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Category Insights


Insight | Purpose

Banks can help post-Brexit UK achieve prosperity

The UK has now officially left the European Union ending three years of painful uncertainty and opinions remain very divided on whether the future is bleaker or brighter. We are now in a much more meaningful “Make Brexit Work” phase. Improbable as it may seem, this phase provides the UK banks with a unique opportunity to prove their original purpose of providing a safe place for people and businesses to grow their money, and lending it to help others thrive. There are calls for local and national investment in significant infrastructure developments to put the “Great” back into Britain again. What could be more tangible demonstrations of their original purpose? Many of the UK banks have run campaigns focusing on the ways they are investing to help small- and medium-size businesses grow but now there is an opportunity to support sustainable growth for the nation. It will be a challenge but who better than the banks to take it on and prove their worth to everyone living and working in Britain today.

Rosi McMurray

Planning Director, Financial Services



Insight | Purpose

Fintech threat pushes banks toward purpose

In this era of cloud-enabled open banking, the large banks increasingly encounter fintechs able to offer similar products, often with a lower fees and a better online experience. This development makes differentiation more difficult, and it is one of the reasons that banks are embracing purpose. Embracing a higher order purpose can help brands set themselves apart by solving a big public problem, tapping into culture, and becoming part of the community.

Ann Green

SVP, Client Team Leader



Insight | Neobanks

Neobank storm requires trust to sustain force

Neobanks are often considered to be taking the retail banking market by storm. Building a neobank brand, however, takes a lot more; a storm, in the end, dies down. Trust is key in the financial services category and it takes time to acquire the perception of trust. Building a neobank brand therefore requires stamina, deep pockets, and a strong brand strategy.

So are neobank brands getting there? They are in markets like China, India and Brazil, as a recent Kantar study shows. But that appears to be due to market local characteristics, such as relatively many unbanked and underbanked consumers. Offering a free bank account opens up a previously inaccessible world to them. On top of this, China neobanks are often part of a larger digital ecosystem (Alipay, Wechat, JD) that consumers already embrace. All this explains why neobank clients in these three countries trust and like their neobank as much as traditional bank clients trust and like their traditional bank.

Retail banking markets such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Singapore, however, paint a very different picture. Neobank penetration is way lower in these markets, often limited to just a secondary or tertiary bank relationship. Moreover, neobank brand strength is far from as strong as that of traditional banks in these markets. In fact, only one-in-five neobank clients completely trusts their neobank, as opposed to one-in-two trusting their traditional bank. Building a strong brand is therefore the top priority for neobanks in order to gain a substantial market share.

Reg van Steen

Senior Client Director



Insight | Consumers

Consumers try to fathom their finances

Consumers are trying to become more educated about their finances. When people visit a bank branch, they’re asking about interest rates or what they can do with their savings accounts or certificates of deposit. People want to trust their banks, of course, but they also want to know that their banks are giving them value for their money. In evaluating their options, consumers may see that a fintech offers lower fees, for example. Increasingly, consumers know what they’re doing and what’s happening to their money.

Tahira Taylor

WPP MBA Fellow




Insight | Experience

Gin sets example of how experience can define a brand

As beer brands attempt to create a differentiating experience, many of the brands, particularly in the UK, look at the success of gin. One of things that gin has managed to do well is the “experience.” It is not simply the old “ice and a slice.” Instead, it’s about a particular gin that has been distilled with specific flavors and botanicals. The product has a narrative and the serve has theatre and visual drama—Instagram-worthy or even just something to ruminate on and recount offline. There are beers that have had some measure of success with a stronger, more memorable experience like Corona with its iconic wedge of lime or Blue Moon, brewed with orange peel and served with an orange slice, and of course Guinness is known for the two-part pour. It is no coincidence that these are brands that are inherently unique and memorable. A lesson as to the value of a distinctive, iconic experience in making for a distinctive, enduring brand and there is certainly more scope for beer brands to craft these experiences in future.

Piers Lindsay-Taylor

Strategic Client Partner



Insight | Loyalty

Retaining loyalty of core audience is a key challenge

Most of the recent trends in beer marketing are aimed at younger people, not at the core audience of beer drinkers. For most of the major beer brands, the largest group of customers is not the 18-to-34-year-olds going to a fancy bar in London or New York. It’s older people. And the challenge is to retain the loyalty of these customers. The beer brands understandably are responding to category disruption, but they also need to look at the needs of their regular drinkers.

