1. Everyday feminism
In September 2014, actor Emma Watson addressed the United Nations arguing that feminism should be a cause for men. It was also the year when a manufacturer of engineering-themed toys for girls, GoldieBlox, won a competition to fund a Super Bowl ad and Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, went on tour speaking about the art of leadership.
In 2015, brands will be expected to act against the trend of ‘everyday sexism’ identified by campaigner Laura Bates in her blog of the same name – not through ham-fisted attempts to target women, but through ensuring women are in the position to make key product and marketing decisions.
Many efforts by brands to respond are not yet hitting the right notes. Last month, Facebook and Apple made the wrong kind of headlines by offering female employees free treatment to freeze their eggs – and therefore the option of delaying child-birth in favour of career advancement – in order to attract more women to their male-dominated businesses.
Yet both companies are seeking solutions to a real problem, since marketing professor Gloria Moss says experiments show men and women much prefer designs produced by people of their own gender. This could have profound implications for products made by men that are trying to appeal to women.
Moss, an academic at Buckinghamshire New University, says that in 2015: “An industry that would not want to have more women influencing what they do will be the exception. It means women are not getting products they like and individual businesses might see their sales decline as people move to other companies that can better serve their needs.” Her book, Why Men Like Straight Lines and Women Like Polka Dots, is released at the end of November.
Encouraging young girls to maintain their confidence and see themselves in key business roles is also one of the aims of GoldieBlox’s toy range, but past failings to attract women into disciplines such as technology have put brands behind. Speaking at a Future Foundation event last month, founder and chief executive of Kovert Designs Kate Unsworth said that studying mathematics as an undergraduate and econometrics as a post-graduate, she was in a minority. “I didn’t see it as an issue but you do start on a back foot. People underestimate you a little bit but I always see that as an advantage as you can impress people.”
However, there is a skills gap at Kovert Designs, which creates jewellery containing embedded electronics linking to a smartphone app. “The world I operate in is pure technology but we just position it as a fashion brand. All of my team are engineers and the majority are men because we can’t find women with the skills,” says Unsworth.
Procter & Gamble’s Always brand in the US set a template for ‘everyday feminism’ with its ‘Like a girl’ video, suggesting that young girls don’t see it as an insult to be told they run like a girl until they are later conditioned by social influences – including marketing.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that brands need to cut sales in half by concentrating on one gender over another.
Claire Smith, head of spirit creation and mixology at Belvedere vodka, points out that the brand’s owner LVMH creates a supportive and equal environment. However, she says: “Our demographic is equal so our advertising and marketing always needs to reflect that to appeal. Vodka by its character is the most gender neutral spirit so it’s important we respect and reflect that in everything we communicate.”
2. Personalised pricing
Personalisation has been a hot topic in 2014, enabling brands, particularly those with ecommerce platforms, to demonstrate that the data they hold on consumers can be used to make services more relevant to them. But when it comes to personalised pricing the response might not be so positive.
Based on shoppers’ data, brands can offer a personalised price that is potentially higher than normal because it might show the user is shopping on a certain brand of computer or in a particular residential area and therefore can afford premium prices. A common occurrence is flights or hotel prices.
However, innovations from the likes of Apple, Samsung and PayPal are revolutionising the idea of personalised pricing using beacon technology. Apple’s iBeacon and PayPal’s Beacon can offer personalised pricing in stores based on loyalty and location, serving vouchers for places consumers frequently visit. Samsung also entered the arena with Proximity last month.
At Future Foundation’s event last month, its editorial director James Murphy said: “Personalised pricing is coming and will overcome any regulatory problems in its way. The opportunities to engage with consumers will multiply in this world.”
The regulatory problems in the UK relate to the collection of data. The now defunct Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ran a report into personalised pricing in 2013, which detailed a disappointment in the level of transparency by businesses about what information they collected and how it was used. It claimed the lack of transparency may harm consumers’ trust in traders and business practices and found that businesses could do a lot more to make their practices more transparent.
“Businesses need to be clear if they are using personalised pricing. If they are using it and it’s not clear, that could erode trust in online markets,” says Chris Walters, economics director at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which absorbed some of the responsibilities of the OFT after its closure in April.
Walters adds: “We wouldn’t be concerned generally with price discrimination, of which personalised pricing is a form, as it’s usually quite benign, but it’s not benign if the losers lose more than the gainers gain.”
3. Post-demographic consumerism
People of all ages and in all markets are constructing their own identities more freely, according to consumer insights firm TrendWatching.com, because consumers can pick and choose what products and services they purchase and the brands they identify with without any regard to demographic conventions.
The result is ‘post-demographic consumerism’, which suggests brands need to throw out traditional assumptions about consumer behaviour. For example, IAB statistics show that in the UK women now account for the majority of video game players and there are more gamers over 44 than under 18.
The population is also ageing. Government statistics show that 10 million people in the UK are over 65, which will nearly double to 19 million by 2050, meaning targeting this group solely on age is a shot in the dark. IAB’s senior research manager Hannah Bewley advises brands that there is more to understanding audiences than just demographics.
“Think about the vast differences between people who look to be the same on paper based on their demographic profile. One famously cited example of this would be Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne, who were both born in 1948, grew up in England, married twice, have two children, are both wealthy and both like dogs,” she says.
