2020 was a year of transition for everyone. While we were still defining our plans and goals for the year, we were stopped dead in our tracks and forced to adapt to new circumstances. Companies have faced challenges they never imagined they would face. They had to urgently resolve internal organizational problems and be creative in order to maintain their activities despite the obstacles. In 2020, the time had not yet come to think in terms of opportunities and projection into the future. But throughout the year, our way of consuming has gradually changed and new expectations have emerged from all sides, to favor local products and brands that are committed to human and environmental values. 2021 represents a turning point in marketing communication and offers a tremendous opportunity for companies to gain the trust of their customers.
Diversity & Inclusion
If there is anything that we already knew, but that has imposed itself on us forcefully over the past year, it is that we are all dependent on each other, equal in the face of a pandemic that has touched every corner of the planet. We have realized that the actions of some end up impacting others thousands of kilometers away. The world has shrunk, and united us in the face of a common threat, paving the way for an increasingly strong demand for intergenerational solidarity, acceptance of different lifestyles, respect for cultural origins and equality between men and women. We find ourselves dreaming of a fairer world, where diversity is not only accepted, but also welcome and a source of collective enrichment1. These considerations are leading politicians to take measures such as the recent decision in Germany to impose quotas for women on the boards of large companies2.
Beyond the necessary political awareness, marketers around the world must also recognize this strong aspiration for a more inclusive society and reflect it in both their communication and the positioning of their brands. The days of uniform communication that should speak to everyone are definitely over.
The representation of a brand must take into account the diversity of the audiences to which it is addressed.
Be careful, however, it is not a question of adapting the existing communication by simply changing a few images: the content and messages must be thought out and written to reflect the lifestyles, the cultural context and the specific interests of each audience. However, in order to avoid stereotypes that would be disastrous for a brand image, a successful message will generally focus more on the similarities between people than on their differences.
For communication focused on diversity and inclusion to be credible, it is the brand’s products themselves that must respond in a relevant way to the expectations of the different target audiences. Before starting such a campaign, every company should make sure that the products it is communicating about carry the values it claims.
Mission & Values
In this world that seeks solutions to an unprecedented situation, companies have a new role to play. Since the onset of the health crisis, many of them have thus been able to adapt and offer products and services that meet new demand, such as the production of health products, home help or even organization of click & collect services. The past few months have put companies back at the heart of a system that can only exist if all stakeholders are respected – employees, suppliers, partners, customers. Obviously, products and services are only relevant if they answer a need or meet a specific expectation, while respecting the environment in which they are offered.
This is how brands, and companies in general, which have all been impacted directly or indirectly by the health crisis, finally end up in having to communicate about their objectives and their mission. Employees themselves aspire to more equality and justice, agreeing on the same societal and environmental priorities, regardless of the continent on which they live and work3. Customers and employees alike expect companies to take a stand and commit to the values they stand for.
In 2021, even more than in previous years, the trust in a brand will be crucial when deciding to buy.
However, this trust is no longer based only on the competence of the products and services, but also on the ethics upheld by the brand. Customers and consumers, led by the millennial generation, are more inclined to buy products from companies aligned with their own values4.
Storytelling & Emotions
It has therefore become essential for brands to communicate their mission and values. To reach their audience, they will avoid using numbers and statistics, but instead use storytelling of coherent facts that speak to everyone. Communication around a new product or innovative service will thus focus on the history of its development, on how the company has identified a need and developed a product to meet it, while incorporating as much as possible positive elements on its social and environmental impact5. The way the story is told and the words used should be carefully chosen so as to allow the public to recognize the values defended by the brand6.
Of course, the effects of this communication will be magnified if it is seen as sincere and genuine. Compassion, emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy are the essential qualities likely to trigger positive reactions and emotions from the audience. In a time when everyone is looking for reasons to smile, a touch of benevolent humour can also help bond a company with its customers, making them want to watch its ads, read its articles and share the links with their network.
Maintaining a connection with its customers has become a major issue for every business.
A well-told, inspiring and positive emotion-triggering story allows a business not only to communicate its values, but also to show its customers that it understands their needs and demands, and can even help them to achieve their goals. Such a message creates lasting memories among customers and helps build a solid bond over time.
In 2021, effective marketing will evolve to adapt to the current demand for a fairer society, more responsible consumption and more transparent communication. Companies will have to communicate on their mission, their values and their societal and environmental commitments. Through messages likely to trigger positive emotions, brands will thus create a lasting bond of trust with their customers. Engagement, empathy and inclusion are essential aspects of a successful communication in 2021.
1 Welcome to Equiterra, where gender equality is real – UN Women – March 2020
2 German cabinet agrees quota for women on company boards – Reuters – January 2021
3 Even Higher Expectations in a Post-2020 World: How Organizations Engage with Social Change Issues – The Conference Board – December 2020
4 5WPR 2020 Consumer Culture Report – 5W – January 2021
5 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer – Edeleman – January 2021
6 In 2021, Words Matter – Provokemedia – January 2021
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