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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | 2020 brand review.

Discussing the wild ride for brands in 2020.

2020 brand review.

It’s been quite the ride! So, how did brands respond?

Of course, COVID was one of the biggest influences on brands this year, but besides a global pandemic, there were other lessons that we learned on the way.

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Recorded on December 4th, 2020


Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is brand. What we want to talk about this week is “2020 in review”, so buckle up, let’s talk about what happened this year. So obviously, we’re dealing with a global pandemic. And that is probably one of the biggest influences on brand that we’ve had this year. But I think that there’s a lot of other lessons that we’ve learned as we’ve gone through all of this too. And to be honest, a lot of things are not going to go back to the way they were. So guys, what do you think are some of the key lessons that we’ve learned that we can take into 2021 from a brand perspective, and really make sure that we’re doing our brand and marketing the way we should and reaching out in a world that’s forever changed?

Marko Zonta: 0:50

I mean, we all know that, you know, this was a challenging year for companies, for brands. What stands out for me is the fact that technology played a huge role in what companies were actually doing. And kind of on to sites like some companies that were very technically advanced, really took advantage of that. And were able to pivot very quickly in their messaging and their positioning in the way they reach out to clients. And companies that don’t really use technology as much or chose to be behind when it comes to that part of their business have to very quickly transition. And I think that that was a very interesting play, I guess, in terms of brand positioning, and what was happening in that space, because of technology.

Brad Breininger: 1:37

Yeah, technology is definitely a game changer. And I think one of the things that we’ve seen through all of this is just how quickly you have to get up to speed and always be on it. You know, they’ve made some predictions in some of the articles that I’ve read that technology leaped ahead by about anywhere between five and 10 years, from where I mean, it was always on a momentum track, but it really leaped ahead through all of this. So technology, that’s that’s one, what else, what else are some of the other,

Gabi Gomes: 2:07

I was gonna I was gonna add to the technology piece. For those that already had e commerce, for example, it was easier to implement new ways or different ways of shopping such as the curbside pickup, right? So with you already being on an e commerce platform, being able to make that switch to offer the new type of service. So my point on that is to keep an open mind and to listen, keep your ear to the ground on that. Because that goes back to the whole pivoting thing quickly, being able to pivot quickly to the environment around you to the surroundings around you to be able to move that make that adjustment such as something as simple as curbside pickup,

Marko Zonta: 2:49

That doesn’t have to be just large corporations, that can be everything from large corporations all the way down to a very small business, like a restaurant or a store or anything like that. Yeah, I think that Gabi, you bring up a really good point. Keep an open mind. And and I would actually add to that use a part of your budget for that purpose. I mean, we’re talking about brand here and marketing. But technology is an element of that. And that has to be built into your plan overall.

Brad Breininger: 3:17

Yeah, and the technology is important. But I would even carve off commerce and e-commerce as its own subject area, because it’s, again, it’s not even just the machines of the technology around commerce and e commerce, but it’s, it’s being able to offer, you know, discounts or rethinking how you come to the marketplace and allow people to pay or interact with your brand. And all of those elements of commerce go even bigger. And I think what a lot of organizations have seen is that e commerce is one piece of it. And it’s tied to the technology. But then it’s also this whole area of you know, are you priced correctly? Are you competitive? If you’re a smaller business? Are you competing with some of the big box stores and what they’re offering. So I think commerce can be its whole own area that that organizations from a brand perspective need to consider.

Gabi Gomes: 4:10

I also think that you need to keep diversification in mind. I think diversification is key. And this could be anywhere from b2c or b2b. Example b2b: you know, if you only put out a certain set of communication or used it, diversify your marketing channels, do the audio, do the podcast, don’t just go and only use one medium, email or whatnot. Make sure your platforms are diversified. And diversity could also mean on the product side as well. In terms of if we look at the grocery store, offering the delivery or offering the e commerce not just keeping just the store or maybe offering recipes for the materials that you’re selling inside your store, that kind of thing. diversify your offerings beyond just bricks and mortar or your products that you’re selling.

Vincent Champenois: 5:02

There’s also something of its simplicity simplifying processes, we can’t do things the way we used to before. So for instance, no banks offer more things you can do online, with your banks, I think of paying with my credit card contactless payments, they raised the amount that you can pay with it. So all that sort of little things that somehow makes your life easier because well, we can’t do the things like we did before or even, I’m thinking of Service Ontario, for instance, where you used to have to go there in person to apply for a specific thing, bring some bring some documentation, that sort of things. Now, processes are getting simpler. And I think that that’s really something to take into consideration and to keep in the future.

