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Discussing about the future of online and offline branding

Branding: offline and online.

There’s been a huge move to online because of the pandemic. What happens when this is all over and we move back to in-person?

Will we ever go back in full force? How has this affected our routines? And, how should brands react? Will there be a bigger connection between online and offline in the future?

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Recorded on May 31st, 2021

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s everything is brand. This week, we want to talk about how we’re going to move from the online world back into the offline world and how brands are going to readapt to where we were before, let’s discuss. During all of these shutdowns and everything that’s been going on in the world, the move to online for brands, particularly b2b and consumer, as well, but really in the b2b area, there’s been a huge move to the online world. And people have really gotten used to that. What happens when this is over? And we have to move back to the offline world? Are we going to go back in full force, do you think? Or is online always going to become the primary way of communication and marketing from here on out? What do you think?

Marko Zonta: 

it’s interesting how, when all of this started to happen, brands kind of shifted from offline to online very quickly, because they have to, and it’s gonna be interesting to see how brands transition back to offline, to a certain extent. And I think technology is gonna continue to play a huge role going online was was a huge push, because technology has to catch up on a lot of the requirements businesses have. And now with offline, I think that whatever offline is going to look like technology is going to play a huge role in that I think that there is going to be a much bigger connection between online and offline now where I think in the past, it was much more there were two almost separate things, where going forward, I think we’re going to see more of a merger between those two ways of doing business.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, I mean, I think that it was difficult in the very beginning to go as online as we had to. People weren’t necessarily used to using all of the tools, they were aware of them like taking zoom, for example, people were aware of kind of video chatting and video meetings, but people hadn’t used them to the extent that they were kind of thrown into. So everything from update meetings, to planning meetings, to facilitated meetings, to training all had to go online. And I think that people had to get up to speed really, really fast. But they are up to speed now. And I think that people are a lot more comfortable with the online world than they were previously.

Gabi Gomes: 

My question is, what’s the appetite for human connection now? I think we’ve been in this mode of everything being virtual. I’m just wondering what the appetite is going to be for human connection? Are we all going to be so fearful of seeing another human even being less than six feet away from another human? Or are we going to embrace it, Is it going to be like that extra gum commercial, where we’re all just going to hug each other and go towards each other and have some big Kumbaya? That’s where I’m kind of intrigued to see where this is going to go. I know, we want to talk about b2b. But you know, b2c, let’s talk about the stores, for example, opening up and whatnot. I think we’ve been so trained. And I’m sure Jer has some thoughts on this. But we’ve been so trained to like buy everything online, will we go into a store will we kind of I, for one still need to purchase shoes by trying them on or purchase clothing by feeling fabrics and whatnot. We’ve kind of all gotten used to doing all of that online. How will that look like? Will there be a greeter? You know, one of the things that I always say, between online and offline is you walk into a store, you get a very different vibe. You get people you get a greeter, you get somebody to help you out with your purchases, you go online, completely different things. It’s very transactional very, I’m here to get a T shirt. I’m here to get x checkout, see you later. There’s no Oh, look at that really cool, like whatever thing and add that and grab that right? I for one am really interested to see what’s going to happen with the human connection part of this piece. And that applies both b2b and b2c.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah well, you bring up a really good point, Gabi, in that you talked about the stores, but I think that that happens in the b2b area as well, when you go to a meeting, especially if you get a new client, if you’re in the service area, you get a new client, you go to meet them, there’s a lot of connection that’s established in those face to face meetings, especially right up front. And I think that one of the trends that I’ve seen is that it’s much easier to be disassociated with people a little bit in this online environment. It’s not that you don’t like these people or that you don’t feel that what they’re providing is good, but there’s not that association that you get from face to face meeting from a handshake or an elbow touch or whatever. Like there’s something that happens in the real life contact area that I think is missing from this, and I think a lot of people are really missing that, you know, we have our families and we have our bubbles, but that extended social interaction. I think people are craving that. What do you guys think?

Marko Zonta: 

Absolutely. I think that that’s just human nature. I think whether it’s in a business meeting or in our shopping or whatever it may be, entertainment related anything like that. I think that we’re all craving that human interaction. That’s why I said earlier, I think that technology is going to play a big role in that. And to Gabi’s point, whether it’s kind of on the shopping consumer side of things online is a lot more transactional. And I think that there are big opportunities to turn that into a positive experience, not just a simple transaction. Now, online is a bit of a tricky thing where, some people want to just go and do the transactional, they know exactly what they’re looking for, they want in and out. And that’s it, there are opportunities where you can actually talk about the product, you can explain your services, you can really add a lot more content to your website to build that relationship. You can even chat with somebody if you have questions about the product and stuff like that. So I think that in the online world, I think that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But definitely with the offline portion of it, I think everybody is craving that human interaction. So it’s really just a matter of, are we going to feel safe? And how do we actually create those safe environments?

