2020 has been a year unlike any other before it. From racial justice protests to the global COVID-19 pandemic to a tumultuous U.S. election season, consumers and the brands that serve them have been rocked by forces of change.
It quickly became clear to us at The Brand Guild — where we build stories and brand identities for national clients like Sweetgreen, Room & Board and Ellevest across our D.C. and New York offices — that to survive and grow in 2020 and beyond, our approach to brands and their consumers would have to be unprecedented, too.
This past year has been all about priorities. And as consumers everywhere reprioritized their spending, we tapped into our insights from our consumer clients across the country to pinpoint the trends that would carry us through these uncertain times — and provide opportunities for growth in 2021.
Here are four big ideas you should consider as you plan to grow your brand next year:
Invest in Gen Z.
We’ve carved out a special place in this report for Gen Z: Born in or after 1996, Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. They make up roughly a third of the U.S. population, controls $143 billion in the U.S. alone, and represented 10% of voters in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Gen Z cites the #BlackLivesMatter movement as the second-most impactful event in their lifetimes after COVID-19, according to Morning Consult — and 68% in the U.S. say it has majorly affected their worldview. To that effect, this group also demands authenticity and action from brands at a scale we’ve never seen before: Nearly 80% of Gen Z shoppers agree that companies should take a stand on #BlackLivesMatter and that companies’ responses will affect whether they buy from them in the future. They want corporations to stand for something and are patronizing brands whose values align with their own.
And their influence has only just begun. While the past year has been an inflection point for Gen Z, this demographic will continue to hold brands’ feet to the fire on social issues and bring their own diverse and progressive views into the marketplace for decades to come.
Purpose-driven brands will win.
Once a nice-to-have, purpose is now a need-to-have.
Understanding a company’s “why” — why they exist, for whom, and what their impact on the world looks like — is becoming one of our most pervasive gauges for a brand’s success. In a recent Deloitte survey, nearly 80% of CMOs said customers are paying closer attention to the social activism, outreach, and investments of companies during the pandemic — and will reward brands that represent their values with greater loyalty in the long run.
But a brand’s point of view has to go further than marketing speak to be effective.
Focus on wellness.
While travel and high-end purchases like new clothing and jewelry are rapidly falling, the luxury sector that is set to benefit most from the pandemic reset is the $4.5 trillion global wellness economy, according to the Global Wellness Institute. And brands that emphasize physical, emotional, or mental wellness are thriving. While investments in companies overall dropped in the first half of 2020, wellness companies raked in investments and grew in tremendous value at that same time.
Contactless doesn’t mean connectionless.
More than 70% of consumers report they aren’t comfortable with resuming their “normal” out-of-home routines, McKinsey & Company reports. But while the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington predicts that the D.C. area will permanently lose 25% of its restaurants due to the pandemic, Gen Z and Millennial consumers have increased their overall spending, including on at-home food retailers like grocery stores and food delivery. And consumers are trying new brands: More than 75% of Americans have either tried new brands, stores, or shopping methods in 2020, according to IAB. And up to 80% of those consumers intended to continue their new shopping behaviors after the COVID crisis.
With ecommerce skyrocketing and the challenges and restrictions facing physical retail locations, window shopping and discovery of new brands has been largely limited to social media feeds and targeted ads. So how do brands make an impact in this new realm of discovery and experience? First, double down on SEO efforts. Second, create memorable, craveable brand experiences, whether through partnerships, giveaways or even packaging.
For more on how The Brand Guild is measuring success and the rest of the trends we are predicting for 2021, read our full report: