Marketing and Comms
5 Cultural Shifts Brands Should Adapt to in 2019

2018 marked some pretty major cultural changes, and that’s going to have effects on brand identity development. So, what cultural shifts do companies, effective brand managers and brand design agencies need to adapt to if they want to do well?

Redefinitions

From motherhood to masculinity, the new year will continue to challenge the often-negative conceptions and notions we take for granted. We’re redefining roles, structures and ideas, many of which have been in place since time immemorial.

What’s more, truth has never been more unstable. Journalism is no longer credible and trustworthy. News is “fake,” and political discourse isn’t limited by facts. Everything we consume, from capitalism to coconut oil to kids’ movies, can and should be questioned.

If brands want to survive these turbulent times, they need to be vigilant. Just as the Who’s Who of Hollywood has been made accountable for sexual misconduct over the past two years, brands need to be equally responsible in their dealings.

Redefining society and culture should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a setback. Brands have the capacity to participate in conversations and redefine themselves. Today, storytelling and thought leadership are particularly relevant. It’s a time to be inclusive, celebrate diversity and be the best version of ourselves, individually and collectively.

Tribalism

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For better or worse, we all want something to rally behind, to form a culture around. Social media and globalism have broken down differences and connected us in a way that we may not have been ready for. The breakdown of conventions (see above) comes with equal reactions. We’re seeing the rise of the right wing, nationalism and other forms of radicalism. Society is fragmenting.

The trend of tribalism isn’t all bad, however. Brands have used it to their advantage, creating spaces for positive tribes. The idea of the team has a playful place in our social interactions. There’s also an appeal to identifying with health movements such as CrossFit or environmental ones such as Greenpeace.

It’s all about community and connection, channeling our primal tendencies in a constructive way. When people get together to get behind a cause, whether presented by a brand or not, the potential has been demonstrated time and again.

Activism

It’s no secret that today’s consumer is more connected and engaged than ever before. Nor has it ever been easier to sign petitions or donate to charity. We can find initiatives at the click of a button and choose exactly how we want to contribute. Demonstrations can garner greater attendance through social media and people can publicise how involved they are.

Beyond the screen, more women are getting into politics, and the age at which people are involving themselves in political activities is getting younger and younger. A prime example of this was last year when schoolkids in Australia staged a nationwide school strike to protest for climate change action.

From a branding perspective, cause marketing is something that’s only going to grow in relevance. No matter what your product or service is, there can be huge benefits in aligning yourself with a relevant and worthwhile cause. Meanwhile, the risks of being called out for inauthenticity are enhanced. The trend towards greater participation in activism, especially online, means people and brands are forced to take ownership over activities and associations.

Naivete

If the youth are growing up faster, the grown-ups are looking to do the opposite. We want to relive past joys and feel young again; nostalgia reigns supreme in marketing. Novelties such as over-the-top ice-cream flavors and schnitzel-pizzas are all fair game.

The doom and gloom so prevalent in the world has made us seek escape through playful reconnection to our youth. Kids aren’t the only ones who want to have fun these days. Whether it’s gamification of everyday activities or the focus on branded experiences to elevate existence — to today’s consumer, life is about enjoyment.

Being bombarded with ads depicting people “living their best lives” and the constant competition of our social media projections has made us all hell-bent on carpe-ing the diem. And 2019 will be a diem that’s no different.

Conscious consumption

Conscious consumerism and the popularisation of healthier lifestyles have had a huge impact on marketing — now, you can choose to carbon offset the carbon emissions from everything from your purchases to your flights, or purchase vegan Magnum ice creams. Brands are forced to adapt and capitalize, or continue along the same lines and suffer.

This trend has an echo effect that continues to feed itself. The more consciously consumers make purchases, the more options brands will offer to cater; the higher the demand, the greater the supply and so forth.

Where in the past, brands were forced into reporting the contents and provenance of their products, today they’re screaming this information from mountain tops. Labels are clustered with smaller labels telling us how good to feel about whatever we choose to buy. If vegan and gluten-free markers are now commonplace on menus, what will be the ones of tomorrow? Anti-carcinogenic, perhaps? Gut-friendly or heart-healthy? We’ll have to wait and see.


It’s clear that 2019 is going to be a year of increased consciousness socially, politically and culturally. With all these trends and more in full swing, brands will need to be equally conscious in order to appeal to and grow their audience.

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