Will Smith

Client Director



Insight | Experience

Experience distinguishes beer brands

The beer offer is expanding as ever, and consumers are inundated with beer choices both for consumption at home and in restaurants and bars. New craft beer brands are emerging with some becoming household names, while legacy brands continue to dominate and search for new pockets of growth. Offering a unique and distinctive experience will be crucial to stand out. By experience, we mean not only how the beer tastes, but, even more, how the beer makes people feel as they drink and savor it. Each touchpoint needs to elevate consumers’ experience so the brand can become or remain its customers’ go-to brand. Brewdog, an independent Scottish brewer and operator, has been on a mission to blaze a trail in the industry through a disruptive direct-to-consumer model. In an effective strategy, people can enjoy Brewdog’s range of beers in Brewdog’s pubs all around the world. Experimentation will also enable brands to stand out. By experimentation, we mean being bold and tapping into the emerging consumer trends early on through innovation. For example, the appeal of low- and no-alcohol and low-calorie drinks is growing, in line with people approaching indulgence self-consciously. Yet, the offer for this segment remains fairly limited across markets and represents a major opportunity.

Lugdivine Pironi

Client Manager

Kantar Insights



Insight | Responsiblity

Recycling, CSR will shape brand communications

Traditionally, brands have relied on strong product-focused marketing to drive sales. However, as consumers increasingly consider the social and environmental impact of products and the companies that make them, brands will need to update and refine their marketing strategies to demonstrate their efforts in this space. This is particularly true in the drinks industry, where public concerns around single-use plastics and the environmental consequences of products and manufacturing have become front-page issues. Going forward, expect to see increased communications from brands in this sector that focus on the three phases of the recycling loop: the use of recycled materials in packaging, the recyclability of the packaging, and encouragement of consumers to recycle the packaging they use. Alongside this, brands are likely to communicate more on the role they play in local communities—supporting local charities, participating in local environmental projects, and supporting local economies. As the business behind the brand plays a greater and greater role in driving consumer choice, we will continue to see brands compete to highlight their social and environmental credentials to insulate themselves from criticism and to drive brand equity.

Cole Ryan

Vice President




Insight | Sustainability

Intentions do not turn into sustainable choices

Sustainability is showing potential for car brands. More people around the world aspire to drive cleaner and more efficient cars to reduce emissions and protect the environment. But mindsets and values don't always translate into new purchase behaviors. There is a gap between intentions and actions. A recent analysis we conducted on the car purchase decision journey in seven countries revealed that while  4 out of 10 traditional car buyers initially considered a hybrid or electric engine, they ended up purchasing a car running on fossil fuel. The main obstacles to switching were related to higher perceived costs and uncertainty about the autonomy and the recharging of the batteries. To turn the sustainability momentum into commercial growth, car brands need to identify and remove those barriers to purchase, at the precise moment they occur in the journey. To be successful, car brands need to deliver the right content and experience in the moments that matter for conversion—when potential buyers search online, surf on the brand website, or visit the dealership.

Eric Meunier

Client Director EMEA



Insight | Autonomy

Vehicles move slowly toward full autonomy

Autonomous vehicles are capturing headlines. But since the average car driving on US roadways is 10 years old, it will take years for the true benefits of AVs to become mainstream. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as help with parking or lane change alerts, will bridge the gap before the technology is ready and SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) develops standards for fully automated vehicle tech, but only if drivers understand and implement the interim safety technology. Studies have shown drivers often disengage ADAS features because they find them annoying. Meanwhile, metro areas and closed campuses are experiencing benefits of electric and automated buses and shuttles, which is also serving to increase the public’s comfort and familiarity with the technology.

Madeline Patterson

Vice President

bcw | burson cohn & wolfe


Insight | Differentiation

SUV styling, tech initiatives create vehicle sameness

So much of automotive design and engineering is dictated by safety and fuel-efficiency regulations and packaging considerations, there’s a sameness to many vehicles. Multiple SUVs, from the Jaguar F-Pace down to the Kia Sportage, all offer 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines and share the same basic look. So, how do you differentiate? Some brands are doing so with advanced technology—Tesla’s Autopilot comes to mind, and Cadillac’s Super Cruise is a key selling point for the upcoming Escalade. Brands like Mercedes and Genesis are using more expressive—even intentionally polarizing—styling. Japanese carmakers are doing things like studying the relationship between driver and machine to make the interface more satisfying. Or they’re creating special interiors for the Lexus LS 500 that feature cut glass and hand-pleated fabric—both evoking traditional Japanese crafts. The idea is to create a bespoke interior, much as Rolls-Royce is doing in its Phantom with The Gallery: a space on the instrument panel literally intended as a one-off art piece. For all the World’s Fair-like chutzpah, fully autonomous pods taking us from point A to B are a long way off; until then, real points of distinction are needed to prevent cars from being seen as mere appliances.

