We have all been tested over the past nine months, professionally and personally. As we approach the new year, many of us are committed to emerging from the uncertainty more evolved—as a society, as brands and individuals. For the season finale of our Future of Branding series, I was joined by five global marketing leaders to explore shifting customer expectations. We examined the fastest-growing job sectors, highlighted the importance of brand purpose, underlined the value of community, identified novel brand partnerships and explored why we cannot lose sight of the arduous lessons learned this year. You can listen to the complete conversation on the How CMOs Commit podcast.
In closing, I asked our panelists: what do you predict will be most important to your customers and, in turn, drive growth in your business in 2021? And what is your professional commitment or resolution for 2021? Here’s what they had to say.
Keep in mind that while Visa is a well-known global brand with consumers, our customers are really a vast array of B2B customers. In other words, anybody who’s attempting to receive or give payments: merchants, banks, acquirers, insurance companies, et al. I would say the most important thing for us to deliver to our customers is confidence. Confidence in the security of local and global transactions, and that they can have trust in that and that they have equal access to digital payments capabilities as anybody else would. A small business owner has access to the same capabilities that a huge global company would. That is most important for us. It’s always been true, but to continue to instill, and as I talked about before, elevate small businesses worldwide in ways that can help bring our economies back. They’re the backbone of our economies, and helping them through this crisis and emerge from it is so important.
My resolution is to drive forward with purpose and to stay focused on what’s important. We have a lot planned for our brand, and we’ve made a lot of progress in the last nine months. We will continue to make progress as we advance and drive that forward with focus and purpose on what’s going to matter.
As an optimist, I predict that travel across borders by the end of fiscal year ’21 will be something that we all can appreciate and do again, both for commerce reasons as well as for personal reasons. Fingers crossed that that will come true.
—Lynne Biggar, CMO, Visa
Agility and flexibility to change will be important to our customers because categories are completely shifting their behaviors and patterns. We had seen brands that were hibernating reemerge because when people were in lockdown, they resorted to products they haven’t used in years. Having this agility and flexibility to adapt and change is going to be critical.
Sometimes during a crisis, people become risk-averse, which delays development and progress. I’m looking forward to the continued openness and courage to experiment with our business, our companies, our customers and our consumers as well.
My commitment is devoting more time to think. When you’re on the proverbial hamster wheel, you don’t necessarily have the time. But now, more than ever, we need time to think and reflect, to step back and look at the options.
—Patricia Corsi, Global Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, Bayer
We’re very focused on helping people be their best selves. I think the way we’re going to do that will be a little bit more aggressive as we look at 2021. We have an opportunity to not only help people be their fittest self but also their most mindful, cultured and conscious. There’s a lot we can do to help people be their best selves. The other thing that will not go away is the focus on safety and the environment in which we interact. Equinox clubs have always been the safest, the healthiest, the cleanest, but we will need to continue to double down as our members will never return to a world where they don’t notice how clean or safe an environment is.
Resolution-wise is to try not to lose the perspective of this challenging year. From it comes many fascinating lessons that could fall to the wayside very quickly as people come back. We are committed to staying focused on how we deliver for our members, for our employees and making sure that they can be their best selves in this.
—Seth Solomons, CMO, Equinox
The three words that come to mind are connectedness, personalization and inclusivity. All of those really overlap, but in 2021 we have to think, how can we not just bring more customers into the fold, but how can we truly help them find themselves? Whether it’s size, lifestyle, shape, color, by acknowledging those perspectives, consumers will feel connected to the brand, and we can truly define a more personalized experience for them.
On the pathway to recognizing this broad inclusivity, I need to ensure that I am doing the work to allow customer experiences to help shape. For so long in consumer brands, we have defined the trends, and we pushed them forward. But now is the time to let customers start to tell us again what they truly need from our brands so that we can help shape it. We have to create the space to make sure that we are listening as much as that we are giving.
—Anddria Clack-Rogers Varnado, Recent Head of Strategy, Macy’s and Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
We’re currently seeing brands trying to recover from the hit of COVID. From a jobs’ perspective, one of the things that we’re seeing is in the fastest-growing roles. Since March, we have seen between 300 to 500% growth. Demand overall continues to be strong with salespeople, registered nurses and software engineers as digitizing and digital transformation is becoming more and more important.
We also see a demand for re-skilling, which will continue over the next five years as technology adoption increases. One of our predictions is the impact of digital transformation–on jobs, how brands tell their stories and how executives connect with LinkedIn members as well as their employees. It’s going to transform everything we do and connect and grow the professionals on our platform.
The beautiful thing we learned this year is the power of agility. There’s a thing about moving fast, failing forward and learning quickly. Amid the chaos of COVID, people came together in a powerful way. We saw that on our platform, too, like how sales, marketing, and product came together to revolutionize how we do business and the products we want to offer. For example, as in-person events started to disappear, we came up with a virtual event product within eight weeks. That’s digital transformation, but it’s also the power of agility because you’re adapting to customer needs to support them when it counts. That’s the power of what you do through agility.
—Reem Abeidoh, Head of Global Go To Market, LinkedIn