Looking Back on 2016

22 Dec 2016|Added Value

It has been a cataclysmic year. From shake-ups in the world of brand marketing and advertising, to unimaginable political outcomes in the US and the UK, to continuing devastation in war-torn cities like Aleppo, the shock of the year’s events have reverberated around the globe in real-time.

Here are 5 emerging themes shaped by the events of 2016, and questions every brand should consider in relationship to them, as our organizations seek to play a role in supporting human flourishing:

OUR OLD ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES ARE BROKEN
Traditional dividing lines are blurring and no longer have the predictive power they once did. In a world where news travels at the speed of the internet, geography, age, race, sex, gender, religion, income, education have all become less salient as indicators. We see this playing out in the use of psychographic profiling to micro-target news consumers in both the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, and we see it in the reimagining of masculine gender roles, as exemplified by America’s first CoverBoy. The organizing principles we’ve relied on in the past and have come to accept as fact can no longer reliably guide us in understanding a person’s experiences, preferences and assumed choices.
Question for your brand: How might you need to understand and conceptualize your targets differently, both today and in the future?

IF EVERYONE IS THE MEDIA, NO ONE IS THE MEDIA
The monolith of the fourth estate no longer speaks with a singular voice. “Traditional” media outlets still exist, but they now compete with start-ups, independent outlets, brands and individuals to tell the story of what’s happening in the world and why. Issues of roles, rights, and responsibilities, truth and propaganda have come into play as everyone jockeys to deliver “content” and drive the 24/7 news cycle and the ad dollars attached to it. Increasingly, we’re coming to see that media sources are aimed at not just page views but also the power to shape world views, and thus drive the cultural narrative that frames reality.
Question for your brand: How can your brand best shape influencers, and what unified message can your brand deliver that speaks into a fragmented media landscape?

POLARIZATION IS THE NEW NORMAL
From heated exchanges between strangers on social media, to families divided down political lines, polarization can start to feel like the only thing we all share in common. When it’s easy to surround yourself with only opinions that confirm your own biases, this polarization can seem even more pronounced. In the US, not since the first Civil Rights movement has the country seen such a groundswell of efforts in the direction of furthering racial equality, while simultaneously we see extremist, nationalist groups also come to the forefront. We are all being forced to take a hard look at who we are as a people and a culture, and there are no easy answers. Some take this as a sign of hope, believing that this self-examination, though painful, is necessary for us to move forward as a society. But we are surely at a cultural precipice, with many wondering which forces will prevail.
Question for your brand: In a polarized climate, what can your brand truly stand for that allows your brand’s voice to be heard above the fray and connect with universal human truths?

RECKONING WITH TECH
The promise of technology as an elegant solution to the age-old problem of human error, pride and greed, hasn’t quite worked out that way. Yes, technology has made our lives dramatically easier in many ways but this has not come without cost. Indeed we are just beginning to recognize that the fruits of technology’s labors have far-reaching consequences that must be grappled with. Just this week, news of a massive cyber-forgery ring that fraudulently costs advertisers up to $5M a day to pay for fake video views serves as yet another reminder that technology can hurt as much as it can help. The industry and the world at large will have to reckon with how technology can be shaped toward its most humane, ethical ends while protecting us from own our worst impulses to exploit others through it.
Question for your brand: How can your brand leverage the power of technology, while working to mitigate its potential negative impacts for all?

BALANCING SECURITY AND LIBERTY
As the global world is more connected, the tenuous relationship between security and liberty becomes more fraught. In many democratic countries, enshrined individual rights are strained in the face of efforts to ensure safety of the collective. How much oversight is too much? At what point can we opt out of a “Big Brother” existence that often we know nothing about? Add to that the vulnerability inherent in increasing amounts of data – personal and corporate — stored online and in the cloud, and what seem like endless hacks into what we were told are secure systems. Distrust of all entities meant to secure our safety, both virtual and physical, grows deeper, even as we need these entities more and more.
Question for your brand: How might your brand provide consumers with a sense of security amidst tumult, in both traditional and creative ways?

Written by Joanna Franchini, Kantar Added Value US.

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