Christopher George

Executive Vice President, Creative

 bcw | burson cohn & wolfe


Insight | Disruption

Tesla implements marketing basics to disrupt category

Tesla has come a long way since retrofitting the Lotus Elise with a battery in 2010. No automaker in the last decade has disrupted the four P’s of marketing more than Tesla. In designing its product to be 100 percent electric, aesthetically pleasing, long-range and a thrill to drive, Tesla disproved the prevailing wisdom that electric motors could not be powerful. Although its announced low pricing has yet to fully materialize, Tesla’s efforts with the more economical Model 3, and reveals of the Model Y and Cybertruck, demonstrate a determination to democratize luxury electric vehicles. Upending traditional advertising, amplifying personal buzz from its CEO Elon Musk, and nurturing word-of-mouth from its passionate customers has promoted an aurora of innovation, style and desire for Tesla. Most notably in North America, Tesla established a direct-to-consumer model, to the consternation of the long-held dealership establishment. Place of purchase echoed Amazon in its simplicity. Fleeting or sustainable, this end-of-decade milestone is memorable: in February 2020, Tesla’s market value was greater than the combination of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler. It remains to be seen what Tesla’s legacy will be in the next decade as incumbents are responding, but it should already be admired for shaking up the status quo.

David Chan

Brand Communications Strategist



Insight | Electric

Perception gap may stall interest in electric vehicles

Are we ready? Ready not only in terms of infrastructure but also from the consumers’ point of view. Automotive innovation is one thing. The reality on the ground is another. The rules of the electric vehicle market are quite complex. It's not just about overcoming technical challenges—increasing charging points, improving batteries and charging speed, reducing costs and increasing autonomy for long-distance travel; it is also about perception. According to content insight analysis, users believe that plug-in hybrid electric cars are less practical, not exciting enough, less immersive without the engine sound, inadequate to off-road trips or wet ground, and unfit for 4x4 models. It's not only about tech issues, it's also about experience. If in the customers' mind the electric vehicles are less powerful, less cool, or less safe to drive in every ground condition, there will always be a huge gap in comparison with diesel or petrol cars. So, to give the electric cars more opportunities to grow, it is not necessary to change only the reality but also the context and people’s impression. For these reasons it is relevant to communicate in the right way and in the right context in order to generate the positive feelings that will persuade consumers to buy an electric car.

Antonella Miano

Consulting and Analytics Director




Insight | Media

UK publisher bans fossil fuel company ads

“A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.” – Bill Bernbach

On January 29, 2020, a UK-based media group became the first major publisher to announce that it would no longer accept advertising revenue from fossil fuel companies. A blanket ban on fossil fuel advertising, regardless of content or subject matter, limits the promotion of cleaner energy and sustainability initiatives, such as investment in renewables, electrification, and carbon offsetting. It can be argued that investment in these topics should be actively encouraged by publishers, whose audiences seek to better understand how they can take action to tackle climate change. However, this was a newsworthy commercial stance, as part of a wider strategic play to align with and appeal to a progressive readership. Publishers with a similarly progressive following will be watching closely. The question remains: will others actually follow suit? Energy companies currently occupy the crosshairs of environmental scrutiny but given the growing understanding of the scale and complexity of climate change, other carbon-intensive categories may well face similar calls for equivalent advertising restrictions. While a fossil fuel advertising ban has been supported by a number of significant public figures in the environmental sphere, including Leonardo Di Caprio and Greta Thunberg, wider adoption within the media and publishing industry will ultimately come down to the commercial risks involved. Despite evolving and diversifying publisher revenue models, a blanket ban position may become untenable for many media brands which remain dependent on ad revenue to operate, irrespective of their political or social stance.

Gavin McGrow
Global Starategy Director, Shell



Insight |Brand

Brand importance rises with shift out of fossil fuels

Working toward a carbon neutral future has a notably sharper and more urgent drumbeat in the UK and Western Europe, ahead of the US, Asia and developing nations. Globally major fuel stations are largely working to reinvent their retail experience (particularly food and beverage) for motorists who may spend 30 minutes recharging their EV battery in the future.

Lubricant brands remain just as relevant in a hybrid and EV vehicle future (in addition to their many industrial applications), however decreasing DIY oil changes means smart players are managing their transition from a product brand to a service offering. We can see early initiatives from Castrol, the lubricant brand of BP, in a recently announced partnership with Bosch in China and in the US with co-branded vehicle workshops.

Marion McDonald

Global Client Lead WPP Team Energy, Global Practice Lead Health & Wellness




Insight | Sustainability

For QSR brands, the turtle video is the last straw

The world’s top QSRs by revenue—Starbucks and McDonald’s—are on their heels when it comes to plastic straws. McDonald’s has moved to paper straws in some markets, to mixed reviews. Starbucks went even further, with a plan to phase out more than a billion plastic straws globally through a newly designed lid for cold beverages. This isn’t the first time QSRs have been in environmental activist crosshairs. McDonald’s, for example, committed to removing Polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) sandwich packaging in 1990 and has since phased it out in other areas of restaurant operations.

So… Why plastic straws? Why now?

