Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 3 January 2020

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Five marketing & brand predictions FOR 2020

As we start 2020, I have had the tradition of providing our annual predictions for advertising, branding, marketing, employee branding, and employee engagement and a variety of other topics that pop into our minds. Our team got together and collaborated on the fresh predictions that we think that have a real opportunity to become reality in 2020. This year is no different, so here are our top five predictions for 2020.

There will be a major acquisition of a digital/media streaming service by a major retailer. Streaming entertainment and programming will continue to grow through the coming decade. The global video streaming market is expected to reach $102.0971 billion by 2023. We all know and appreciate the market presence of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and more recently Disney. The acquisition benefits to a major retailer would be cross-market promotions, content development, and extended audience reach beyond brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce customers. Millennials prefer their devices over the old-fashioned TV set. They’re often on the move, and convenience is key. In contrast, older people are more likely to keep their cable subscriptions because it’s what they’re familiar with and comfortable with. A major retailer could greatly leverage this fact to gain customers and audience reach and greatly influence their customer base with opportunities, product placements, and tie-ins.

Amazon already has successfully created Amazon Prime Video, although they have not yet fully leverage it to their advantage for the e-commerce platform. So, the logical next choice would be Walmart or maybe Target. As they continue to use their stores and customer analytics as a competitive advantage against Amazon and other retailers, it would make sense for them to expand their digital footprint and target audience to a millennial marketplace with a streaming video service. Imagine Walmart acquiring Netflix. You heard it here first.

“BRAND PURPOSE” will replace “BRAND POSITIONING” in our marketing jargon and vernacular. In 2019 the Association of National Advertisers identified brand purpose as the new buzzword for marketing differentiation. I agree. They proclaimed that “BRAND PROMISE” is over.  In our recent client interactions, it seems that organizations and clients are more focused on establishing both customer and employee connections simultaneously through purpose-driven brand engagement. That means finding a common message for the brand that is meaningful and engages your employees and your customers to become advocates and champions for the company image and products. It is no longer about features, attributes or prices alone. Customers want to buy products that they can relate to personally and have them be aligned with their values.

I believe this trend will continue to grow in importance especially as we see the decline of the baby boom population and the growth of millennials who are more purpose driven in their actions and brand loyalties.

Virtual and Augmented Reality may actually become a “reality” - Expect a technological head-mounted display breakthrough that will facilitate new ways to view content in every home. In recent years, both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become popular and are emerging as top trends in marketing. In 2020, AR is expected to surpass VR in popularity, despite VR’s early lead. Already, many major companies are making use of AR. Ikea, for example, has an app that allows users to visualize what a piece of furniture would look like in their home before making a purchase. VR and AR are also being deployed effectively in corporate training, on boarding safety/defense scenarios and cybersecurity.

The popularity has occurred despite cumbersome limitations on technological platforms such as Oculus and Google Glass’s false starts. Oculus which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion has not had commercial success is anticipated. The brick styled head-mounted display is cumbersome, claustrophobic and some people have described it as causing nausea.

I predict that there will be a technological breakthrough that will allow the commercial application of virtual reality and augmented reality that will become commonplace in homes, offices and in our workplaces that isn’t awkward and easy to use. I predict that it will become ubiquitous in the same way that we rely on our cell phones and it will replace our handheld devices and TV sets at home.

Gamification will become mainstream as platform technology drives meaningful behavior, employee engagement and improves performance among employees and customers alike. People think that gamification is playing games at work. It is not.  Gamification is the process of using game-like elements into business and marketing strategies. One of the simplest forms of gamification is getting a stamp every time you buy a coffee. Collect ten stamps and you get a free drink. It's like completing a level and getting a reward. Most consumers are participating in some form of gamification and don’t even know it. If you are a member of a frequent-flier program with major airlines or obtain a stamp on your card every time you buy a cup coffee at Starbucks; you are participating in gamification.

The adoption of immersive head-mounted displays and virtual reality platforms will only multiply the application of gamification in training and learning environments in corporate settings in the next decade. Why is this occurring? Research shows that using gamification platforms are 10 times more effective at information retention than traditional classroom training.

CEO’s and senior leaderships teams will continue to ignore efforts to improve employee engagement as a competitive business asset. Employee engagement will hover at 73% for the foreseeable future just as it has for the last 10 years. It is time for an attitudinal shift and setting new priorities to support improved employee engagement. It remains urgent to devote time and energy to employee engagement as a competitive advantage, yet senior leadership teams are not devoting enough time and energy to rectifying the situation. Senior leadership don’t view it as an essential competitive/branding advantage. Senior management seems more attentive to acquisitions, cutting costs and strategic expansion through disruptive innovation. Therefore, employee engagement scores will likely continue to hover at 73% as it has for the last ten years.

While CEOs, according to Deloitte say that employee engagement is important (one of the top three priorities for 2019) over 50% have no idea what they can do to improve performance and use it as a competitive advantage. Who’s to blame? I believe the boards of directors; HR management and marketing management are to blame. They need to become aware and familiar with analytics that demonstrates improves performance, ROI and shareholder value. Employee engagement must be purposeful, value-driven so that it can leverage customer competitive advantage and brand advocacy. Employee engagement and customer advocacy are basic elements of senior leadership toolboxes. Management needs to embrace employee engagement as a competitive cultural advantage and use it to their brands advantage.

What you all think? Please respond back and tell me what you believe are the greatest predictions for 2020. In the meantime, all of us at Inward wish you a healthy happy and prosperous 2020.

Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770