Marko Zonta: 5:48

And that brings up that whole idea of the user experience, you know, some brands, obviously, do an amazing job of user experience overall. And a lot of brands were really, you know, behind on that. And I think that this actually really kind of puts a spotlight on user experience. Because, you know, you have to be able to help people move through whatever they’re trying to do it or trying to buy something, or subscribe to something or you know, renew something, whatever that may be, you know, having that focus, and really understand your audience, what they’re actually trying to do is really important.

Jeremy Linskill: 6:26

Yeah, for me, it listened to all this kind of stuff. I think too, like going back to simplification and things like that, like, it all sort of alludes to being able to do things faster and quicker, you know, to be able to make a payment quickly to be able to make a decision quickly. So I really think that, you know, all of those things lead to that to be able to pivot quickly. You know, quickness, I think, is really a big part of this, you know, and we’ve learned it, you know, and that, and what, what that translates for me, from quickness, to fast is really efficiency, being able to do things efficiently, allows you much more play at the table, to be able to move and change and diversify and all that kind of stuff. So I really think it’s, you know, cutting away a lot of the red tape within organizations with, you know, between the businesses and the consumers, all that stuff, you know, so that’s a theme that I’ve seen over 2020 is looking at efficiency for sure.

Vincent Champenois: 7:23

And, and I think, of course, we have to mention the attention to the customer. And I think that a lot of businesses have realized how important it is to have customers. And you look at number of customers you have lost and you look at the ones you still have, what do you have to do for those customers to stay or to come back if you have lost them? So I think for some businesses, or more globally to some industries, it has reminded them how important the customer actually is, what are his expectations, perhaps even demands. So I think that’s also something that is important to mention. And that has been quite visible in some industries during the damage.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 8:04

Another key factor, the I think we’re forgetting is health awareness. So we’ve talked about technology, we’ve talked about pivoting and the speed, things have improved. But customers clients are more aware of their health now. They’re thinking about how clean everything is, how secure everything is. So brands, companies do need to be aware of that too. How to keep our customers healthy.

Marko Zonta: 8:33

Because everybody is at home, eating more exercising less and stressing out, right? So one of the fears,

Gabi Gomes: 8:41

I would say health and safety, right? It’s health and safety, they go hand in hand,

Brad Breininger: 8:46

And you know that you bring up a good point, Gabby and that yes, there are a lot of people at home, eating more and exercising less. But then there’s also a lot of people who are at they’re on the front lines who because of economic situation, or whatever it might be, they don’t have that same privilege. And, and the other thing that we’ve seen here is a real dichotomy in society about people who have those luxuries and people who don’t. And I think brands really need to understand the full breadth of their audience and the full scope of their audience and what people are dealing with in different areas and different levels and what that means to their brand going forward.

Gabi Gomes: 9:22

I’ll bring back diversity and in a different way, inclusion and making sure that your brand is inclusive to all I love seeing turn that happened in 2020 with respect to advertising, and seeing black families having Christmas, whatever, whatever instead of the traditional white, you know, whatever. I love that brands took a bigger stance on that and start showing more inclusivity a reflection of who we are as a society up in Canada. I really love that. And I think that’s here to stay for sure.

Brad Breininger: 9:57

Yeah, that’s not going anywhere quickly.

Jeremy Linskill: 9:59

Yeah, I mean, I Also like that the risks that organizations and businesses are having to take and pushing the limit and pushing themselves out there. I think that’s pretty interesting as well. Gabby and I were talking before about Warner, Warner, yeah, Warner on HBO back. So they just came out with the fact that they’re next year going to be releasing their movies in the theaters and available at home at the same time seeing them kind of take that risk. And finally getting to that point being like, okay, we’re going to go for it. And I don’t know what the the change is going to be. I don’t know if it’s gonna work. I don’t know if not. But I admire them for doing it.

Gabi Gomes: 10:33

And why is that because standing still is not an option. Not an option,

Unknown: 10:38

They can’t keep pushing their movie releases, right? We talked about this.?

Gabi Gomes: 10:43

Yeah. iterate or die, iterate or die.

