11 consumer trends for 2015

What will the best brands of the future look like? One agency has made its predictions for 2015.

In its trends forecast for the next year, branding agency Landor has made this list of upcoming consumer trends:

1. Megacities spur consumer desire for a stronger sense of belonging.

Welcome to the age of megacities and mega-developments. Urban growth is exploding at the seams, growing faster, bigger, wider and taller than ever before. As a result, there’s a rising demand for more distinctive urban environments with a stronger sense of place. Melbourne and Vancouver are just a few of the cities that have bolstered their identities in recent years, drawing millions of tourists and fostering a sense of community.

On a smaller scale, Barcelona’s infamous inner district El Raval is changing negative perceptions and encouraging local pride with a fresh campaign and identity centred around ravalejar, a new Spanish verb celebrating the neighbourhood’s edgy charm. Looking ahead, branding will play an even greater role in helping to humanise mega developments, alter viewpoints and bring communities together.

2. Naming

With more noise in the digital marketplace, where it will become harder to stand out, brands will streamline the path to sales by opting for naming that is simple. More monikers will have universal easy to grasp concepts that consumers can instantly connect to. Apple recently dropped its iconic “i” naming convention – now you have simple product descriptors such as Apple Watch, Apple TV and Apple Pay. Google has also transitioned to this elementary naming approach, with its Google Glass, Google Wallet and Google Play.

3. Millennials

It is no secret millennials are driving the growth of the marketplace. This particular group of consumers looks out for local, artisanal goods where quality is seen in the handmade. Forget label-reading, facts upfront and brand origin stories. Packaging of the future will look towards design that hails from the pre-digital era.

4. B2B over B2C

Move over millennials and consumer brands – the B2B world is fast realising the growing importance and usefulness of these social media tools in building relationships. And what better way to make connections, discover potential clients, share white papers and engage with communities, stakeholders and NGOs than on LinkedIn, Twitter and other dynamic platforms? These tools will become increasingly powerful, go-to resources for the future of B2B. For example, global shipping container company Maersk has become a surprising Twitter darling with more than 112,000 followers that has resulted in greater brand awareness and reputation.

5. What is social responsibility?

The quest for social responsibility has become an idea of the past – now it is simply expected and non-negotiable. In 2015, this conversation will expand to focus on value and quality with people seeking to work for and buy from companies that provide meaningful, authentic products and services.

Whether it’s making all-natural cleaning products and employing and educating at-risk teens, such as Manila’s Messy Bessy cleaners, or detailing the step-by-step rigorous process of how quality tees are perfected in apparel brand Everlane’s US factories, a standard of excellence beyond profitability will be the new norm.

6. Shift to personalised marketing

Goodbye mass distribution, hello niche markets. Brands will move towards more specialised offers to meet with consumers’ demand for personalised products. Honing social media listening, figuring out how to best leverage big data, and responding ASAP to changing customer wants will be the key to competing, with nimble businesses already on this rapid specialisation trend.

Holiday Inn, which was founded on consistency, is starting to shift its brand strategy towards more customised experiences that meet individual needs – from business travellers and families to young couples and adventurous singles. Coca-Cola proved it was a master of personalisation with the Share a Coke campaign in the US for which it printed bottles featuring 250 popular names, letting consumers search for their name on the shelf. Coca-Cola Israel took the trend a step further by printing two million labels individually designed by consumers.

7. Consumers declare their own definitions of beauty

Consumers continue to lead the charge for self-expression and individuality, with real and imagined beauty manifesting on opposite ends of the transformation spectrum. The beauty brands that face up and authentically join the conversation will experience the greatest success.

For example, Dove’s 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty spurred a revolution of body acceptance. Joining the band of companies who have ditched photoshop and size-zero models, lingerie brand Aerie launched “The Real You Is Sexy” campaign. Hence, in the coming year, more products, campaigns and social media discussions will surface on acceptance, health and dissent against a manufactured ideal.

8. Experiential marketing wins greatest customer loyalty

Getting people to love your brand is increasingly less about product benefits and more about creating unique meaningful experiences at every possible touch-point. In other words, those that bring mobile, online and in-store experiences together will be miles ahead in building community and loyalty.

Tesla’s Hong Kong design studio was built for hands-on adventure – not just the take-it-home kind. While you won’t be able to drive off with your very own car, you can do just about everything else to get the full-throttle experience – from 3D car customisation on touchscreens to sampling real materials to taking the sleek wheels for a spin.

9. The Chinese consumer comes of age

In 2015, marketers in China will have to take a cue from academics and economists and familiarise themselves with “rebalancing.” The concept, long bandied about in the ivory tower, is coming to the streets. The idea is simple: As the middle class grows and labour costs increase, profit margins shrink and a reliance on cheap exports for economic growth becomes untenable. Domestic household spending must begin to take on some of the burden.

But rebalancing is not so easy. Household consumption is about 37% of the gross domestic product, far lower than the 55% seen in most developed nations. However, in 2013, the Xi Jinping administration laid out an ambitious plan to boost consumption, which includes providing greater choice, access to credit and financial security.

To take advantage of this shift towards consumer consumption, marketers need to be aware of three major trends.

First, new policies are emphasising growth in western tier 3 cities, so those traditionally underserved areas must not be ignored. Second, access to personal credit increases demand for affordable, everyday luxuries. Finally, a key feature of the new policy encourages engagement with culture and entertainment. This has increased the Chinese consumer’s interest in novelty and variety in the goods they buy, creating an incredible opportunity for consumer brands.

10. Finance enters the mobile age

Move over plastic. Step aside wallets. Mobile payment has finally gone mainstream thanks to the launch of Apple Pay. Consumers have begun phone-swiping purchases and are leaving their logo-stamped bank and payment cards behind, making transactional providers less visible in the process. But this is just the cusp of on-the-go financial solutions. In 2015, we’ll see the rapid outcrop of innovative new apps and sites that help consumers manage their financial lives remotely, such as financial aggregator Mint.com and DIY wealth management planner Betterment.com.

To keep up with these new players, earn consumer confidence and deliver the seamless experience connected users expect, brands will need to build a stellar collection of trusted financial partnerships, retool their engines with rock-solid data security, and revamp user experiences for intuitive, real-time transactions.

11. Brands speak more like real people

Taking communications to the next decibel, brands will be pumping up their personality to engage with consumers on more human terms. We are talking plain, straightforward, hey-I’m-a-person-just-like-you honesty communication.

The oral care line Hello Products has rocked the hygiene market by making toothpaste and mouthwash sound utterly friendly and inviting. Zipcar has zoomed past the rental car competition with an approachable voice that speaks like your best bud. With technology exploding evermore opportunities to touch consumers, we’ll see even the smallest messages – from automatic alerts to texts and tweets –infused with more emotion.