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Future Insights

Future Insights

Insight | Circularity

Small steps may leave no footprint

People are looking to brands to be activists, make changes, and engage with some of the issues that governments are not adequately addressing. Companies will need to be responsible enough to correct some of the problems they’ve created. In the apparel category, for example, over the years a certain amount of waste has been produced. Now, companies need to look at how they can be part of the solution. The idea of circularity was a major discussion point at this year’s London Fashion Week. Ultimately, companies in the future would look to have no (negative) footprint on the world and instead build truly net-positive brands. That’s a grand ambition. But realistically, the question is: what small steps can companies take towards leaving no footprint?

Claire Holden

Chief Innovation Officer

Hill+Knowlton Strategies


Insight | Circularity

Problem vexes consumers, but who fixes it?

The idea of circularity is gaining traction within grocery, particularly in soft drinks and snacking. In our research, when we ask people if they’re worried about waste, they say, yes, they are worried. But people also say they don’t want to pay anything extra for the solution. They want the manufacturers to take ownership of the problem, which means that the brands have to take responsibility in helping consumers do the right thing. Of course, we consumers pay for it in the end, but it needs to be presented in a way that we don’t feel like we’re charged for it, and, crucially, is as easy as possible.

Fraser McKevitt

Head of Retail and Consumer Insight



Insight | Allies

Brands help us live our best lives

Purpose is important, but it has to make sense. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of a social cause because it is relevant to your core buyer. But brands need to choose causes wisely and execute on them wisely or they appear inauthentic. Brands also need to be first-movers, otherwise risk looking like a me-too. Consider, also, that a brand doesn’t have to have a higher purpose. Most people are probably OK with the idea that for a telecom provider, the purpose is to enable them to reliably make a phone to call their mom. And that’s enough. Brands can be our allies and support us simply by enabling our lives… and helping us live our best lives.

Marisa McMahon

Senior VP, Business Development, Strategic Client Partner



Insight | Responsibility

New products show increased responsibility

There’s a mainstreaming of responsibility happening across the globe. Investment firms are looking to put their funds with companies that stand for something, that not only articulate a purpose, but are acting responsibly. The change driver will not just be consumer led, such as shoppers saying they want less plastic, but from large companies taking positive action, and investment funding flowing to companies acting responsibly. Brands will need to respond by both getting rid of the negatives and doing positives things that are relevant to the brand. Probably most, but not all, responses are product-related. Adidas making a shoe out of plastics recycled from the ocean is about product. Nike naming Colin Kaepernick as spokesman to take a stand against racism is not. Unilever removed plastics from its facewashes. P&G has invested in DS3, a soap with no packaging. It’s a positive, low risk step, and there are many more examples of positive action which will help the greater good.

Matthew Botham

Strategic Insight Director



Insight | Taking a Stand

Taking a stand puts brands into the conversation

Some brands are moving in a socially purposeful way. Nike, for example, launched a campaign supporting women, and prior to that it supported the protests against racism by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Similarly, the Gillette campaign promoted a more progressive view of manhood. Presumably brands like these are looking at data that shows enough people support their viewpoints. At the very least, the brand is taking a stand and putting itself into the social conversation in a way that ultimately benefits the brand and boosts its visibility.

Meagan Malzberg

Senior Director, Media & Content  



Insight | Purpose

Purposeful brands willing to pay the price

A brand only has purpose if it’s willing to make less money as a result. Most brands should not worry about higher-order purpose. They should be like Amazon and figure out their purpose, small “p” and do it. Do it well. Do it ethically. Don’t get called out on it.

Nigel Hollis

Chief Vice President, Chief Global Analyst



Insight | Growth

Growth depends on seeing beyond the category

Brands enjoying growth are small not big. Opportunities have evolved and shifted outside the comfort zone of business-as-usual, and growth formulas that proved steadfast and reliable in past are now failing. Big companies find it harder to recognize growth. In our Initiative for Real Growth, we compared over-performing versus under-performing companies and brands worldwide. Those growing are distinguished first and foremost by an abundant market view. They use a wide-angle lens to define their categories and are unafraid to adopt new business models. For example, Coca-Cola buying Costas Coffee, a U.K. chain of cafés. or PepsiCo buying SodaStream, a home water-carbonization device. So, the big question becomes can you mold an abundant market view into your purpose? In so doing, are you putting the consumer, not your product, at the center, and then rethinking your brand proposition in these terms? And based on this, do you have the courage to fundamentally change how you operate?

Pandora Lycouri

Partner, Client Services

Kantar, Consulting Division


Insight | Purpose

Brands must elevate their purpose

It is apparent that our lives no longer neatly fit into one lane; they are complex. So, it becomes necessary for brands to plug into what is happening on a technological, environmental, and, to some extent, political level. But if brands fail to deliver value, then engagement is limited to a transaction and opportunity becomes limited. Consumers are more discerning than ever, choosing to align with companies that share their values, are personally relevant, and contribute to some kind of collective consciousness. It is this final point that has become a consumer expectation, so it becomes imperative for brands to elevate their purpose.

Stacey Neumann

Senior Strategist

Wunderman Thompson


Insight | Purpose

People want brand clarity, consistency

Brands need to return to the basics. The transparency and viral sharing enabled by social media and connected tribes means that brands must once again offer up a clearly articulated, focused value proposition—but one that that engages customers and employees equally. It must be consistently lived by the brand every day, lest brands appear insincere and risk having their cheerleaders replaced by detractors. At the heart of this is a shift in how we view brands and the role they play in our lives. We have more direct contact with them and they with us. They have a voice—on Alexa or social media—and a personality. They can feel like a friend or foe or frenemy. They are essentially like a person that we are consciously letting into our community. And when we let them in, we expect them to be invested; to protect us and to provide support; to help us signal our identity to the rest of the world. This is a fundamentally different reason for being than standing for quality or consistency; brands today must also clearly add value to our lives and communities. In light of this higher bar, brands must re-formulate their value proposition and how they deliver against it—to be clear about the role they want to play in our communities, and to consistently fulfill that role.

Wayne Pan

Senior Consultant

Kantar, Consulting Division