Jeremy Linskill: 10:45

Yep. And a lot of businesses are doing this right now. Right? Like this is this is the thing, they’re figuring out new ways. They’re breaking rules and taking chances and all of that, and, you know, in that in that plays into accelerating society, and things like that, as well, like, there’s, there’s a lot of interesting things that have come out of this. And it’s interesting, I think 2021 is going to be an interesting year as well for for a lot of different reasons.

Marko Zonta: 11:08

And I think, to that point, you know, at the beginning of all this in 2020, I think a lot of businesses basically put things on hold. So you know, for the first three months, six months, they put things on hold, because nobody really knew how long this was gonna last or what kind of effect it’s going to have. And I think a lot of brands are starting to realize now that this is not not only not going to go away, and people have changed their way of doing things, whether it’s entertainment, or shopping, or traveling, whatever it may be, it is changed forever. So you know, to what extent I guess we’ll see that over the next, you know, two or three years. But the reality is that things have changed and will remain that way. Now, it’s really just a matter of how do you know how do those brands adjust to kind of that reopening as it’s going to happen? And how much of that watch is over.

Gabi Gomes: 12:01

I also think that things got a little bit more local. As much as we went global with technology and the ability for everybody to shop anywhere, I also feel that we got a little bit more closer to one another and a little bit smaller and a little bit more local and a little bit more relevant. Right. I think in some aspects, we’re seeing that a lot in the cities supporting local Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that feel that keeping it local is is a theme we’re going to see for a while,

Marko Zonta: 12:31

I’m afraid that that’s more of a political thing and less about what is really going on, and what should be going on. In today’s world being local is I mean, it’s great that you support your local restaurant or coffee shop or, you know, store small business. That’s amazing, for sure. But I think that there are much, much bigger issues that require a global involvement. And I think that that’s more of a political statement. And personally, I hope that that actually goes away fairly quickly. Because, you know, we can deal with kind of localized issues and not look at the big picture.

Gabi Gomes: 13:06

Yeah, for sure. If you’re talking about the things like the environment and whatnot. Yeah, those, for sure, global, but I think, you know, small businesses, because of the pandemic and shutdowns and lock downs, have seen their value and their struggles. So I think there is a bigger shift to helping the smaller brands, the smaller businesses and perhaps less so the, you know, cost goes in the Walmarts, let’s say right, or basically, you know, being a little more mindful with spend,

Brad Breininger: 13:35

but are those big brands going to go away? Is the question. I mean, I think that if you if you look at the reality, they become more successful than ever. And if you look at who has really done well, from a brand perspective, through a lot of this, it’s been some of those big brands. So, you know, finding that combination between the local and the more global organizations and brands, I think it’s it’s going to be that mix and understanding the mix. I think part of the issue is that everyone always thought that the big brands would always be there no matter what, and that the local brands would just be on the street no matter what. So I think there was a lot of taking things for granted. And I think what this has put in people’s minds, is the idea that brands can go away, whether they’re big brands, or whether they’re small, local brands, they can easily go away if they haven’t engaged if they haven’t been supported if they haven’t, you know made inroads with their customers. Really, that whole list of the things that we’ve talked about has become so crucial to all of these brands that nothing can be taken for granted anymore. The reality is, is that everything is changing on a very quick basis. And you can’t take anything for granted. Just because you like a restaurant, you can’t think, Okay, well other people are going to that restaurant even though I may not be that restaurant may be gone by the time you go to order your favorite dish or same with a store. You know, whether it’s a local florist or something like that, if they’re not being supported in a way that allows for them to stay in business, they’re going to be gone. And Main Street is going to look very different after all of this is over.

Marko Zonta: 15:14

Yeah, to, you know, to the point that Jeremy brought up earlier, for especially, you know, for small, smaller brands, I shouldn’t say small brands, but smaller brands. uniqueness, I think is going to be now more important than ever, because you have some of the large brands out there that are taking care of kind of like I would say, general things, especially in retail, and any smaller brands, newer brands, it will, it will all have to be about uniqueness, they have to really figure out, what is it that they’re actually bringing to the market, that cannot be, you know, taken care of by some of the bigger brand. You know, again, it doesn’t really matter whether that’s, you know, in retail, or consulting or, you know, legal firms, so whatever that may be, what is it and I mean, there is a lot of risk in that because the more unique you are, the higher your risk is. But the other side of that is that, you know, if you actually hit the target, right, you will also succeed, right? So and I think the brands will really have to focus on that in, you know, in the new year and going forward.