“The key is to appeal to an attitude,” says Hannah Webley-Smith, marketing director UK and Ireland at Benefit Cosmetics. “Success lies in creating a dialogue, having fun with the many faces of our audience and celebrating their beauty however they choose to portray it.”
Age remains an important element of segmentations, though. “With motor insurance, the data shows us that age matters, which is factored into the pricing and our targeting,” says Kerry Chilvers, brands director at Direct Line Group. “But attitude towards risk and protection isn’t clearly defined by any demographic metric, least of all age. So we segment in a much more attitudinal way to allow us to meet an inherent customer need.”
4. Dark social
‘Dark social’ is web traffic that comes from sharing of content that web analytics cannot track. It happens when someone shares a link by copying and pasting it into private communications such as instant messages, emails and forum posts, though not Facebook, which is able to track links even when posted in private messages.
Nearly one-third of people globally and 26% in the UK who share content online will share only through dark social, according to a RadiumOne survey of 9,000 consumers, launched at an event hosted by The Marketing Society in November. Older consumers are more likely to use these channels, but it is not a behaviour restricted to a privacy-conscious few. In the UK, 82% of people share content online and of those 91% sometimes do it using dark social channels.
There are implications for digital marketing and customer journey analytics if brands can no longer see how users discover and reach their websites. Last year, Team Sky worked with RadiumOne using tools that tracked content across its websites, social media and mobile platforms that was shared by emails, instant messaging and forums. This was after discovering that in the previous 12 months, 95% of its content was shared via private channels.
“The level of insights is getting better,” says Malph Minns, head of partnerships at Team Sky. “[Analysing] dark social, for us, is a great way of understanding who our next fan is. It’s those people you know are consuming your content but you don’t know who they are. We’re looking at how we can develop a better understanding of the dark social population so that we can uncover opportunities to become more relevant to them.”
In November, Business Insider reported that The Guardian is being swamped by ‘dark traffic’. The news brand claims its unknown traffic is a “very small percentage“ of its daily browsers, although it admits that with changing habits online, including the rise of apps and increasing mobile use, there is likely to be more unknown traffic for all publishers.
Tanya Cordrey, chief digital officer at Guardian News & Media, says: “We don’t necessarily view unknown traffic as a problem. We are continuing to work hard to attribute sources of unknown traffic and we are particularly excited by our growing ability to attribute unknown traffic by spotting ‘echoes’ from other traffic sources.”
The publisher’s in-house real-time analytics tool Ophan tracks referrals minute-by-minute, to spot relationships between unknown traffic and specific referrers, as well as to separate unknown traffic going to specific content than to front pages.
5. Rejection of established industries
Start-ups and smaller brands are offering consumers new ways of effectively cutting out traditional supply chains, especially those that have failed to serve customers’ interests. It has been seen for several years in finance with peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, but this year it has moved into insurance, retail and groceries, and it is a trend that will continue into 2015.
Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in 2025, but 33% believe we do not need banks, according to Viacom-owned consultancy Scratch. One in two millennials still trust banks with their money but 99% say they are ready to switch banks, according to research by creative agency Rufus Leonard, unveiled at its event last month.
Marketers speaking at the event also identified a gap in the market for a money brand that can build a trust-based financial advisory relationship with millennials – a gap that P2P car insurance company Guevara is aiming to fill. Aptly named after Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, it aims to overturn the existing marketplace. Customers sign up as part of a group: it is the group that pays out when there is a claim, but an individual’s driving record determines the proportion he or she pays. Users have to be invited to join and pay a flat fee.
Kim Miller, founder and CEO, says: “The pendulum has swung too far towards bigger institutions: they are too much about branch numbers and they don’t consider that person-to-person interaction. What we are trying to do is start with a blank sheet, build a brand that speaks to the consumer and is structurally on the consumer’s side.”
Online marketplace Etsy is similarly seeking to upend the retail supply chain, launching a wholesale business in August allowing producers using the site to sell products direct to bigger retailers. Following a successful partnership with high-end retailer Nordstrom in the US, Etsy recently told Marketing Week the wholesale offering will come to the UK in 2015.
In the grocery sector this trend can already be seen in FarmDrop. The brand is a direct link between food producers and consumers operating through a click-and-collect system at local locations.
Marketers’ trends for 2015
Brand safety online – Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising, ISBA
“In 2014 digital advertisers faced the growing issues of brand safety, viewability, ad fraud and transparency. I believe that 2015 will mark the year of finding and implementing solutions for these issues.
“Advertisers will have the understanding and education to choose the right content verification tools, demand viewable impressions and assert themselves in regards to transparency. These are the real fundamental trends of 2015 and arguably a lot more important than a web-enabled toothbrush or ‘smart’ watches.”
Programmatic spreads its tentacles – Mike Bevans, senior director, advertising product marketing, Yahoo
“Brand TV budgets are starting to shift towards programmatic as a complement to current broadcast and online activity: expect to see significant progress in this area in 2015. Brands also understand that they need to shift more focus to content marketing, given its explosive growth this year.
“Challenges remain around contextualising content, effective distribution and maximizing earned media potential but these will be overcome as brands finesse their understanding. While a lot of the big players are already doing a stunning job in 2015 a greater number will.”