In 2015, a marine biologist filmed the extraction of a plastic straw from a Sea Turtle’s nose. The original video has garnered more than 39 million views and permeated the global cultural zeitgeist. The biologist’s message resonated through her title, which was tagged in all caps at the end, “NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS.” Not even the biologist could have known what an effective framing that would become.

Since the video, search engine inquiries about straws have tied the seemingly innocuous plastic cylinders to Sea Turtles. In fact, 80 percent of the breakout straw-related search terms have either been about turtles or bans. Speaking of bans: The consumer sentiment around plastic straws—due not only to animal welfare but also to how difficult it can be to recycle them—has pushed governments of all sizes to varying levels of regulation. Consumers are now demanding straw alternatives at the restaurant counter and through trending topics online like #StopSucking, #StrawlessOcean, and #RefuseTheStraw. 

Many QSRs and fast casuals are favoring a paper straw alternative to address consumer concerns. However, that solution isn’t going as well as they may have hoped. The same consumers who demanded alternatives to plastic straws take to Twitter to complain about paper straws breaking down in their drinks before they’ve finished. For some in the US, it’s even become a political badge of honor to use plastic straws. In fact, Donald Trump’s campaign website sells branded plastic straws $15 for ten. The question is, what now? Do QSR brands continue to pursue the most environmentally sound solution? Or, is it better to weather the storm of public unrest and keep the plastic straws many can’t seem to live without? In the US, the election cycle may sway the issue more than we anticipate.

Matthew Kelly

SVP, Creative, Digital Innovation Group

bcw | burson cohn & wolfe Matt.Kelly@bcw-global.com

Insight | Post Covid

Innovation will decide what brands prevail

We can’t think about fast food brands outside the context of a post-Covid-19 world. In a recession economy, consumers are more likely to seek affordable and comforting options—an area in which fast food is uniquely positioned to deliver. When it comes to success in uncertain times, though, innovation will be the deciding factor. That’s not just about AI, apps, and voice ordering, but also packaging options that are safe, sustainable and maintain the integrity of the food. The innovations that meet our most immediate needs and current behaviors are the ones that will prevail. During the crisis in China we saw this play out with “contactless delivery,” which allowed fast food outlets to carry their businesses and customers forward in a highly disrupted environment. And let competitors fear the first who figures out how to deliver French fries piping hot!

Andrea Orth

VP Group Account Director


The Food Group


Insight | Reputation

Human approach complements tech, boosts reputation

Technology has taken the pain out of the yearly purchase of general insurance, but it has also removed the human element for many of us. This may seem unimportant, but it has two probable consequences. Firstly, it makes insurance more of a commodity. Secondly, it does little to build reputation in a sector encumbered with the misperception that companies are slow to pay claims. Recognizing this, the communications of a number of leading UK providers including Direct Line, the market leader, are now focusing far more on the human consequences of motor and home insurance. Other insurers, such as the AA (Automobile Association) are using their reputation for assisting motorists when they breakdown to emphasize the family inside the car rather than the car itself. Vitality, a relative newcomer in health and life insurance, is focusing on wellness and rewarding those with healthy behaviors. Consumers rarely talk about a great process, but they do talk about great people and research has identified providers that are giving their call center staff the freedom to move away from their scripts and use their initiative to tailor their offer. Examples of this which get talked about have the power to rebuild the industry’s reputation.

Rosi McMurray

Planning Director, Financial Services



Insight | Customer Centricity

Insurers shift from policy focus to people

Insurance brands are thinking about the individual rather than the product as they seek opportunities to help people insure their car, home, health, travel, even their pets. After years of being commoditized, insurance brands are becoming more emotive, particularly in health insurance. In the UK, the Vitality brand is a good example. In their communications, Vitality never talks about insurance. It talks about keeping fit and healthy, being the best person, you can be. Policy holders can buy an Apple Watch at a substantially discounted price and pay premiums based on their health and fitness habits.  

Chris Rose

Senior Business Development Director



Insight | Customer Centricity

Data helps build lifetime customer links

Even the online aggregators that have been price focused are becoming more customer centric. They recognize that most people are anxious when making financial decisions. Using their customer data to build customer relationships, they are customizing insurance products to meet particular needs and monitoring life stage changes to anticipate needs.

Reshmi Nambiar

Client Director



Insight | Trust

Growth depends on cultivating strong trust

It is increasingly important for insurers to build their brand and corporate reputation in order to establish a high level of trust with consumers. Insurers see an opportunity to provide a wider portfolio of products and collect more useful consumer data. But without a high level of trust, consumers will view each new innovative product offering skeptically, even as a threat.

