With London Fashion Week coming to a close, the streets are still buzzing with the latest trends. There are all sorts of interesting people strutting their stuff on the Strand, and while some of the trends might look a little unusual, they’re definitely making a statement. You can’t deny, the genius of fashion lies in innovation, whether that be creating something new, or reimagining something old. At Fashion Week, trailblazing designers set the tone for style for the coming year, naming and showcasing the top trends to watch. This is equally as true when it comes to marketing, where top brands are innovating and reinventing in equal measure, creating new approaches and campaigns whilst spawning countless imitations. With that in mind, here’s a run down of some of the key marketing trends we’re seeing amongst top brands this year.
No More Neutrality
In these turbulent times, many top brands have been faced with a difficult decision - whether to speak out about controversial issues, or remain quiet. With movements such as Stop Funding Hate, a viral campaign which implored top brands to withdraw their adverts from controversial newspapers, namely the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Daily Express. Lego soon announced that they would be withdrawing their advertisements from the Daily Mail, and The Co-operative Group soon followed, stating they would review their advertising placements in 2017. More recently, The Body Shop also declared they would not advertise in the Daily Mail, a move which is in line with the brand’s “Enrich Not Exploit Commitment”. Although the Stop Funding Hate campaign has proved controversial, these big brands have gained a great deal of attention and acclaim for their response, as well as supporting a cause many would agree is incredibly important in the current social and political climate.
More recently, this has also been the case across the pond, where many top companies have been boycotting Trump and speaking out against his controversial policies, namely his attempted immigration ban. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, responded to Trump’s immigration ban “with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise” - to find jobs for 10,000 refugees worldwide in its stores. Other top brands also spoke out against the ban, whilst Uber were criticised for remaining quiet, leading to claims from the Guardian that “sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does”. The involvement of big brands in politics has sparked criticism from some corners, as some have argued these companies are simply “jumping on the bandwagon” by protesting.
However, the fact remains top brands feel they can no longer afford to remain neutral on political and ethical issues. With many brands experiencing backlash for speaking out, and others like Uber being criticised and even boycotted for remaining neutral, it can seem like an impossible scenario. Nevertheless, brands are making headlines for their activism, and in the process, some are gaining loyal customers whilst staying true to their brand identity and core values.
While some brands are making waves on a political level, others are focusing more on their aesthetic. Some are sticking to minor tweaks, whereas some companies are undergoing a complete image overhaul this season. Sainsbury’s are perhaps the most obvious example of this, with their latest campaign, “Food Dancing”. Unveiled late last month, “Food Dancing” represents a dramatic change in creative direction for the supermarket giant, with a far more vibrant, diverse and youthful campaign than in previous years. The campaign, which features real people dancing in their kitchens to a track created especially for the advert, has been labelled “the most interactive campaign we’ve ever done” by Mark Given, director of marketing planning and propositions at Sainsbury’s.
The supermarket giant has also featured social media influencers in their current campaign, such as Selasi Gbormittah, who won the nation’s heart on the most recent season of The Great British Bake Off and has since racked up an impressive 112,000 followers on Instagram. With this memorable new strategy, Sainsbury’s are making it clear that they understand the power of social media and of interactive and experiential marketing in 2017, and making a significant step away from their traditional approach, and towards the future of marketing.
Spring is just around the corner and the (supposedly) warmer weather is the perfect excuse for brands to do a bit of spring cleaning. After recent statistics indicated British consumers wouldn't care if a staggering 94% of brands disappeared, it has never been more important to stand out. Simple, clean branding and a clear brand message and identity is crucial, with a recent report by Havas indicating up to 60% of the content created by the world’s top 1,500 brands is “just clutter”. On the whole we are seeing most brands simplifying their aesthetic and key messaging, with top brands such as Citymapper, Shazam and Uber all stripping back their brand message to a simple proposition with an easy to use interface to match. Other brands, such as Innocent, have had long-standing success with a straightforward, minimal marketing campaign and a clear company identity.
Another example of simple branding as key to success is that of Headspace. The wellbeing app, which offers users an ever-expanding series of short meditations, keeps its branding clean and effective, simplifying the often-mysterious and confusing process of meditation. Headspace has also launched a highly successful email marketing campaign, as well as a subscription partnership with Spotify which allows users to save when they are signed up to both services. Headspace’s clear brand message and straightforward marketing approach are a refreshing change from many of their competitors, making them appear both accessible and memorable. The key takeaway is this - there is a whole lot of clutter and noise in the world of marketing, and some of the hottest brands of 2017 so far are those who are providing some welcome peace and quiet.
It is amazing how much of an influence changing trends can have, both in terms of fashion and in the marketing world. From total facelifts to stripping down to the bare minimum, making a statement has never been more important than it is now, when the market is so densely saturated with countless brands all claiming to be the very best. Consumers are becoming more and more disinterested and disillusioned with traditional marketing, and the brands continuing to thrive are the ones who are making a difference. Whether that difference is through a clear political message of protest, a complete brand renovation or even just making things more simple, it’s clear that these brands are standing out, and that customers are paying attention.