2020 Vision: Hindsight

Well, we’ve reached the end of February and if you still have your 2020 strategic plan intact, you’re in the minority.  Climate change, Brexit and now a global pandemic are turning the best laid plans of marketers into shredded wish lists.  How quickly the world we try to master changes.

We started the decade with such positivity… so let’s take a moment to look back over the last 20 years that got us here.

“The next millennium”: the world-wide web; the Information Revolution; disruption; start-ups and new paradigms. It promised so much, but as we look back with the benefit of 2020 hindsight over the past 20 years of brand evolution, how does it look?

2000 – A new landscape: the Future and the Internet (shortly followed by the internet bubble bursting, just to prove the Trough of Disillusion is real too).  Information became valuable and brands and commerce became digital – always-on, powered by programmes, and connected to everyone.

The biggest landscape change was in the brands themselves. When we look at our top 20 global brands, Apple showed little-or-no sign of becoming the world’s largest and fastest growing brand; and three of the highest-valued did not even exist – Facebook, Amazon and Google were waiting to be born. The big FMCG brands, giants for decades, were having their shopping carts shaken. Uber, Airbnb, Netfix, Tesla, Instagram… all of these are younger than my teenage kids.


Speed is the other mind-bending aspect.  Change is accelerating.  Start-ups take “no” as a challenge. Consumers adopt fads to become lifestyle-definers. (“I’m just going to photo my food before I eat it. I may Floss later.” OK Boomer.)

Google Maps gives us a text-book route-map for the growth of a digital brand and how quickly they evolve beyond any imaginable horizon.

In its 15 years of existence it has given us:

  • Online Maps – seemingly born out of nowhere – we had Ordinance Survey (over 200 years old and wise), we had A-Z for our cities; we even had Streetmap and Multimap, for online maps.
  • Zoomable maps – vector-based design allowing smooth zooming (just in time for swipeable phones)
  • Routes – which got faster, smarter and with more featured options (toll-free anyone? Cycling?)
  • Sat Nav – in-car, turn-by-turn satellite navigation – not invented by Google but it then became free to everyone with a smartphone and a sprinkling of data
  • Street view – see your house from the street; see your anonymised colleague smoking outside the office.
  • Waze – crowd-sourced traffic and hazard information that’s way, way faster than any traffic organization could provide; traffic-flow in real-time. (Only this weekend, I reported the road closed in front of me, due to a fallen tree, immediately updating the plans of nearby Wazers.)
  • Tracking – Following your every search, your every journey, your exact location, for advertisers to enjoy.
  • Next step – AR Live View…

…not necessarily in that order.

The benefits, often at no upfront direct cost to consumers, are enormous. The true cost, and brand value, is yet to be ascertained.

In a world that changes relentlessly and dynamically, we can best equip ourselves by being ready for complex development. But, remember: innovation exists because our imagination is always greater than our capacity to invent.

Our dreams drive change.

By: Simon Stokes

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