Anna Salter

Evaluations Director




Insight | Heritage

 Heritage must be reinterpreted for new audiences

Within the luxury category, many brands have rich heritages that have underpinned and helped to instill the quality credentials to help build a premium offering. However, this is no longer enough to sustain their offering moving forward, and repetition of the brand legacy by itself is not going to entice the modern consumer. Brands must go beyond this approach and keep their heritage relevant. Dior has renewed its brand particularly well by combining its heritage with experiential projects that allow consumers to physically walk through the brand history in the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibits held in Paris and London.  Burberry also has tapped into current trends evolving the story around Thomas Burberry into a physical monogram design, blending the brand’s rich back story with a contemporary future in a culturally relevant way. While it is important that heritage remains the narrative arc that many of these brands build themselves on, it is essential that marketers find ways to make yesterday’s stories connect with tomorrow’s customers.

Alexandra Rastall

Client Director, Brand, Insights Division



Insight | Culture

New experiences in food culture build brand equity

The most valuable luxury brands are not only cultural actors, they also embrace contemporary culture. Connections with consumers are made through a variety of always-inspiring experiences that gather partners, artists, and communities around them. Street culture, gaming, and today—food! The connections with the food culture, which can be considered as the dominant culture in a vast number of the countries, is the best example of this cultural relevance. In 2020 we expect more and more food collaborations and initiatives. From Louis Vuitton Café to Prada’s Bakery, from Ralph Lauren’s restaurants to Café Citron (Jacquemus’ Tea room in Paris), food and beverages propositions are opportunities for luxury brands to build long-term equity through multi-dimensional and multi-sensorial experiences that allow them to remain destinations in the e-commerce era. Bon appétit!

Virgile Brodziak

Managing Director

Wunderman Thompson


Insight |Culture

Every brand must balance heritage, cultural change

There will always be people who live and breathe luxury brand heritage and story, and the brands need to pay attention to these customers. But there also are consumers who are a lot more receptive to other variables, like what is going on in culture or with sustainability. There is a finite number of the traditional luxury customers and a growing number of the younger potential customers. Not every brand has license to be super edgy. Not every brand has license to produce the most sustainable products. But for brands to survive they need to strike the right balance between heritage and cultural change, which will differ by brand.

Kristin Hooper

Senior Vice President



Insight |Identity

Identity balances brand heritage and avant-garde

There is no doubt that consumers are constantly looking for something new for their wardrobes, and brands are more frequently updating their collections to remain fresh and desirable. The well-curated identity of successful brands arises from the art of balancing the brand’s heritage with avant-garde elements to formulate a new creative story while, at the same time, retaining the familiarity that distinguishes the brand amid the noisy clutter. For example, Dior brought back the saddle bag from a decade ago and it’s become a hot piece available in various colors, sizes, and materials. Burberry updated its classic trench coat for a new young audience. Referencing its classic wooden travel trunk, Louis Vuitton released soft trunk crossbody bags for both women and men.

Pai Zhan

Research Manager




Insight | Personalization

Brands must cater to segment of one, with mass appeal

Beauty has never been so diverse. It means a million different things—whether that be by market or by generation. Is it Real Beauty—natural beauty from the inside out—as in the Dove Real Beauty campaign? Or is it being Love Island Beauty—a showcasing of self-expression—as demonstrated by the reality show made famous on British TV? Is it about fast beauty, or is it about sustainability? Personal care is a category being pulled apart by the extremes. With so many polar opposites, it makes it incredibly difficult for brands to not only navigate the category and get a handle on it, but to also disrupt in the same ways that they used to. Brands are essentially having to cater for a segment of one, while retaining broad enough appeal. The brands succeeding in such a challenging market context are those playing in the personalization game and seemingly giving consumers the power. A great example of this is Clinique ID. The brand has employed its famous 1-2-3 step approach but has applied personalization to make it relevant to the modern-day consumer. The personal care category, more than any other, is personal and heavily self-involved. Now more than ever, brands need to be agile to avoid being pulled into the middle, and personalization certainly helps avoid that trap.

Alexandra Rastall

Client Director, Brand, Insights Division



Insight | Aging

Attitudes shift from anti-aging to aging well

The Personal Care industry would do well to engage with today’s developing conversations around aging. Historically seen as a preventive, fear-mongering subsection of beauty, the entire category is being contested as consumers and brands shift the focus from anti-aging to aging well. As part of the bigger wellness movement, people are seeking to balance with the natural course of things, rather than rely on artificial preservations. On a larger scale, beauty is being repositioned as something waiting to be unlocked from within, instead of an external standard to be achieved.

This is nothing new. Ancient beauty philosophies from the East and South Asia have always focused on holistic health, attributing attractive appearances to harmony within the whole person. But it’s easy for wellness to slip into pseudoscience, and in a cluttered personal care category, consumers can tire of simply living by faith—so finding a medium will be essential. In 2019, personal care brought our attention back to the convergence between feeling well and looking well. In 2020, wellness will need to not only to be desired, but proven. Consumers will seek ways through which being well is achieved; both feeling and looking well will be unlocked. Ultimately, what this means is that value will come from brands that can fulfill both belief and science, in turn giving consumers something to both believe in and see.