Jeremy Linskill: 

I don’t know if I agree I’m, I’m on the other side,

Gabi Gomes: 

Let me guess you don’t want to see another human ever again, is that it?

Vincent Champenois: 

Maybe just certain humans, Gabi? Yeah, like I’m thinking about all the guys that said, and I mean, being that it is online, and all of that, it kind of then comes down to being about the service that you provide, or the work that you provide, and less about the relationships and more of actually being good at what you do, which I actually think is a good thing, it puts people on their toes, and they have to actually step up and deliver on things as opposed to just being about personalities, where you may have that good connection with them, but they may not be good at what they do. And that makes it difficult, then to separate what you need to get done from the personality. So I mean, there are competitive advantages to both sides I think. For me, it washes out a bit of the small talk and the time wasting and lets us be a little bit more efficient on things. I guess I’m on the other side in terms of that, because I do like efficiency, I do like to be able to do lots of things in a short amount of time. And I find that the digital world allows me a little bit more to do that. But I’m behind the curtain a little bit. So, you

Marko Zonta: 

it’s interesting that you bring that up, because, know, and we always talk about this when we’re developing brands, and there is the rational side, and then there is that emotional experience side of brands, right. And I think that, yes, being online and being very efficient and all of that is definitely a big part of it, and the quality of service, the quality of products, all of that, to me, that’s a given. Like, I think that product should be good a service should be good no matter what. But then there is the experience part of things where you actually have a connection, an emotional connection, or some kind of a relationship with the brand or the people who represent that brand or represent that business or whatever it may be. And I think that that’s the part there comes the loyalty there comes the experience, interaction and all of that. And I think that’s the part that quite frankly, is really, really important to a strong brand presence and longevity as well. Because it’s very easy to switch from one product to a different product when you have no connection to it in any other way.

Vincent Champenois: 

I mean, my connection to things is I guess different there right like it’s about low cost, it’s about a good product, it’s about all of those like that’s where I make my connections to brands, not necessarily through the personality of the brand, but actually delivering on on the thing that I need it to deliver on. So there are different ways to connect with the brand. The idea I’m trying to play with and I’m really thinking outside is brands have been able to somehow translate their offline experience into an online experience. Now if we go back to offline, we really hope I really hope as as a customer, or just as a person that they’re going to be able to learn from their online experience and apply it to their offline experience. Just to go back to the practicality versus feelings about a brand, I’m really with you, Jer, when I want to buy something, I really want to know that the product is available, I want to make sure that if I’m buying a pair of jeans, they are the right size and right color, I don’t really care if the person that’s going to sell you those jeans, is going to be nice or not. I just want to make sure that those jeans are good,when I want to buy jeans online, I know exactly where they are. I know exactly when I’m going to get them. I know exactly what size is going to arrive. Now when I go to the Bay, they run out of jeans, they have no idea where they are. They can order them for me and they’re going to arrive in three weeks, I’m going to get the wrong colour and the wrong size. I really hope that somehow they’re getting to be able to apply online principles to their offline services and products and shops. That’s what I don’t know. I’m thinking out loud again. So I don’t know if I make sense. But to me, it’s getting very frustrating in the real offline world. It’s getting very frustrating for me to wait for instance, because now when you have a zoom call, everybody agrees to meet at 4pm and everybody’s going to be there at 4pm. Now in the real world, you have to be on time to a doctor’s appointment and yet you have to wait 15 minutes in his waiting room. That creates a lot of frustration, especially when you know that the four people next to you might actually have COVID. So what I really hope is going to happen is whatever is happening online right now is going to somehow translate to the offline world.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, the expectations, I think, are changing. What people could get away with before, they won’t be able to get away with going forward. And this happens on both the online side and the offline side, there’s plenty of folks who were not prepared and ready for the changes that happened online for their brands, they weren’t prepared for ordering, they weren’t prepared for stock, they weren’t prepared for the online experience, perhaps their app or their website wasn’t ready for the influx of online interaction that happened. And I think the same thing is gonna happen when we go back into the offline world is that a lot of brands aren’t going to be ready, whether they’re business to consumer brands or business to business brands, they’re not going to be ready to deal with that combination of offline and online. And I think one of the things that brands have to be thinking about now is what is going to be expected of them in the offline world going forward, because it’s not going to be the same as what happened at the beginning of this whole situation, the expectations that people have, like you just said, Vincent, are not the same as what they were. And a lot of people are going to be caught off guard, a lot of people are not going to be ready. And the brands who are going to succeed, again, are the ones who are going to be ready. Look how ready some of these brands were for the online world, when all of this happened with the pandemic, they’re the ones that did really well through all of this, and were able to pivot and change their business. And the same thing is gonna happen going back the other way.

