"Brands may soon have influencers on stand-by to combat trolls & bots"

Shrugging off the disruptions of the year gone by, businesses and agencies are looking for a strong revival in 2021. Over the next few weeks, Adgully – as part of our annual TRENDING NOW endeavour – will be presenting the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of 2020. 

Manu Prasad, CMO, Scripbox, has some interesting insights to offer on learnings in 2020, and the trends expected in 2021. He believes many aspects of our life are chimeral now – still retaining their individuality, and yet to find the balance of a hybrid. 

2020 (1) 

It’s technically a new year, but as the quip goes, it does feel like December 93rd 2020. More like a sequel than a new movie. Familiar characters and themes, with some new plotlines. And hence the title, for a short take on learnings in 2020, and the trends expected in 2021. 

In light of the pandemic, what narratives are good for the brand?

The consumer’s needs might not have changed, but the relative priorities, ways of achieving them, and expectations from brands most definitely have. At least in the medium term, health and safety (physical, mental and financial) will remain important themes. That would explain why many brands have attempted to hop on to these narratives. While it works easily for, say, water purifiers, it might be a threadbare argument for mattresses and shirts. But yes, Ayur is arguably the most powerful four letter word in business now! 

The abruptness of 2020 has also given us time for reflection and recalibration. One of the related changes has been increased participation in societal issues. But a brand pursuing cause marketing because everyone else is doing it might result in some caustic feedback! 

What have also changed are rituals – commute to family time to entertainment and so on. The narratives might not have changed yet, but the contexts have. Social screening (movies) and Zoommates are all adaptations to these contexts. But soon, radical redesigning of products and experiences will lead to narrative shifts as well. 

With chimeras all around, how do we frame it better?

Many aspects of our life are chimeral now – still retaining their individuality, and yet to find the balance of a hybrid. Think about it – working from home, but recreating the office online. Digital transformation and craving physical interaction. Learning new skills, while trying to avoid burnout at work. This operates at societal levels too. On social channels, we talk about being more empathetic. But we also have mobs that seem to have been born outraged!

These chimeral contexts have an impact on segments and personas, as well as how narratives can be delivered. 

If we go by Superbowl ads, humour is making a comeback, but we aren’t LOL yet. Brands are still playing Minesweeper because they and their endorsers are susceptible to cancel culture. Even a logo needed to dress up because one person insisted we all share the perception! Narrative control is a chimera, an illusion. I expect brands to soon have influencers on stand-by to combat trolls and bots! 

And if the action is everywhere, where is the narrative best delivered?

“There is no mainstream, there are many streams”. With mobile screen time continuing to rise, and OTTs having a dream run, both branded content and product placements will spike. Even more immersive is gaming – you can have an epic life in Fortnite, and (ironically) join the war to save reality! But we are un-screening too. From podcasts to the ambient, and omniscient Alexa. Does your brand have an Alexa Skill yet? 

Newer platforms offer further scope for narrative renditions in all forms of reality – mixed, augmented, virtual – in addition to our normal agreed upon version. And as digital transformation accelerates, marketers are being empowered with automation and no code tools to deliver these. But the tech landscape is also rapidly changing with impending regulation, and privacy concerns. 

We’re going through an era of institutional realignment – political, societal, financial, and so on. The points I have made are more possibilities than spoilers. We might think we have seen this movie before, but we should wait for the release. Multiplex or OTT, you think?


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