Chloe Lam

Senior Strategist



Insight | Simplification

Simplification challenges brands to be easy choice

Routine simplification continues in the UK (along with Europe) with a 5 percent drop in weekly personal care occasions between 2019 and 2018. For example, a more relaxed work environment has led to 40 percent of employed men now no longer face shaving in the average week, impacting the entire male face grooming product offering. Consumers are placing more value on their time which translates to decline in beauty categories such as cosmetics and styling, especially in the morning routine. To re-engage consumers, brands need to focus on expanding new untapped occasions such as the gym, as exemplified by Clinique’s Gym Bag Heroes. Simplification can be seen in face care routines, where over 60 percent of events feature only one product, a moisturizer. Although in some categories this results in consumers looking for multi-benefits—a quarter of men now use shower gel to wash their hair—in face care, those using just the one product are looking for it to truly perform on its core benefit. Smaller, more agile brands, like Harry’s, are succeeding in disrupting the market by tapping into these benefits With the backdrop of routine simplification, this makes it not only a category issue but a brand share game too! With consumers increasingly savvy about the choices they have, brands have a big job ahead in truly understanding their consumers, gaining their trust, and becoming the easy choice.

Maya Zawislak

Strategic Insight Director

Global Personal Care Usage



Insight | Purpose

Gen Z values drive category makeover

The personal care category is about to get another makeover, thanks to the rising power of Gen Z. Environmentally friendly… Socially responsible… Inclusive… Transparent… Vegan… Cruelty-free… To younger consumers, these are not buzz words. They are not about luxury. Rather, they are the expectation of what personal care products should be. In the coming years, these trends will continue to mainstream at accelerated pace, accompanied by an increasing pressure on brands to deliver these benefits without the premium price tag.

Anna Ross

Managing Strategy Director



Insight | Sustainability

Consumer trust hinges on brand social responsibility

In Latin America, sustainable personal care products are gaining increasing interest, particularly with young early adopters. With the undeniable effects of climate change impacting the core of the region, informed consumers are doing their part to make more eco-friendly choices. There also exists pressure to appear environmentally responsible. As such, some smaller sustainable brands leverage social commerce to effectively create brand loyalty among their audience. This eases access to brand information and enables people to showcase their social responsibility with pride. Global brands still experience a substantial amount of distrust, as they continue to include unsustainable products in their portfolio. It is a critical time for brands to keep their pulse on audience sentiment towards the impact of their product ingredients, packaging, and supply chain.

Maria Tellez

Chief of Staff, Latin America

WPP | Redfuse



Insight | Marketing

Privacy controls necessitate new marketing ideas

As audiences veered to digital, retailers adapted digital advertising channels. Digital platforms and tools have become widely available for retailers with innovative uses of consumer data, mostly based on their online journeys tracked via cookies. However, increased consumer privacy concerns have resulted in regulations that nullify the practices of identifying and targeting customers via cookies. Because brands cannot depend on driving cookie-based traffic, and consumers prefer retailers that tell stories, retailers need to advance these three initiatives: they need to be proficient in storytelling and content curation; they need to build unique online offerings and platforms to create distinct experiences to compete against digital natives and internet moguls; and they need to reconstruct their approach to capture and build first-party data and systems to “own” their audiences and insights into the future.

Esra Usakli

VP Performance Media

GroupM Digital Québec


Insight | Relevance

 People today are the new point-of-sale

Retail classification used to be a relatively simple affair, determined largely by (physical) store format and type of goods sold. Size was gauged by sales volume or the number and size of stores. The rise of pure play e-commerce retailers initially added another channel, but things have become progressively more complex, as physical retailers seek to become more omni-channel and D2C brands open physical outlets, to the point where the line between living and shopping has all but disappeared. People have the ability to buy whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want. People are now the point-of-sale—for themselves and increasingly for others, as social commerce, live commerce, and now re-commerce expands beyond Southeast Asia, where around a third of e-commerce sales begin on social media and end on messaging apps. Commerce is now part of life; everywhere and always on, transforming lives and businesses. In order for retailers and manufacturers to compete they need to go beyond transactional commerce and put people at the center, getting a better understanding of how why and when people buy so they can be more relevant at those moments, in the form of meaningful and valuable commerce experiences.

Jonathan Dodd

Chief Strategy Officer




Insight | Transparency

People will resist exchanging data for convenience

There have been a lot of conversations around how personal data is used by tech brands. We share our info online almost every day. There are brands that can get away with a lot in this area while others are fiercely scrutinized by their customers. The differentiator here is convenience. Brands that cater to our basic needs in a way that requires minimum effort on our part can get away with a lot. Consumers are happy to exchange their personal info for a seamless experience or service they receive. I am a sucker for one-stop online shop and next-day delivery. This type of exchange is accepted for the time being but there will come a time in near future when consumers will feel they have given away too much. This is something brands need to start thinking about now in order to retain their customers in the future. Clear information on how data is used, paired with sharper, more effective targeting and recommendation capabilities will be necessary. Convenience will need to be paired with transparency.

