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INsight #167 - Prevailing Winds & Shifting Currents

In two days it will 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. Now, I’ll ask again, R U REALLY READY?

Inland sailors focus on prevailing winds; ocean-going sailors focus on the wind and shifting currents. Marketers have to focus on both because as we enter the 2020s, how we do business is engulfed in a sea of changes. Some are wind driven while others are underlying currents. Some are in front of us, restricting growth. Other are pushing us from behind to go faster. A strategy of just riding the currents and winds is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Marketing has to identify these dynamic forces because they each cause pattern shifts that affect every brand.

Let’s begin with a critical shifting current, and that is the new purpose of a corporation. Traditionally, the purpose of a corporation was to (1) create customers and (2) to make a profit. In the 2020s, according to the Business Roundtable, corporations will be required to:

  • Deliver value to its customers

  • Invest in their employees

  • Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers

  • Support the local community

  • Be good stewards of the planet, and, before we forget…

  • Generate long-term value for shareholders

This is a major shift. Marketing has to pay attention to these dynamics, driven by political and social currents.

INsight #1: As we explore other winds and currents preparing to greet us in the New Year, please stop and consider what these winds and currents mean for marketers. My old advice, given at the beginning of this decade, is still as valid today as it was ten years ago: Watch for pattern shifts in the winds and currents. This is critical because usually pattern shifts are the beginning of a new trend line. What begins as a data point will rapidly lead to a new trend line that is seldom straight.

INsight #2: winds and currents interact to force marketing teams to adjust to new realities. What are these new realities? Most writers will focus on the usual headlines: Technology, Culture, Politics, and the Economy. The new realities go much deeper, impacting shifting currents. Surface winds are swirling as marketers grapple with them. Let’s take a new look at what’s shaping the 2020s winds and currents.

New INGREDIENTS – Meatless burgers may just be the beginning. The traditional food chain may become a relic, sooner rather than later. That’s going to affect everyone on the planet. Marketers will have multiple challenges to overcome as tastes change. Just ask Kraft-Heinz, because even the basics are under attack. Keep asking WHAT'S NEXT.

New THINKING – It will only get faster, and more complex. A lot of smart people are postulating what the 2020s will look like. As we have learned from historical references, we’re usually guessing, regardless of how much data we have. In the 2020s, marketers have to guess intelligently. Success will come when marketing teams stay alert and prepare to respond when new thinking begins to transform current realities. Just PREPARE.

New LIFESTYLES – There’s no doubt that the Millennials (born 1981-1996, per Pew) tore up all the old lifestyle rules in culture, the workplace and the economy. They created a whole new set of lifestyle priorities. And now, the Gen Zs are taking over with another set of priorities. Here’s what we know that directly impacts marketing:

  • Americans under 25 are the most diverse generation ever. Almost half are non-white, compared to 39% of millennials and 18% of boomers. Diversity means wider acceptance of social movements. If your brand story is not in line with these current shifts, buyers may abandon your brand.

  • Millennials are more willing to spend money on specific brands they think offer a unique experience or value. Both Millennials and Gen Zs open their wallets for sustainability and ethical sourcing. Sustainability and ethical sourcing are two phrases that have to be at the forefront of every brand initiative. Build new BRAND STORIES.

New THREATS – Think cybersecurity: The risks are unbelievably high for marketers, and while marketing teams cannot do much to mitigate them, they can prepare a multitude of “what if” scenarios. Think economy: Don’t listen to the politicians. I believe we are at the edge of a big bubble, and marketing needs to be prepared. Think competition: If it’s not in your face now, it will be. Maintain a 360o view of your marketplace and constantly look beyond your horizons. There are a lot of venture capital funds waiting to take you on. Be prepared to PIVOT.

Our final Key 2020 Takeaway: PAY ATTENTION – and until next year, have a safe and healthy New Year, knowing your marketing glass is not half full or half empty; it’s refillable.


The EndGame: New thinking. New vision. New energy.©

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