It is said that the greatest fear people have is the fear of change. That’s probably true, but with change happening so quickly, perhaps we have become numb to changes happening and just accept them.
One fear that marketers and consumers have is the “Fear of the Unknown,” or FOTU. It’s a close cousin to FOMO, the fear of missing out. Jeanette McMurtry wrote in Target Marketing, “Being able to see all of the influences, attitudes, concern, myths and facts that inform and drive consumer behavior will be the difference between the success and failure as we enter the new ‘roaring’ 2020s.” Maybe instead of ‘roaring,’ we should describe the start of the 2020s as 'swirling'.
INsight #1: There are too many unknowns to count or prioritize. – Thus, FOTU. The issues are right in front of us: Impeachment hearings, trade wars, a crazy virus, immigration, climate change, homelessness and healthcare. These issues create FOTU. Marketers should be worried.
There are more subterranean forces waiting to destroy 2020 marketing plans. The marketplace is filled with chaos, and when chaos strikes, marketers slow down or step back. They go with the status quo, hoping the marketplace chaos will stop impacting their brands. FOTU impacts consumers, too. They stop thinking about what they want and focus on what they need. That dramatically affects spending behavior and creates a new level of marketplace chaos.
Let’s break down FOTU into four INsights that will impact marketing in the 2020s.
Regardless of what some surveys report, there is a lot of negative energy in the worldwide economy, and marketers should be concerned. Much of this negative energy comes from what many believe is a broken, polarized American political system. This probably affects the younger generations and their spending more than the Boomers and Gen X generations. Marketers should be concerned about younger consumers and how the current chaos will impact their long-term spending behaviors. Traditional marketing messages do not create confidence or trust.
Every generation is skeptical about something. Skepticism breeds economic uncertainty. Economic uncertainty erodes marketing plans. Skip Scoggins, a local sportswriter, wrote a column last week about the latest baseball electronic sign stealing cheating scandal. He wrote, “The entire saga made you question everything and everyone.” And then he wrote, “Skepticism became a default setting for fans.”
Marketers understand that consumers view their claims and messages with skepticism. With so much news labeled as fake news, and too many marketing claims being questioned, they know their brand can be impacted. The challenge is how to minimize it.
INsight #2: A simple fix is to humanize your brand message and each consumer experience before, during and after the sale.
Marketing has defined generational demographics for over 60 years and it’s pretty refined. The problem is that the younger generational cohorts don’t follow those generations in either their thinking or their actions. Marketing needs a new model that aligns with the flexibility and openness of spirit of the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts. Traditional demographic lines are blurred. And, maybe they are being erased.
Previous INsights have discussed what’s important to younger consumers and that is creating FOTU. Of course, they want all the traditional benefits of every brand; quality, value, service, but they want more. They want to do business with brands that align with their ideas of what will make the world a better place. Bank of America says, “When companies think beyond valuation and growth and invest with sustainability and social responsibility factors in mind, they may enjoy advantages over those that don’t.” Goldman Sachs is targeting $750 billion toward sustainable finance by 2030, in partnership with their clients.
INsight #3: these four INsights are all interrelated. Every marketing team has the responsibility to protect its brand from erosion due to the current world climate of chaos. In a chaotic marketplace driven by FOTU, due to fake news and distrust of just about everything, marketing teams need to refine their brand presentation and base it on honesty and truthfulness. It’s not an easy task and it begins with a new endgame strategy.