Agnieszka Hoffmann

Client Director




Insight | Data

Personal, home data will link into ecosystems

We are going to see the growth of people’s data ecosystems, our personal dashboards. Everyone is increasingly using apps like step counters and sleep monitors. We’ll see that expand into home environments. Manufacturers of vacuum cleaners, for example, are starting to develop apps that monitor how you clean your home in the same way other apps monitor how actively you maintain your body. In the not too distant future, we may well see our home environment and our personal well-being start to link together in a virtual representation of our vital statistics. You might ask why we’d be bothered but if this information that can be shared with a homeowners’ insurance brand, for example, to earn a discount on the policy premium the consumer incentives start to become more apparent.

Nick Snowdon

Senior Client Lead



Insight | Moderation

People wonder, how much tech do I really need?

For the longest time, technology has been about improving your life. People are starting to ask, how much improvement do I need? There’s an increasing skepticism around whether technology is all for good. There’s also concern that the technology used for tracking our behaviors and monitoring our health can encourage obsessiveness. We’ve heard about people having sleep problems, for example, because they’ve become fixated on monitoring their sleep. It feels as if people are seeing a dark side to tech and do not accept it automatically as a force for good. Brands who present these technologies in a way that directly calls this out will be praised for both their innovation and transparency.

Charlotte Brown

Senior Client Lead



Insight | Politics

Brands enter uncomfortable political space

Technology brands, particularly those in social media, like Facebook, are increasingly entering areas they don’t feel comfortable in, where they will need to take a stand on political and social issues. Particularly in the West, politics is creeping into the tech space. The tech brands have tried to avoid politics with the notion that they are neutral platforms for information exchange. But the political dispute around Huawei and the appearance of disinformation to affect the outcome of elections is forcing brands to take a stand. Although being put in that position makes brands feel uncomfortable, it’s a decision they’ll have to make.

Mark Webster

Senior Client Lead



Insight | Regulations

Communications aim at audience of policy makers

As regulators look at emerging technologies, such as AI, tech companies are working to ensure that regulations are in their favor. They believe, probably correctly, that when it comes to creating regulations for the tech industry, they often have greater expertise than the policy makers. From a communications perspective, we’re seeing more budget allocated to public affairs and corporate reputation work. The communications programs are building on information about products as tech companies speak to an audience of policy makers about the human benefit of these products and their corporate contributions to society.

Robert Roessler

Director, Technology

Hill+Knowlton Strategies


Insight | Personality

Move into services raises importance of brand personality

The focus of the technology category seems to have shifted from the products that the brands create to the personalities that the brands project. Facebook has a personality. Amazon has a personality. It feels as if conversations about the big technology companies have pivoted from individual innovations to the brand as an entity or personality, and the values the brand represents. The focus on personality seems related to the presence of some of these brands in streaming services and other entertainment.

Zachary DeWalt

Senior Director



Insight | Personality

Brand personality may be the next shiny new thing

Innovation is still happening, but it often feels less impactful, in part because technology brands have conditioned consumers to expect cutting-edge change, and it takes a lot to impress them these days. Attitudes about technology also have been affected by the binary contrast that has affected politics and society in many countries—you are either ‘’with me or against me’’. You can’t satisfy everybody anymore—in politics or technology. Consequently, brands need to understand the communities they want to nurture, and they need to build the relevant personality. The challenge for building personalities is that developments happen quickly, particularly enabled by the rapid evolution of the cloud technologies. Look at all the streaming brands, for example. Spaces quickly become crowded.

Alex Momma

VP, Client Leadership



Insight | Expectations

Tech is so deeply into our lives, we expect more from it

Technology is so integrated into our lives we don’t think “I am using technology” as we did once, sitting at the computer and logging in for a technology session. Now people say, “My phone is my life.” Our phone knows when we go to sleep and it wakes us up. Technology is so integrated into our lives, our expectations change. Maybe that’s where technology becomes so personal that we expect a level of morality. People feel they want a comfort level because technology is not such a separate entity from them. The more technology is integrated into our lives, the more a separate set of expectations emerge.

Tom Vogt

Director, Qualitative Technology




Insight | 5G

Deployment of 5G increases; benefits remain unclear

There has been more deployment of 5G, with more cities where the technology is available. The telecom providers are talking about it in their ads. In the UK, for example, EE, Vodafone, and O2 talked about their 5G-enabled networks and tried to articulate the benefits of 5G. Whether the consumer benefit is clear is still a question mark. A lot of communication is around how 5G enables people to have more devices than just their mobile phone. That’s fine, but some people are still waiting for 4G.