Gabi Gomes: 

I’m thinking about the service industry, I’m thinking about law firms, for example, when will clients come back to the office? When will that constitute a meeting versus just having a virtual call, even in our business, obviously, when they’ve got to sign something, for example, but everything else is kind of we’ve been offering,

Brad Breininger: 

there’s DocuSign, we don’t need to be anywhere, for signing anything.

Gabi Gomes: 

Exactyl right, I mean, sometimes they do need physical copies, but whatever.

Jeremy Linskill: 

online cuts out travel time so you, you know, you can have that meeting and move on to the next meeting immediately after as opposed to that 15-20 minutes takes you to get to that office. Plus going back to what Vincent is saying too, like all of the variables that come in there, like if I’m in a traffic jam, I can’t get to that meet time, and now everything waits. Whereas all I have to deal with now is an internet connection. If I have a good internet connection, I have no excuse as to being at that meeting on time, right? Thats something I wanted to bring up to

Gabi Gomes: 

Yeah. That’s right. That’s a big one that he mentioned, right? I don’t think we’ll look at in person the same way, like we did before, without a risk assessment in there somewhere,

Jeremy Linskill: 

I was gonna say the other thing is reach, like online allows the company to reach so much further right, to be able to deal with companies in different time zones in different locations. And all that right, which when we go back to offline, it’s not going to be the same. And even further, like, what we’ve seen mostly now is things are going more local. So it’s like offline, you’re dealing with more local businesses, whereas online allows you to still stay global in that sense, right. So I think that that’s a big part of this too, as we move forward is reach it’s going to allow us to still reach further with online.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And it’s going to be about making choices too, like if I think of our business, a lot of the transactional things that we do, we used to just call a meeting to do them. And I think that the expectation is that if there’s some sort of transactional element that needs to be done, why would we waste our time traveling and going and coming back and paying for parking, if it can easily be done online, like you said Jer, the one thing that’s missing for us and I’ll speak directly to the strategic part of it when we start a project, and we get the stakeholders together, and we really try to understand what’s in their heads and what they’re thinking and where they want to go, there is a huge missing component that happens doing it online, as I facilitate some of these sessions, I think that we miss a lot of the body language, we miss a lot of the connection elements that are so crucial to mapping something out in the very beginning, I think we’re going to have to be really selective about what we expect to be in person and what we’re willing to keep online. And I would say for us, maybe that differentiation is that a lot of the transactional and management elements can be done online. And then some of those more strategic elements or creative elements need to be done in person so that we get back some of that additional information that we’re missing by not being with people in person.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 

I think that saying that we’re going to go back to offline is wrong. We’re never going to go back.

Jeremy Linskill: 

I agree. Yeah, yeah, I

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 

think that brands that will thrive in this post pandemic enviroment will be the ones that do invest in multi-channel, omni channel, technologies, omni channel experiences, that kind of thing. To Jer’s point, people expect quick, people expect efficient, and you usually don’t get that when you go to a store, for example, or when you go to a meeting with a client, it’s investing in this multi channel experience in this digital experience, we’ve talked about that before, that’s going to help brands thrive.

Brad Breininger: 

I agree with you, 100%. Christian, I think that the people who get that what you just said the people who get that are the people who are going to thrive. But I also think that there’s this pent up need, as efficient as we want to be, and as much as we want things quickly, there’s also an anxiety that comes with that. I don’t know how you guys feel. But I almost feel like the expectations that clients have, or the expectations that shoppers have for brands has created this level of anxiety and everyone where it’s like, it’s a lot, right. And those in person meetings, are those human connections were a bit of a reprise from the dog eat dog, you know, rushing around that happened before. And I just worry that are we going too far towards like what you said earlier, Marko, are we going too far towards the rational element where I want my product, I want it fast, I want it efficient. And I don’t want to talk to anybody, it almost feels like there’s a whole bunch of potential anxiety wrapped up in that

