This week, Creative Bridge celebrated its 17th birthday. As you well know, a lot has changed since 2000, when all we had to worry about was Nasty Nick, the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and getting ‘Oops I did it again’ out of our heads.
But it’s not just the culture that’s changed. In marketing, we can’t still think about the 4P’s as we used to. Brand owners have had to find new ways to connect and have had to accept a new, empowered customer. Here’s a selection of the changes that have radically altered how we see and do things today.
1. The internet – At the end of 1999 there were an estimated 248m people on-line (remember the trials of dial-up?). Today there are an estimated 3.7 billion worldwide and the biggest user base is in China.
2. Social media – Without the internet you couldn’t have had Facebook. Launched in 2004, it has been the springboard for a whole load of other social networks. It’s changed the way people communicate with each other and brands – giving consumers all the power.
3. E-commerce – Who would have thought in 2000 that one of the biggest retailers of this century wouldn’t even have a bricks and mortar shop and that high streets would be closing down? Now you can shop 24/7 and that is an expectation for those born in 2000, not a revelation.
4. Smartphones – You were lucky if you could play Snake on your brick of a phone in 1999, the year the Blackberry first launched. The other big change they ushered in were…
5. Digital cameras – The ability to take a picture or make a film on your phone has done more than record the minutiae of our lives. The person in the street has become the on the spot news reporter, compared to our treasured photos and grainy films of the 70s we are capturing every aspect of our lives – good and bad.
6. YouTube – Would be impossible without the internet and digital cameras. Now it is the main repository of films, adverts, lost TV shows and general pratfalls. But it has the power to start an international phenomenon, make millionaires out of families who bite fingers or show us the true horror of ‘executions’.
7. Gaming – The original PlayStation was launched in Japan in 1994. Gaming has become a bigger business than cinema with new games out-grossing blockbuster films. More importantly, it has changed social interaction and it means that TV and music are no longer the go-to entertainment that they were for the youth of the past.
8. On demand TV – Being able to watch what you want, when you want is the norm now. New ways to monetise TV and deliver exclusive content are fast becoming the norm – think Netflix and Amazon Prime. ‘Box set’ binge, anyone?
9. Women’s image – 1999 was the last of the Oxo ads with the late Lynda Bellingham as the perfect mum/wife. Since then we have been showered with images of impossibly thin and glamorous ‘celebrity’ women. The backlash created Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, celebrating real women, laying the groundwork for #ThisGirlCan.
10. Men’s image – Yes, that has changed a bit too. From being either Mr Macho Milk Tray man or the Carling lads, men can now be thoughtful, sensitive, caring dads who look after their skin. Gender roles are just as tough to understand for boys as for girls.
11. Disruptor brands – The internet has driven empowerment as well as new ways of doing things, shaking up the world of established brands. Think Uber, AirBnB and Spotify. Yes, there have always been disruptor brands but the internet has taken this to a whole new level by engaging directly with the consumer.
12. The collaborative economy – People helping each other to make money and goods is again a direct result of the internet. It started with eBay but has evolved with the likes of Etsy and Kickstarter which allows you to raise funds for your project – making a film or record through to starting your own business.
13. Brands with ethics – The philosophy here is ‘make things better’ rather than ‘making better things’. The new generation of brands have been set up to answer a specific need that has inspired an individual or group in the first place. Think Toms and their shoe giving, Better World Books or One and their mission to give everyone clean water.
14. Conversation – You can generate all the content you want as a brand but it’s useless unless it starts a genuine conversation. Only then will consumers discover you, build some convictions about a brand and ultimately convert this to value. This is how new brands build their equity and what older brands need to do to continue being relevant.
15. Collaboration – Brands are happy to let the consumer get involved with their future and have their ideas and opinions heard. A Starbucks White Cup Contest, to design the takeaway paper cup, received 4,000 submissions over three weeks and Walkers regularly run their ‘Do us a flavour’ campaign as it gets such an incredible response.
16. The hashtag – A little symbol that helps us to shift through billions of tweets to find messages with a specific theme or content. More importantly, the hashtag has brought #NationalToastDay and #DontStepOnABeeDay into our lives. Don’t forget those caps though.
17. Brexit – As if it wouldn’t make the list. A recent survey showed 22% of advertising companies have lost business due to the referendum and the post-truth world its created has encouraged the PR and journalism sector to adopt an informal manifesto to keep truth and ethics at the forefront.