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Brands in the era of absolute transparency

8 December 2017 David Wood

I had a very useful day at Most Contagious this week –in the unlikely event you don’t know, it’s a conference about innovation in marketing.

Here’s a quick note about things I thought were interesting and important picked at random from a wonderful selection that was put in front of us.

For example …will disrupt insurance, but in a refreshingly clever way. They take a flat 20% fee. Any excess after claims have been paid is distributed to charities nominated by customers. People are less inclined to make false claims when the real loser is the charity they nominated. Claims can take as long as 60 seconds to process and pay. You read correctly – 60 seconds. have created a range of unbranded products. They talk about “BrandTax” which is the margin national brands charge in premiums of between 40% and 320% higher than their equivalent products. Particularly interesting is the way they portray products on the website; revealing every detail about ingredients, provenance and so on. This is Naomi Klein meets Amazon.

Transparency was indeed the big theme of the conference. Transparency and Trust. As I mentioned in a recent blog, the days when Corporate Social Responsibility was what you did only when you knew people were watching are over. Technology means that transparency is about to be mandatory. This is fashion brand Everlade who reveal every possible detail behind their products including, for example, details about the factory where the garments are made

Another fashion player, Honest are positioning themselves as the world’s first 100% transparent business

And this is about to get really interesting. Aspiration Bank in the US has all of the trappings of a challenger – fee transparency, ethical investing and so on. But the app also helps guide how we spend. The “Aspiration Impact Measurement” enables customers to see the sustainable impact of their purchasing and allows them to compare different offers. Really worth a look and a think. How about this? Supposing you put all of this data into AI systems like Alexa and transparency can blow the whole brand thing sky high as choice becomes determined by factors beyond the function of marketing or control of the company.

Technology will also disrupt in a totally different way. This time through a tech we love at Heavenly – the Blockchain. are the Blockchain of food. They use the immutable distributed ledger to track the provenance of food. Food companies have glibly talked about “farm to fork” for years. This stuff is now real. Cameras and other sensors watch and track millions of tomatoes as they ripen, are harvested and transported and displayed for sale. Claims of “organic” cotton and coffee, food miles and ethical animal treatment will soon no longer be a matter of conjecture and misplaced trust and become a matter of data.

Loomia make soft flexible circuitry and are fast blowing up another part of marketing – “customer journey” mapping and segmentation. Blowing it up by removing all of the supposition and extrapolation of information and replacing it with real data. Loomia technology in our clothes will for example record whether people who buy North Face really climb mountains. Possibly something North Face don’t really want to know. The idea of ‘Brand Image” is called into question when we get the data behind what we already know to be true – for example that most Range Rovers never leave tarmac. Loomia can track when we wear garments, how often, where, how hot or cold it is, whether it was raining and on and on. Real stuff, not just what the manufacturer of the buyer believe to be the case.

The data will really connect users with manufacturers so that NPD is about real information not expensive and inaccurate hypothecated market research. Of course, the data exchange has to be mutually beneficial. But we’re already very used to that. We don’t mind Waze knowing where we are because it gets us home faster. Products will become more relevant – for example when you rebuy – “we notice you run a lot on grass, you might think about these running shoes because they have a particular…”

On to the most personal of data. Our DNA.

We’re getting used to DNA sampling being more a part of life as collecting the data becomes simpler and cheaper. Pedigree and Wisdom Panel offer doggy DNA tests as many owners find out that the dog they think they bought isn’t the dog they actually bought…

And commercial applications of Genomics are now blooming.

In communications for example, Jigsaw supported their excellent Heart Immigration campaign by their staff revealing their own complex genetic backgrounds to stress the importance of cultural freedom of movement. Made all the more interesting by the happy prospect of a clever and beautiful Hollywood actress marrying a young English Prince of German and Greek descent with a clear blood line via Seville to the Prophet Mohammed.

So, get used to the next big thing in data – genomics. Here for example is Helix. They apply your gene sequence to hundreds of different products – so for example what kind of nutrition, health products, skins care best suits your sequence. Meantime are already brewing beers that will appeal to your particular taste profile, Vinome will help you explore wines that are more likely to suit your taste buds. It’s endless, it’s here and everyone needs to be thinking how it impacts their business.

This was only one session in the morning (admittedly the best one) and immensely enjoyable.

See you there next year.

I’ve just no idea where.

Heavenly Brand Agency -
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