with their consumers’ value sets in order to espouse it in their communications.”