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8 key trends that will shape the future of marketing

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 09 Dec, 2015
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Making purpose core to your marketing strategy

As a futurist,  I always remind my clients that the future isn’t just somewhere we go but something we actively create. Simply because our actions today directly influence and shape our business of tomorrow.

In this article I introduce some of the key trends I discussed in my Smart Insights webinar on December 18th 2014- The Marketing Trends Management Toolkit - free registration to view here:

If you attend the webinar you will have a chance to win a free copy of my new book the Trends Management Toolkit with a prize draw during the webinar and we will offer a 30% discount code to all who participate.

Today, only 1 in 5 brands globally are perceived as making a difference to people’s well-being, illustrating the huge disparity between how traditional profit-driven organisations think they are performing and how their stakeholders experience their products and services. In a world of increasing complexity and challenges, a consistent 4P approach – considering People, Planet and Purpose alongside Profit – will be key to success in the 21st-century’s highly competitive business environment.


Making ‘purpose-driven’ leadership the fundamental principle of your organisation and business strategy is the core discourse explored in my new book The Trend Management Toolkit – A Practical Guide to the Future. Four broad guidelines in a purpose driven economy should inform all communication with internal and external stakeholders.

  • Be honest: 4 in 5 people globally say that CEOs should communicate transparently to build trust, so engaging in genuine two-way dialogue with all stakeholders is a strategy that will pay off.
  • Act authentic: Smart organisations recognise that the word 'consumer' is outmoded and therefore create opportunities for genuine engagement with people, helping them make better choices.
  • Show engagement: Participation in the global conversation about how we move towards a ‘betterness’ society is key – be open to all suggestions for how your organisation can make a positive difference.
  • Create the future: Don’t just live in the present – actively map the future you want, and share your vision in all your communication to invite everyone to participate and make it happen.

To make your messages impactful, you need to understand how emerging influences are reshaping the society we live and do business in. Here are eight key trends drawn from the Kjaer Global Trend Atlas that will help you design future-focused marketing strategies.


1. Radical Openness starts inside your organisation

Reputation is your most valuable asset, but building trust only works if employees understand your goals and care enough to be your brand ambassadors. That’s clearly not the case for many organisations today, since a 2012 survey of 97,000 people in 30 countries found that 48% of people would not recommend the organisation they work for.

GE – which has 300,000 employees in multiple locations – provides a great example of how social media can be a strong driver for collaboration and building trust. Using a variety of social media platforms, GE invite both their workforce and external stakeholders to join in and influence the conversation, demonstrating that this is a transparent organisation with a strong culture and clear goals.

2. Digital transformation is a journey not a destination

It’s not enough to embrace digital tools, you have to use them creatively to make a positive difference to people’s lives. That means fast, accessible and multi-channel platforms that bring tangible benefits for your customers. IKEA’s AR app helps people overcome the problem of visualising a product in their home space.

Instead of sketches and tape measure, they use augmented reality (AR) to position virtual products in their home, helping them plan makeovers and get creative about their space. The added benefit for IKEA is reducing the number of customer returns (almost 15%) because people miscalculate how furniture will fit in their home. 

3. Urbanisation means opportunities to drive positive change

Tomorrow’s cities have the potential to be living organisms that act as intelligent and automated distribution networks between buildings, transportation, goods and services, connecting people and businesses instantaneously. Big Data is already bringing a whole host of opportunities to enter this space and boost your business image and performance by working for the common good.

For instance, New York ‘geeks’ are using city data analytics to solve longstanding urban challenges and make the city more liveable, while the Citymapper app helps people plan faster, cheaper and smoother journeys in a bid to reinvent the city. Access to and sharing of aggregated data sits at the heart of smart urban development and positive change.

4. Smart Living invites us to collaborate for mutual benefit

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is bringing connectivity on a grand scale – with 50 billion devices connected by 2020 according to a recent forecast. Phones, wearables, consumer devices and other smart objects are already having silent conversations with each other in the background, opening up a whole new understanding of human behaviour with huge potential to facilitate meaningful experiences and better lives.

Already, almost 70% of Americans are taking control of their well-being through digital health monitoring. The key word here is collaboration, since Smart Living is an opportunity for business to collaborate with people to build better life, health and job outcomes.

5. Engage with Global Citizens to build your influence

Global Citizens are Millennials who see a world without borders. This mobile and tech savvy group are vital influencers so you need to make them part of your community, as customers and employees. It’s estimated they will make up half the workforce and most international assignments by 2020.

The key to engagement lies in the 4Ps, since over a third of Millennials believe that the goal of ‘improving society’, should be at the core of every business. This group wants to know why they should buy from you or work for you – and that’s a clear motivator for ensuring purpose sits at the core of your organisation’s ethos.

6. Betapreneurship means seeing failure as a learning curve

A spirit of Betapreneurship is empowering people and businesses to make change happen by fostering collaboration around a new ‘redesign and rethink’ culture. One of my current favourite disruptive business case is iFixit – a global online repair manual and community that aims to ‘fix the world, one device at a time’.

This positive thinking is implicit in purpose-driven organisations. 3M introduced its 15% ‘time to think’ programme in 1948, and many great initiatives and innovations like the Post-It note are the result. Similarly, Google’s 20% time invites in-house entrepreneurial thinking and encourages collaboration. Organisations simply must foster disruptive innovation to thrive, as new people-led alliances will be the fuel that drives successful organisations of the future.

7. Build Social Capital and use resources wisely

Business needs to be at the centre of the communities it serves and that means developing new systems and innovation models that take account of how our lives are changing. With concerns about finite resources and a growing interest in the circular economy, people are increasingly favouring access over ownership. Success stories such as Airbnb and Zipcar are just the start of this transition, so you need to look at how you can help people live better lives, use less and build communities based around sharing resources.

8. It all comes down to ‘The Good Life’

Conventional ways of measuring success – corporate and individual – are increasingly being re-evaluated, but our goal remains achieving ‘The Good Life’. All the trends outlined here relate back to this fundamental principle. That means organisations should focus on well-being experiences to build real value and a lasting legacy. One thing is clear: brands that engage in empathic leadership through a purposeful strategy, and then deliver on their promises to internal and external stakeholders, are best prepared to survive the challenges of the future business environment.


Connecting the dots

Drawing a ‘Mindset Diagram’ of tomorrow’s people is a great way to connect the eight trends and sum up the core drivers that will underpin tomorrow’s successful digital strategies. Technology Optimisers and Creative Collaborators are people who prioritise ‘access’ and ‘collaboration’, while Global Sustainers and Inclusive Visionaries look for ‘community’ and ‘engagement’.

The 4P business model I’ve described promotes a ‘Betterness’ agenda by inviting participation and collaboration, also driving ‘disruptive’ ideas that offer meaning and value at every level to ensure sustainable growth. It is liberating to remind ourselves that we all have the capacity to be active change-makers and, ultimately, visionary leaders shaping purpose-driven businesses.


[Editor's note: For more discussion on the latest trends in marketing, see these articles on Marketing Trends and 2015 Digital Marketing Trends].

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