Four tips for brands in 2015

Thursday 8 January 2015 by Drew Heatley

We’re at the start of a huge year for brands. The rate at which new technology and communications platforms are emerging means businesses can turbo-charge their growth and strengthen customer relationships. At this exciting time of change, I’ve picked out four trends that brands would be wise to bear in mind as they enter the next 12 months.

1. There’s still a long way to go in mobile

Technology continues to transform the way companies do business, none more so than mobile. But for all the talk of this “mobile revolution”, some of the world’s biggest brands still aren’t optimised for what we’re told is now the de facto platform of communication, commerce and internet access.

This comes as the emergence of wearable technology and the plethora of connected devices from thermostats to kitchen appliances, known as the “Internet of Things”, is set to change the game for brands all over again. Brands that haven’t already tailored their experiences for mobile must now do so while preparing for this next wave of connected tech.

It’s actually astonishing how many large companies – even those working within digital media – still don’t cater for mobile. My internet provider – one of the world’s largest broadcast and cable companies – recently asked me to complete an online survey. When I clicked through, I was told the survey wasn’t optimised for mobile. I quit straight away. My provider lost out on valuable feedback – but the consequences of a bad customer experience can be far greater than that. For example, a retailer could lose out on valuable sales if its website doesn’t cater for mobile devices. It’s a no-brainer, but it’s still not happening across the board.

2. The C-suite needs to be more social

Social media continues to play an increasingly important role in the B2B marketing mix. The notion that networks like Facebook and Twitter are primarily B2C opportunities is long outdated and some analysts predict that B2B brands will soon match B2C companies in terms of their content output on social media. That may indeed happen, but with B2C marketing budgets still much bigger than their B2B counterparts, business-focused brands will have to be much more inventive – particularly as networks like Facebook continue to curb businesses’ organic reach in order to get them to cough up cash.

So if brands must be highly visible on social media, what about company figureheads? Recent research shows that seven out of every ten Fortune 500 CEOs still have no social media presence at all. Tim Cook, head of the world’s most valuable company, Apple, only joined Twitter towards the end of 2013 and has tweeted fewer than 200 times since. It’s shocking that these leaders aren’t engaging with their company’s audience, partners and clients online – particularly in a landscape where transparency is more important than ever.

Some people might argue that it’s not up to the CEO to be visible on social media. If that’s the case, then whose responsibility is it? Marketing chiefs are, unsurprisingly, active across different networks. Perhaps it’s the CMO’s obligation to represent the C-suite online? The marketers leading the way at the moment are doing their brands the world of good. Pioneers like Beth Comstock, CMO of GE, John Iwata, SVP, Marketing and Communications at IBM and John Kennedy, CMO of Xerox, are all active on LinkedIn and Twitter, sharing insights, interacting with customers and generally showing a more “human” side to the brands they represent.

Of course there are a handful of high-profile CEOs already on social media – perhaps the most influential being Richard Branson. He has active profiles on every major social network. It’s unlikely he’s creating all the content that he publishes himself – he’ll have a great social media team around him creating that digital persona – but that doesn’t really matter; he’s the face and the mouthpiece of his empire. More CEOs need to think in a similar way this year.

3. The key growth market in Asia isn’t China – it’s Japan

China is often touted as the key market for brands looking to super-charge their global growth. And, of course, it’s a crucial geography. The stats speak for themselves: China is the world’s second largest economy by GDP after the US and it looks like it will be in the top spot by 2020, with the country’s economic growth rate sitting above 10% for a number of years now.

But setting up shop in the country is not without significant hurdles. Western companies traditionally struggle to crack China, with global brands losing out in favour of local alternatives. Google, Tesco and Best Buy are just three companies that have endured well-documented hurdles in their quest to snare a slice of the world’s biggest market.

This year, brands seeking to expand into Asia should look to Japan. It’s the world’s third largest economy and it’s not affected to the same degree as China by obstacles such as Government censorship and its natives’ preference for local brands. Japan is in a technical recession with the economy unexpectedly shrinking in consecutive quarters towards the end of last year, but the influx of new business from established Western brands could provide the country with a boost. I spoke last year about the exciting Japanese brands that have made their mark in the West; the opportunity now for brands to make a mark in Japan is just as significant.

4. The TV ad’s days are numbered

Content is king – we all know that. Brands across the world are utilising content in all forms to tell their stories. And the way these stories are being told is becoming more innovative, as brands try to reach consumers across the multitude of devices they use every day. The result of this multi-platform, ongoing, two-way relationship between brand and consumer will have significant consequences for the long-reigning king of advertising – the TV slot.

Brands are beginning to play with the traditional format. Rather than creating a standard 15- to 20-second ad that merely acts as a megaphone for particular products or services and offers no interaction, brands are now developing the TV ad to provide their audiences with real entertainment and value. You only have to look at the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad last month. Far from a quick 15-second piece, the ad ran the length of the whole two-minute break, telling the story of the World War One Christmas truce.

The holiday season is a huge period for TV ads in the UK. And in the US, the Super Bowl is the highlight in the calendar. It will be interesting to see next month how brands tackle this sporting event, which still commands upwards of $4 million for a single ad slot. But as time goes on, we’re talking less about the TV ads themselves and more about the value-added services that come with them – from brands offering additional content through mobile apps like Shazam to real-time marketing from brands like Oreo, which grabbed the headlines with this effort on Twitter last year.

Expect brands to continue to be brave and experimental with the TV ad; the traditional format is fast becoming ineffective and outdated.

When brands embrace advancements in technology and marketing methods and keep pace with the ever-changing market, they reap the benefits – and so do their customers. I’m looking forward to seeing which brands rise to the top in 2015. And the real value lies in examining the reasons why.

Drew no longer works at The Frameworks


  • Branding
  • Strategy
  • Mobile
  • Expansion
  • Social media
  • Advertising
  • Broadcasting