2015: A new era in how brands improve the lives of their customers

Here we are, 15 years into the new millennium.  We’ve seen quite a few changes in the past decade and a half.  Internet, mobile and social (media) revolutions have changed how people interact with each other, as well as, the world around them.

And so it clearly makes sense that people want to interact differently with the brands they choose to do business with.  Some brands already understand this – they understand that their customers don’t just want to purchase a product or service.  They understand that what their customers actually want is a way to make their lives easier, simpler and most importantly, better.  They understand that they need to make the purchase process seamless, purchase decisions too. And they understand that if their customers aren’t happy for whatever reason, they had better figure out a way to make them happy, or risk losing them.

Brands like Amazon and Nespresso understand this.  Amazon continues to find new ways to make the shopping experience seamlessly instantaneous – look at Amazon Now. Likewise Nespresso make the in-store, at home, or at work coffee tasting experience one that makes the customer feel refined and elegant.  Over the last couple of years, many brands have begun to follow the path blazed by these customer favorites.  But most still have not figured out how to really improve the lives of their customers.  2015 is going to be the year that all brands (start to really figure it out and) embrace a new way of doing business. Here are two big things that brands will focus on in the coming year:

Brand Partnerships across the Mecosystem

Brands are now realizing what their customers have known all along; no single brand can solve all of a customer’s needs.  And customers have a lot of them.  So customers choose a number of brands as part of their personal “mecosystem,” each one solving a specific need.  The savviest brands now realize that, even if they can identify their customers’ needs, they can’t solve every single one of them.  So, instead of hoping that they are part of that mecosystem, leading brands are partnering with other brands to combine and solve the holistic needs of their mutual customers.   For example, Evernote have been able to build an incredible product that makes it really easy to keep track of notes across a variety of platforms.  But they’ve also realized that people aren’t quite ready to get rid of paper and pen just yet and so they’ve partnered with Moleskine and Post-It. Another brand leading the way on this is Apple; Apple Pay is a partnership with merchants, banks and credit card companies that may be the best chance for the long promised mobile wallet revolution.  Meanwhile, Apple’s Health app is set up, not as a replacement for existing ‘wearables’ but as a complement to them.   Look for more and more brands that partner with each other in 2015 as a way to solve the holistic needs of their shared customers.

Pop Up Brands and a new look at Brand Strategy and Architecture

There’s a clear trend towards a culture of entrepreneurialism; increases in the number of start-ups, side-preneur ventures, crowd-funding and in-house cross-functional innovation teams.  As costs of entry decrease and rapid-prototyping capabilities increase, Individuals, brands and industries are getting better at launching new products into the market.   We’re seeing an explosion of new brands as well as sub-brands and brand extensions.  For example Uber, in 2014, launched UberRush (a courier service), UberFamily (cars with car seats), UberPool (ridesharing) and U4B (Uber For Business). Traditional brands are getting into the game as well (e.g. Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True).   But, as companies found it easier to launch new products in 2014, in 2015 they will realize that they need to rethink their approach to brand strategy and brand architecture.   New questions will emerge for every product launch:  Should this be a new brand, sub-brand or brand extension?  Should we have a separate ‘test & learn’ brand?  How do we allocate our resources?  How many brands should we maintain?  How do we make our brand house easily understood by consumers? One of the most interesting strategies could be to develop a “Pop Up Brand” strategy, whereby companies plan for rapid brand launches, aggressive support and controlled retirement, all in a 3-5 year horizon.  Akin to the Zara approach to fashion or the Japanese soda market, brand teams could plan a quick ‘get in and get out’ strategy.   However brands choose to answer these questions in 2015, look for them all to develop a new set of brand strategy and architecture guidelines and decision trees in 2015.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that brands and their customers are empowered like never before. The old rules have changed and brands are realizing that their marketing strategies should reflect the new reality.  As brands focus on improving the quality of their customers’ lives they need to rewrite the rules for how to do so.  Don’t get left behind as other brands evolve! - Philip Ryan

Stay tuned for more thinking about what brands and businesses have in store in 2015. More to come after the New Year….

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It’s been a big year for businesses and brands, and as 2014 draws to a close, we take stock of the impressive thought leadership that has influenced our industry.

If you missed these articles the first time round, here they are for your reading pleasure. We’ve narrowed it down to the seven must-reads before the ball drops:

1. Last January, IBM researchers and advisors wrote about innovation, new patterns and data– an insider view on how their clients took advantage of opportunities generated by the explosion in digital information and tools.

2. James Surowiecki raised the dialogue in the New Yorker about the value of brands in today’s age, – and concluded that brands are ever more powerful and valuable.

3. McKinsey Quarterly explored the power of digital and how it influences strategy – and discussed six critical decisions to be made by CEOs.

4. Brian Solis hit the mark in this report on Digital Darwinism and Digital Transformation. It is NOT about technology but about consumers, a point of view we strongly believe in at Vivaldi Partners.

5. Another HBR piece made the interesting distinction between value-creating and value-capturing innovations – asking ‘what opportunities to capture value are you missing?

6. This landmark study by WOMMA offers the definite proof that the concept of social currency is a powerful driver of sales. (Disclaimer: Vivaldi Partners invented the concept of social currency in 2009 and has studied its impact on brand equity for the last five years.)

7. And Michael Porter rounds off the list with his discussion about a new group of technologies – smart, connected products and how they transform business.

Take it slow and steady – one a day and you’ll be caught up for New Year’s Day.

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Here’s to Listening Louder in 2015

Antonio Vivaldi believed in listening. His baroque compositions connected listeners through the poetic power of their beautifully evocative harmonies.

Over the years, our namesake has inspired us in many ways. So it’s only fitting that in our office we work to the beat of music (and that our New York team’s holiday party ended in karaoke duets!). Notes drifting across our desks connect us to one another and keep our afternoons moving, fueled by debates over our eclectic musical tastes.

On a recent afternoon, we reflected on the many ways in which music has been shared and enjoyed since Antonio Vivaldi gathered his fans around a harpsichord. Are cassette tapes going to be retro-cool anytime soon? Maybe, maybe not – but we’re reminded that the only breakthroughs that truly matter are the ones that bring us closer together. How aligned with our thinking and our work! Truly, innovations are only worth the value that they create in our busy daily lives.

To celebrate the power of music, we put together a collection of share-worthy office tunes representing what matters most to us: connections, new beginnings, community and fresh perspectives.

Join the fun on Spotify for some holiday cheer and year-round inspiration. You’ll find a bunch of beautiful voices, some groovy lite rock tunes and several new pop anthems—so listen up. Add your favorite tunes directly on Spotify or send us a request (tweet us @VivaldiPartners).

Share the soundtrack. And together, we’ll #listenlouder.

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Are we already getting sentimental about 2014?

This week’s press seems nostalgic, with an overview of the amazing tech innovations of the year, including invisibility cloaks, smart lenses, mind readers and how wearables are already changing the workplace. And reporting on breakthroughs coming to fruition after a year of hard work, like the roll-out of IBM and Apple’s collaboration.

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”If you try a lot of things, one might work“ – Tom Peters.

Business success and innovation can only be discovered when we’re open to failure. We, therefore, need to learn how to fail; we need to create organizations and an environment that accepts failure as an invaluable learning tool.

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