Increasing reliance on digital technologies can create a need for human connection between brands and their customers, workforce, and partners. This provides brands an opportunity to build connection, drive engagement, and power growth.
Every industrial revolution was catalyzed by a major technological evolution. Today is no different. With 90 percent of the world’s data having been produced in the last two years and more than 26 billion smart devices in circulation, we are living in an era of unprecedented technological innovation—one that has spurred the Fourth Industrial Revolution.1
Our first Global Marketing Trends report is, in many ways, a response to this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yet, it’s not a technology report. For no matter which era we live in or the technology it brings forth, the human remains constant throughout this relay of revolutions. This report is intended to guide C-suite leadership in developing their strategies in this fast-changing digital milieu, while keeping the human front and center.
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In this spirit, we set out to explore how brands can navigate the increasingly digitized business, economic, and social environment in a way that helps preserve—and even cultivate—their human connections. Through interviews with more than 80 subject matter experts across the globe, we identified seven key trends on which every business will likely have to focus over the next 18 to 24 months to help build a socially and human-conscious enterprise. To create this report, we integrated new research and analysis, insights from academic literature, and stories from the field. While each of these trends varies in age—conversations around some are just starting to pick up in the public sphere while others have been noted in literature for centuries—there’s a common thread that runs through them, one that puts the human at the forefront of our digital environments.
Just as people expect brands to treat them like humans and not merely as transactions, they also expect brands to act more human. This means they expect the brands with which they interact to embody human qualities—be steadfast and transparent in their beliefs, consistent in their actions, and authentic in their intentions.
Our seven marketing trends are anchored in this human-first philosophy. Among these seven, we’ve identified two overarching trends, connecting nearly all facets of business, that help brands place the human at the center of their work. These are purpose and human experience. The first trend—purpose—and the focus of the first chapter of this report is foundational to why brands exist. Though purpose is not new, it’s more important now than ever to direct every strategic choice across the organization. Authentic, human-centric purposes are differentiated in the mind of society in a way that’s impossible for others to imitate. The second trend—human experience—weaves purpose across a brand’s interactions and relationships with its customers, workforce, and business partners, helping ensure that every facet of a company’s operations is aligned with making the world better for all the people it serves.
Purpose and human experience unite the five other trends—fusion, trust, participation, talent, and agility. The third chapter—fusion—highlights how purpose and human experience are together the North Star that guides brands in choosing partners with whom to engage in large, open ecosystems. Our fourth chapter makes it clear that brands can’t accomplish purpose-driven work authentically without establishing trust across these ecosystems.
To help brands align with customer values, the fifth chapter provides guidance on how they can bring consumers into the ecosystem and amplify their participation. Chapter six discusses how talent should be nurtured in a manner that enables brands to best work toward their purpose. In the final chapter, we deconstruct what it takes to structure internal operations in an agile manner that empowers brands to not only move at the speed of technology, but also slow down enough to create moments that matter for all people they touch.
From the C-suite to the frontline workforce, we close each chapter with specific tips on how marketers can better position their brands and their companies in this digitally connected age.
The breakneck pace of technological change is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming, full of opportunity and the potential for missteps. Our hope: Putting the human at the center of our trends exploration can help brands forge their own path to making an impact that matters.