Jordi Oliva, CEO at Zenith Mexico, believes the world that will emerge from this crisis will be as technological as ever, but more humane than ever. His article originally ran on Expansion.
We saw the creation of Amazon (1994) and Google (1997) in the midst of a technological bubble that few survived. I still remember AOL’s arrival in Mexico (2000), promising free emails in a country that had no problem sending emails. (Many years later AT&T would come to us saying that with them, the emails do arrive and the images do load – there are definitely people who don’t learn anything.)
From these data-person companies, we moved on to the second digital wave of people-to-people connection: Facebook in 2004 and iPhone in 2007. And before the pandemic hit, we were already targeting the third wave of connections, this time between data: Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning (I think it is a mistake to call Artificial Intelligence the adjustment of a multivariable function, what this technology really is).
Until now, there’s been a constant change towards digital connections. And now, the arrival of confinement has brought us even closer to that reality, with a mindset of ‘if I can do it virtually, I will.’ Some of those virtual experiences, like teleworking, shopping, meetings and distance classes, are more enjoyable than the physical ones. Times are changing, but it is certainly up to us to decide how we will change with them.
I think deep down, people are waiting for the crisis to pass to go out and celebrate life. There is an enormous desire to live. There is more awareness than ever about how small the world is and how equal we are.
Therefore, the priority of brands must be to invest in celebrating who we are, what we love and what we dream of. Real experiences must be activate – although perhaps what is “real” must be reconsidered – to respond to the explosion of activities that will accompany the end of the de-escalation.
There are two stages: what we can do now and what we should do when it all happens. In both cases, we must design new brand experiences that are not subject to the limitations of a single virtual or physical space, but rather combine both worlds, complementing each other.
People have responded to confinement by innovating on their own. These ideas must be closely analyzed and used as a source of creativity to convert them into brand experiences. And you have to prepare for what comes next, anticipating new behaviors and values. Rethink what role the brand will have and what service it can offer while prevailing values such as transparency, health and cybersecurity, which are here to stay.
Technology will not make a difference but extraordinary and consistent brand experiences will. Certainly, you have to take advantage of virtual platforms to connect people, places and real-life events, but let’s not forget that real life is human experience, not the screen.
The enormous amount of data that we collect and store thanks to technology helps us. This data should help to rethink the consumer, and definitively abandon traditional demographic segmentation. Some brands are using new behaviour-focused ‘expressive’ targeting approaches, providing a much more holistic picture of growth potential with their consumers.
But that new understanding of customers can not end by being turned into coupons and discounts on social networks or e-commerce stores. In Forrester’s latest study, CMOs re-position their agencies, their strategic and creative talent, as their preferred partner over big social media and their electronic audience data. Precisely, in a pandemic year.
Clearly, it is the talent of the agencies that proposes change and makes it happen. The world that will emerge from this crisis will be as technological as ever, but more humane than ever. Perhaps we will enjoy a democratized virtual future, a place where we can all thrive in all aspects of life.
The pandemic has made us more open to new ways of doing things. But it is life and its deep emotions that brands have to connect with.