Brad Breininger: 16:18

Yeah, I think that the most important element of all of this is for brands to listen. And, you know, we’ve said that in almost every podcast that we’ve put together, and that’s this idea of being able to listen and understand the landscape in which your brand has to exist. So the bottom line is that 2020 has been a year of learning, it’s been a year of highs and lows, it’s been a year of pivoting. But at the end of the day, there’s some really key learnings and elements that we need to consider. Number one, technology, technology is not going anywhere, if anything, you know, we have to be ready and willing to change and understand where technology is going so that we can get on board with it and make sure that our brands are reflecting the changes in technology and what people expect. There’s commerce, being able to connect with people and, and sell your product or sell your service, sell your wares. And make that as easy as possible for people. We need to diversify, looking at our channels and how we communicate and how we market and advertise. And really making sure that that diversity is really built into how we connect and communicate with our audiences. We need to simplify, make things easier, no one wants to deal with difficult ways of doing things or understanding your brand. If your brand is difficult, people are just going to walk away speed and efficiency that is really become something that people expect if you’re not quick and efficient, people are out and you don’t have a lot of time to really get them back. So making sure that that speed and efficiency is there. Customer focus. At the end of everything, it all comes down to customers, they know what they want. And and you know, there are many instances where we need to decide, okay, this is where we think trends are going. But if we’re if we’re making those decisions for our businesses and our brands and not listening to customers, then there’s a real disconnect. And if anything is going to last beyond this period in time, it’s going to be that ability to understand what customers want and be able to pivot to what they need and what they’re looking for. Inclusion. We live in a very diverse society, not just in Canada, but globally, more and more, everybody comes from a different perspective, everybody has a different history that they bring to the table and making sure that we understand that inclusion, and the fact that we don’t have some homogenous audience that a simple, straightforward single message is going to connect with them. That’s just crazy. In today’s world. This idea of inclusion is something that has been on the fringe. And I think that a lot of brands have dealt with it over the last several years. But if anything, this pandemic has created a momentum that we will not go back from nor should we where inclusion has to be an integral part of how brands communicate, and how they connect with their audiences being able to take risk and make changes, you know, in a quick way, not in a well let’s do a three month evaluation, and then we’ll do a six month rollout. And then we’ll evaluate for another six months and then we’ll make our final decision. Brands are moving at the speed of light at this point. And I think that if they’re not ready and willing and able to make lasting changes and then go with those changes, they’re going to fall by the wayside. This mix of global and local. Yes, there are global organizations that are getting bigger and more powerful and making more money. But then there are also local organizations that are doing things that those big organizations can Which is offering products and services quickly or offering a much more integrated customer experience. And I think that that mix of global and local is ultimately what is going to determine where your brand fits on the on the continuum. And where you sit on that continuum is going to be very much determined not only by where you reside, but how you offer your services, or how you offer your products and making sure that all of those things are going to be part of who you are going forward. And at the end of the day, uniqueness and originality is going to win over everything. Having 20 businesses that are all exactly the same is no longer required. You know, we’ve seen it through Amazon, I mean, Amazon is just so big and so powerful, and they’ve just become bigger and more powerful through all of this. So if you just need to buy a widget at the lowest price, you can easily go online on Amazon and get it and it can be delivered, no problem, you know, probably within the next little while, it’ll be delivered by drones, or self driving truck, whatever it might be. But the reality is, is that if your uniqueness doesn’t speak to what your customers want, and you can’t find your niche, then you’re probably not going to be able to have a brand. because more and more some of those commodity like products and services are being eaten up by some of the big players. So the real opportunity for the smaller players and the smaller brands is to have the ability to really get in there and offer something that people can’t get anywhere else. So those are some really interesting lessons that we’ve learned. And it goes to show us you know, upon reflection, we named this podcast, Everything is brand. And you know, because from our perspective, everything that you do applies to your brand. And you have to make sure that you’re connecting with customers and clients. But the reality is, is that one of the things that we’ve learned is every word, every picture, every sound, every interaction, every customer is brand. And you can’t deny the fact that your business is going to be successful, if you understand better than the next organization, that all of those interactions are going to give you that advantage. So remember, everything is brand. We’ve proven it in 2020 and we’re going to prove it again in 2021. So join us next week we’re going to talk a little bit more about what 2021 might look like, based on what we learned this year. And remember, Everything is brand.

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