Brands and their leadership face yet another challenging year ahead and have much on their minds when it comes to key decisions that will need to be made going into Adweek’s 2024 hallmark event. While economic headwinds have abated, the environment remains wrought with disruptions that cross everything from societal and political concerns, to an overall sense of consumer malaise, not necessarily when it comes to spending, but rather as it pertains to loyalty and trust.
Although many organizations worked to plant the “human-led empathy” flag in 2023, today’s consumers, be they customers or employees, are in control more than ever before, far more discerning, and loyal to no one but themselves. As nice as it is to talk about being more customer-centric and focused on giving people what they want, when they want it, in ways that they value, the reality is that walking the walk is much harder than talking the talk.
While the pandemic is in the rear view mirror, its imprint is long lasting, particularly through the lens of mounting customer expectations, and an increased pressure on organizations to transform perpetually. Transformation is no longer a turnaround strategy or moment in time, but rather a discipline, and building muscle memory to do so effectively will be critical to better understand consumers and serve them in ways that drive both acquisition and retention.
With that in mind following are the top 3 things leading organizations should be focused on while attending Adweek this year, and considering what to place on their investment wish lists in the year ahead:
- Budget to reinvent marketing strategies that improve loyalty and are rooted in technologies that allow for precise customer understanding at scale. This will come from not AI alone, but also being connected to real humans and how they authentically feel. The ability to have heightened emotional and decision intelligence that comes from enriching existing datasets and investing in new ones will be vital to actually delivering on the promise of being human-centric and empathic at scale. Using a combination of emotional and decisioning intelligence will be the only way to deliver improved business outcomes, and this will involve new approaches to how internal marketing organizations are built from skillsets, to talent to tech. It will also involve the democratization of insights at scale to empower employees to make better decisions that lead to better customer experiences.
- Tools and staff that help redefine the notion of brand purpose, potentially into two strategies: one for the brand and one for the parent corporation. This new, long-awaited thinking enables an ability to cut across all key stakeholder groups, with a more nuanced emphasis on consumers as needed. To do this will require a commitment by leadership to invest in technologies and people that enable better understanding of how a brand presents itself to the world with an ability to demonstrate it as a quantifiable asset. Brand is no longer about ads that make people cry. It’s about building an organization committed to doing well, by doing good, in ways that are both meaningful and measurable. Consumers are placing greater importance than ever before on brands’ values, social responsibility, and purpose. Advertisers and marketers will need to respond with an emphasis on authentic storytelling, highlighting their commitment to social causes and sustainability, as consumers seek out brands that align with their values.
- Investing in augmenting First Party Data Enrichment is the new standard. Having an ability to uplevel internal data and insight capabilities that enable silos to be broken down inside the leading brands versus just relying on agency partners to get the job done will be a key sea change in the year ahead. While traditional models of using things such as NPS scores, social listening and sentiment analysis to shape better customer experiences has been able to create a bridge to get us where we are at, outdated means of knowing who customers are and how they feel will not enable the new customer experiences that are needed for the future. Customer expectations entail placing them at the heart of any experience in ways that they value, and a large part of doing that will be an ability to meet them where they are at, in the most frictionless way possible. This will entail creating more non- linear experiences that are built upon more intimate knowledge of consumer wants and needs. This will come down to an appetite for destruction when it comes to market research and deep pocket investment in new means of precisely measuring, quantifying and predicting consumer behavior and emotion.
2024 will be ripe with disruption, but if handled correctly through crisp vision and making the right investments, the tectonic shifts that occur can have positive and enduring impact. And, if executed with strategic precision and sharpened understanding, can be changes that are good for both the bottom-line and the customers brands are aiming to attract and retain.