We obviously don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. But my prediction is this: if you don’t start to think about the future and how your brand will fit within it (and better yet, solve a need), you will be less likely to succeed.
For example, let’s take the future of laundry.
According to the United Nations, by 2030 half of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas, due to climate change and rapid urbanization. Obviously, a washing machine or laundry detergent brand would need to think about these types of predictions very seriously in order to continually improve their product and succeed in their industry. Perhaps they would develop a powder that works in minimal water – or with no water at all (wrap your head around that!).
It isn’t enough for brands to be relevant, credible and differentiated in order to succeed. They need to incorporate foresight, too, and work this insight into their brand strategy.
Data mining is a huge part of future thinking for brands. Forward-thinking organizations would be amiss without using data and predictive analytics as part of a competitive advantage. However, data strategies may not be possible for a boutique firm. Below are a few examples of ideas that even the smallest brands can begin to incorporate when thinking about the future.
Scan for patterns and trends
Quantitative online data has its place, but don’t look solely to that as a resource. Instead, look for patterns of behavior. What are people searching for? What information are they sharing? What photos are they tagging? These are the indicators of what’s buzzing.
Look at the past
True, past behavior isn’t necessarily indicative of future results (thank you, financial advisors). But historical events can be used as a good gauge to anticipate the outcome of current developments.
Create brand growth scenarios
Brainstorm and identify pathways in which your brand can grow. Going back to the laundry detergent example, a company might examine what a world would look like with limited water. While you’ll need concrete facts to support your scenarios, this exercise can reveal insights for the future success of your brand, and help you map a potential strategy for growth.
You don’t need to start big. You can begin with simple exercises, like visioning. Think about your brand’s current situation, and move on to envision desirable futures. Then, work with your team to identify specific ways to move toward the desired future. If you are a small firm, spending time working with scenarios like this can be insightful.
Start today to think about the future and put some ideas in motion. And please let me know your thoughts. Do you have tips on brand foresight?