Marko Zonta: 

to that point, that’s very transactional. And if it is a transactional element to it. Sure. Right. And that can be done online or offline online, you can order something offline, you can walk into a store, it’s on the shelf, you pick it up, you cash out, and you’re done. Right. So that’s very transactional. What I’m talking about is the emotional relationship part of the brands that yes, it’s also connected to the transactional part of it. But when you walk into an office, or you walk into a store, there is an experience attached to that, right. And if you actually have people who are well trained, they know what they’re doing, they’re actually focused on what you need, what you’re looking for, that’s a positive experience, whatever you’re there for 30 seconds, or 30 minutes, all of a sudden, there is an additional element. It’s not just about the product itself, or the service itself. But it’s also that experience that you just went through. And I mean, it’s true, even online, you can have an online experience, that’s just terrible. But the product or whatever you are ordering is still good quality, it’s just that the entire process through it was a terrible experience. That’s what I’m talking about. I think that that is the the thing that people are looking for. Because there is that human interaction, there is that relationship that you want to have with other people with entities just because you believe in them, you want to support them, you want to be there for them. So I think that we all kind of moved away from that, because we had to, we had to stay in our homes and all of that. But as we start to go out into the world a little bit more, I think that’s going to start to come back.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And it has to I mean, if I think back to 20, or 30 years ago, and you know, being the old person on the panel, like I’ll do a little bit of a reflective thing. But I think about what it was like to go to the mall and just hang out or go to a movie theater and see a movie, it wasn’t about the stores. It wasn’t about the movie itself. It was about this idea of getting out of your house and the people that you see day in and day out and interacting and just being part of the collective. As human beings we have this need to not just be close to our families and not just be close to the individuals that are in our lives every day or our significant other whatever it might be, we have this need to be a little bit tribal and to be with larger groups of people. And I think that that has been gone, absolutely gone for a big period of time. And I don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon. To your point, Gabi, there needs to be a health assessment anytime you go into a large group of people. But I think to myself going to a concert and seeing a musician, if I only cared about the music, I could put on my headphones and listen to the music. It’s not an issue. But being in a stadium with 30 or 40,000 people all dancing and screaming and singing that is a tribal experience that goes beyond the music or the band or your family or I really missed that. I wonder how are we going to incorporate that as we move forward?

Gabi Gomes: 

Let’s talk about that. Because the whole podcast is about offline versus online and transitioning from one to the other or that hybrid approach. Like to me, I’m not comfortable going into a stadium with that many people without kind of looking left, right, wondering if people are vaccinated or not or whatever, right. Like, I’m all for the passport. Yes. Let me in because I’ve been vaccinated, right. Like, I think about it, and I’m like, I think I feel more comfortable, if it was a smaller venue rather than a massive stadium. I think I’d feel more comfortable if it was a smaller club with I don’t know, 100 people versus 30,000 people and that’s where I think everybody’s just going back to what it was pre pandemic. The ones that will thrive I think are the ones that kind of find that middle ground that bring people along on to it and it’s not literally a switch but to kind of move, find a middle area, but that’s just me.

Brad Breininger: 

It’s about understanding what it is that people are going to want. As things move forward, it’s not going to be all at once and I think Gabi, you bring up a really good point is that this is going to be transitional. And it’s not going to be about all of a sudden, as we are all vaccinated and the pandemic comes to a close, if it even ever does, it’s not going to be about Okay, let’s shut down all the online venues. And let’s move back to where we were so that we can get back to normal. There is no back to normal. Some of the key elements are A) the brands are going to have to understand the fear that people have about going back to in person and what we’re calling offline and what that transition is going to look like. But also the desire that they’re going to have to want some kind of connection or some kind of experience in that realm. And they’re able to mix like you said, Christian, this omni channel approach where online is very much integrated into whatever they’re offering. And whether it’s b2c or b2b, the brands that are going to thrive going forward are the ones who understand how to move within both of those realms, how to listen to what their customers or clients want, and make sure that they adapt and not create what they think should be the brand experience, but what the brand experience customers and clients are asking for, and being able to manage their business in a way that delivers that in the best possible way. So I think that it’s not offline versus online. It’s offline and online. Melding those two together is what’s going to determine success for brands as we move out of this part of our history. So that’s this week of everything is brand, next week, we’ll have a new topic and a new discussion. Join us then and remember, everything is brand.

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