Winnie Cheng

Senior Director



Insight | 5G

Upgrade to 5G phone not yet a high priority

The biggest problem with 5G is that there isn’t a problem to solve for consumers. It’s not the same as when 4G was implemented and people really saw the benefit. Consumers’ 4G may already be faster than their home broadband, so they don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade to 5G. Our research shows that consumer interest is there, but in a passive way. When we ask people whether they’re planning upgrade to 5G or a 5G handset, the answer generally falls into the “yes, probably” category. If we then ask if they would spend more for a specific 5G handset there’s no active demand.

Felicity Terry

Global Strategic Insight Director




Insight | Purpose

Focus shifts from price to purpose

As 5G continues its understated rollout, telecom providers are operating in an increasingly commoditized marketplace where price deals, plans, and handset promotions dominate branded communications. But there are signs the big telecom providers will need to shift this emphasis in 2020. The commercial reasoning is clear—when price rather than technical capabilities dominates consumer decision making, the big telecom brands need to fall back on, and further invest in, the power of their brand.

For many, therefore, 2020 is set to become a year of reinvigorated brand purpose. With this will come a push towards a longer-term focus and an attempt to connect with people in a more sincere and profound way across a host of well-intentioned societal and environmental goals. Events like Covid-19 only heighten this imperative further!

Although for many of these brands these values are genuine, this space is fraught with challenges. Some causes are more obvious bedfellows for telecom brands than others, and brands must recognize they need to go beyond lip-service to make a valuable, sustained contribution in order to stand out. Ultimately, for consumers to engage deeply and respond to their ideals, telecoms need to be trusted, and when it comes to earning trust, actions speak louder than words.

Nick Snowdon

Senior Client Lead




Insight | Disruption

Are brands ready for a new age of disruption?

Over the last 10 years, the transformation from closed to open business strategies has accelerated across industries, allowing companies to stay relevant and profitable in today’s fast-moving world. We’ve also observed an interesting shift toward social and culturally motivated “coopetition,” especially in the fashion industry, with rivals coming together on issues like legislation and wellbeing. Commitments like these are driven by what matters to society at large—to the Millennial and Gen Z generations in particular.

As consumers increasingly align their current and future consumption with ethical values, what a company—and therefore its portfolio of brands—stands for is becoming more important than its effectiveness. These global consumer attitudes have resulted in companies branching out of their traditional businesses to serve greater social interests. Examples include the Domino Pizza’s “Paving for Pizza” campaign, in which the take-out pizza brand had potholes paved to ensure safe delivery. Or Country Time’s Legal-Ade to cover fees for kids in states where a license is needed to run a lemonade stand.

Today more than ever, the companies and brands that survive and defy disruption are those that recognize and embrace the attitudinal shift of global consumers, and then lead with transformational changes. Companies can still differentiate through product design, brand experience, and services but also collaborate on their commitment to important global causes. Brands will thus have to work harder to differentiate, creating value for consumers and shareholders in new ways—and with consciousness and openness of heart. As we look to 2020 and beyond, are you ready for a new age of disruption?

Dominique Bonnafoux

Strategy Director




Insight | Post Covid

Brand purpose must connect with real need

As marketers, we can all admit that we’ve asked ourselves if selling goods  was really helping humanity. Well, I think that we have brands that can have a huge impact on our society. There is a “but,” however. In the past, finding brand purpose has been a big trend. A lot of brands went after the same type of causes: e.g. inclusivity, happiness, and enhancing natural beauty. The real challenge that I foresee for the future is that brands will have to find purposes and causes where there is a new need. Where no one is taking a stand. Brands will have to think harder about how they can brand bring value to our society in a genuine way. We could even start thinking about how brands address some of the problems usually left for government to solve. The international COVID-19 pandemic will also speed up those brand transformations. This will be the new customer expectation.

Fauve Doucet

VP Strategy & Innovation



Insight | Post Covid

Brand actions speak louder than stories

Back when we met up to discuss the future of brands as a panel, the conversation was already focused on how the nature of a brand is changing. The delivery of a story is no long enough to drive the narrative of a brand and embed beliefs in people’s minds. At least, not if your story is fictional. We still love a good story, but the idea that storytelling will build a brand without underlying reality was being questioned.

Fast-forward a few of months, and the world that brands live in has been turned upside down by Covid-19. And never have the actions that a brand takes been more important. Suddenly, we’re immune to all storytelling, all puffed-up claims and all brands that want us to believe that they care, while they lay off staff in their droves.

Brands need to stand for more than a veneer. They need to take action. Build things. Help communities. Support people. Stand true to their promises. Create more than just products. It’s obvious now, but I suspect it will remain the case for the future—even as we begin to forget what life without freedom was like. It will be tough. But it will also be exciting. The brands that maintain brand superiority and command price premiums will be better brands and we’ll all be better for them.

Simon Law

Chief Strategy Officer