Seek out those humble kicks

The brands that will prosper in this climate are stress-busters with a light touch that help us reconnect with the community, says Jonathan Sands

Being a northern lad I have always hated waste, which is why at Elmwood we had our first environmental audit as long ago as 1994. As our industry stutters into 2010 looking for new themes and ideas to generate revenue for itself and for its branded customers, there is no doubt that sustainability will still be on everybody’s radar.

For example, US potato chip brand Frito-Lay is working on plant-based crisp packets that are 100 per cent compostable and US water brand Y has designed its packaging so that it turns into kids building blocks when empty. All good stuff, and definitely a sign of more things to come.

But, in reality, doing the right thing for the environment does not guarantee a ticket to success. For real success in 2010 we need to look to the wisdom of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald: ‘T’aint what you do it’s the way that you do it, that’s what gets results.’ First and foremost, the successful brands of this year will have fun.

The year 2010 will again be one of austerity. Stress and anxiety will remain high on the agenda as we try to pull ourselves out of the deepest recession in living memory. It is a fact that most people in Britain have significant short-term debt – debt far in excess of one year’s salary.
With both interest rates and taxes likely to rise alongside inflation in fuel and food, most of us are feeling very uneasy about immediate future prospects.

And if that wasn’t enough, when we do have an opportunity to enjoy that rare moment of indulgence, we are being made to feel guilty about what we do spend our hard-earned cash on. We shouldn’t fly, we shouldn’t drive, we shouldn’t do anything that is wasteful. So to be successful in this austere world we are going to have to be something of an antidote to doom and gloom.

My view is that successful brands this year will be those that offer us a break from all this and help us raise a smile – brands that help lighten the load by giving us a feeling of warmth and togetherness.

We are investing more in brands that allow us to reconnect and encourage humble activities, like going for a walk or having a big night in, rather than opting for a big night out. So brands that tap into sharing and community and – above all – help bring a smile to our faces when there seems to be little to smile about will do well in 2010, despite the climate.

In this vein, consumers are reassessing the whole notion of ‘value’. Value doesn’t mean cheap. It means avoiding excess and waste. Cobblers, for example, are enjoying the downturn as we think about repairing our old shoes rather than throwing them out and buying new. On the one hand, success in 2010 is about embracing the old, yet, on the other, it is about embracing a new and changing world.

We are well on our way to the first billion apps being downloaded for the iPhone. And there are already 65 000 different apps available to download. In a world of Twitter and blogs and viral marketing, 2010 will, in my view, be a tipping-point year for brands that embrace the digital world. Our domestic audience is now one that grew up with a mouse in one hand and a mobile phone in the other.

It is true that in-store packaging has the final word, but as more and more of us shop online and use consumer validation sites to help with our purchase decisions, the brands that will come off best in 2010 and beyond are those that think in digital terms first. When you have Jamie Oliver’s 20-minute meal app in the top sellers, you have to think that being one of the brands on his featured shopping list would be a good idea.
And finally, David Beckham. This year is a Fifa World Cup year, and any brand that can think cleverly about tapping into the spirit of the summer’s spectacle should do well. I’m not just talking about the mega-brands that buy sponsorship rights. There are rich pickings for any brand that is fleet of foot. So, if you can invent a penalty shoot-out app that brings you and your friends together around an enjoyable brand experience, then job done really.

Brands for 2010 have to do more than perform a function and act responsibly, they have to resonate and support, and they have to touch us wherever we interact. In a world that is getting faster and more stressful, the brands that help us slow down, calm down and enjoy the moment will be the ones that win. Sing along with me…

T’aint what you do it’s the way that you do it. That’s what will get results.

Getting it right

  • Create a brand that is fun and counteracts the prevalent gloom and doom
  • Make sure that it taps into community values
  • Find ways of helping your target audience relax and chill out
  • Look for points of resonance to build on
  • Don’t neglect the online side of things – think digital first
  • Make the most of the positive vibes – and business opportunities – of a Fifa World Cup year

Jonathan Sands is chairman of branding group Elmwood

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