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3 Big trends converging for big branding opportunities

The ability to identify relevant trends and stay one step ahead of them is crucial for keeping brands fresh and vibrant. There are 3 major trends that are connnected, which can offer high potential opportunities to strenthen brands in the future: (1) the emergence of Millennials and how they will shape our future, (2) the growing interest in social purpose initiatives, driven by Millennials, and (3) how startups, most often created by Millennials, will be the primary source for economic growth and innovation in the future.

Recently, Tom Friedman wrote an article in the NY Times (11/5/14) entitled “The World is Fast,” which referred to the 3 biggest forces on the planet and how they present enormous challenges to humanity.The forces are: (1) the geo-economical impact of globalization, (2) the ecological disasters looming from mother nature (e.g. rapid growth of carbons), and (3) the mind boggling digital changes from Moore’s Law, which alludes to the speed and power of microchips that double every two years. These are global dynamics, but they also have an impact on some noteworthy local trends that can offer unique opportunities for companies to enrich their brand image and accelerate future growth:

1. MILLENNIALS – this Generation Y (born 1980-1995) is 86 million strong and will dominate the workforce in 10 years, forming 75% of the total. They grew up in the digital age and have very different values and expectations that will shape our approach to social challenges, employment preferences, and purchase behavior.
• Millennials identify with brands more personally and emotionally versus older generations, preferring brands that mirror who they are and their values (59% say the brands they buy reflect their style and personality) – source: Boston Consulting Group 2013 survey.
• One of their most important values is social responsibility. In particular, 48% report that they try to use brands from companies that are active in supporting social causes (BCG survey)
• A 2011 study by TBWA indicates that these views will clearly impact their purchase motivation and corporate brand perceptions – 7 in 10 Millennials consider themselves social activists, 4 in 5 said they would be more likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about, and 3 in 4 believe that companies should create economic value for society by addressing its needs.

2. SOCIAL PURPOSE – there is a significant, growing demand worldwide for companies to become more socially responsible, which is clear from the “Good Purpose 2013” study by Edelman Research. While this was a global study, the results were consistent for the US, with Millennials feeling even more strongly about these issues:
• 87% of consumers believe business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as its business interests (e.g. maximize shareholder wealth).
• 76% believe it is acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time (a 33% increase from 2008).
• 72% would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t (39% increase since 2008)
At the same time, there is a serious gap between what consumers want and what brands deliver for social purpose, which suggests a strong opportunity to distinguish brands in the future:
• Consumers say 76% of brands have a self-centered desire to increase profits, but only 36% feel they have a sincere commitment to their customers’ support for social causes.
• 52% of customers feel it is important for companies to use their resources to drive change in the world, but only 15% say corporations/brands really do this.

3. MILLENNIALS DRIVING STARTUPS – Small businesses (under 500 employees) represent the major source of job creation in the U.S. (by almost 2/3) and contribute more to innovation, as they generate 13 times as many patents, per employee, as large companies do. Driving this growth in jobs and innovation is this Generation Y group. They are very restless. A study by Forbes in 2014 indicated that 1/3 of all people in their 20’s will move in any given year, the average Millennial will stay in their job just over 2 years, and about two thirds of them would like to start their own company. Another poll indicated that one in five Millennials plan to quit their day job to start their own business. Why? The values of Millennials are very different. They seek happiness, simplicity, adventure, self-satisfaction and social purpose over corporate-ladder climbing practices traditionally tied to success. Over half don’t trust the government and even less trust Wall Street.

What does all this mean for strengthening corporate brand images in the future? The size, values, and overall importance of this emerging Generation Y group cannot be ignored. They are the trend setters for the future. This growing impact presents a unique opportunity for brands to develop new, credible, social purpose initiatives that will attract Millennials to new jobs, buy their products/services, increase their full engagement and encourage brand loyalty. Small business startups managed by Millennials will fuel much of future economic growth. The time is ripe for brands that want to stand out and grow, to capitalize on these dramatic trends of Millennial’s emerging empowerment: their desires for social purpose and their potential for positive innovative change.

Jay Gronlund

Jay Gronlund is an experienced business development and branding professional with a successful track record introducing new products and services, expanding into foreign markets, re-positioning products, and facilitating ideation sessions. Jay has effectively applied proven marketing and branding principles from his background in the consumer goods industry to other industry sectors, including B2B situations. Jay’s career began in consumer packaged goods and then expanded into household products, beverages and publishing. His first company was Richardson-Vicks (now part of Proctor & Gamble), where he held new product positions in New York and in London. He continued his new product responsibilities for Arm & Hammer products at Church & Dwight (Arm & Hammer), then VP Marketing of the wine/champagne division of Seagram, and finally VP, Director of Marketing at Newsweek. Gronlund started The Pathfinder Group in New York in 1990, an international business development and brand consulting firm. Related to this, much of his work today involves re-positioning brands, ideation sessions and marketing workshops, with a primary focus on emotional branding, especially building brand trust for clients. Jay has also been teaching a marketing course at NYU since 1999, “Positioning and Brand Development". Jay recently wrote a new book, “Basics of Branding," reflecting his NYU branding course and professional experience. He has also published several articles on diverse marketing topics: “5 Steps to a Successful Ideation Session," “What B2B Marketers can Learn from B2C," “Employer Branding," “Customized Marketing for Tomorrow’s Leaders," “Sharing and Implementing New Ideas Across Borders," and “Working with the New Russians”, “Word-of-Mouth Marketing for B2B Situations," “The Future of m-Health” and “How to Build ‘Value’ for Healthcare Brands in Emerging Markets." Jay Gronlund is a graduate of Colby College and has an MBA from Tuck at Dartmouth College.

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