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Make→Shift is part of TrendWatching's Free Trend Updates. Each monthly issue examines one cross-industry movement no brand can afford to ignore, answering 'why now' and spotlighting the opportunities brands can act on today.
All in a six-minute read.
The pandemic had consumers looking inwards – reflecting not only on their own behavior, but that of their favorite brands, too. We know you’re focused on transparency already (if not, now is the time to ring the alarm) but how can you showcase your efforts in the most authentic and honest way possible? Consumers won’t take your CEO’s word for it. Instead, prove that your promises align with your actions by shining a spotlight on your employees, team or co-workers.
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True TrendWatching veterans will remember Glass Box Brands – the central idea being that “in an age of radical transparency, your internal culture is your brand”. Consumers have been peering in ever since, but in 2021, many no longer like what they see. However, while 56% of global consumers believe business leaders are purposely trying to mislead them with false information, 45% are interested in hearing what their employees have to say.
Collaborating with social media influencers was one way to bridge the trust gap, but for many consumers, the filters have lost their lustre. A study across 12 countries indicated that just 35% of consumers trust influencers to be authentic, with 84% rejecting influencers in favor of ‘real’ voices. Simply put, as ordinary folk stumbled through the pandemic, ‘hauls’ and lavish lifestyles hit differently – triggering a boom in more approachable micro- and nano-influencers (friends, family and yes, co-workers).
It’s safe to say that employers need to step up: 49% of global workers report working longer hours than they would like; record numbers are quitting their jobs; and more than half of global Gen Z consumers are considering switching theirs in the next year. Central to this shift is the pursuit of purpose: one US study indicated that 93% of employees now believe companies must lead with purpose – an all-time high. As people look for more meaning in their work, it’s time to celebrate your people and turn resignation into retention.
Fearing retaliation, many LGBT employees around the world choose not to reveal their sexual orientation in their workplace. To honor its 2,700+ employees that identify as LGBTQ+, June 2021 saw Burger King Brazil launch a campaign that makes its employees the protagonists in the struggle for diversity. The website includes a rotating gallery of BK employees (along with their testimonials on working at the company), and a free, downloadable booklet with a glossary of queer terminology and tips on broaching sexuality with kids.
Finland-based software development company Vincit runs a CEO for a day program that lets one employee per month act like the company’s CEO for a day. The employee is given an unlimited budget for 24 hours, during which time they can make any company-wide decision their imagination allows. The only catch is that at least one decision must have a lasting benefit to Vincit employees. Otherwise, it's an open game!
As physical stores reopen, knowledgeable and confident staff are key. Nike knows they have this asset. The sports company released a short series of films that champion a spotlighted member of staff. Seven Nike workers were featured across the London branches surrounding the idea that each employee is an athlete in their own right with various talents and expertise. ‘Ask our Athletes’ was released throughout August 2021 to showcase the passion and genuine love of sports.
WeAreNetflix is the streaming platform’s dedicated Youtube channel that claims to take viewers ‘behind the streams’ of working at Netflix, with employee-led content on topics such as inclusion, diversity, and company culture. Recent campaigns, launched in 2021, include podcasts about Netflix’s ‘feedback culture’ and (most recently) ‘Beyond the Benefits’ – a series of videos that spotlights the company’s inclusive approach to employee benefits.
To celebrate Mothers Day in May 2021, Banco De Brasil (BB) paid tribute to all mothers across the world with their ‘Two Hearts’ song. The instrumentals were written by band Sunflower Jam, and BB gathered its employees to sing their own renditions, dedicated to their own mothers and all mothers in Brazil. The band’s singer stands center stage and employees are broadcast in the background of the music video singing the main lines ‘from two hearts, one was made’.
NoU (Next of Us) is a new hair care brand from P&G, initially available in the US at Walmart.com in August 2021. The eight-product range targets the needs of 3A-4C hair types and was developed in under a year with input from 30 Gen Z employees from P&G and Walmart. The label design includes curl patterns to help shoppers identify the right product for their hair type. The range will roll out in store from October 2021.
Compared to grid posts or ephemeral stories, livestreaming offers a more authentic way to share content online. Appetite for raw and unedited content drove the medium to new heights in 2020, with 85% of global YouTube users watching a livestream in the past year. While purposed livestreams have become more commonplace over the course of the pandemic, not a single brand has handed the camera over to a trusted employee. Can you spark a new wave of consumer-brand interaction? Get in there now, before a savvier competitor beats you to it.
Has your brand struggled with accusations of corporate washing? Add more depth to your Pride activation or Black History Month efforts by putting staff members who identify with the cause at the center of your campaign. Imagine how much more impactful Burger King’s message would have been if staff had been granted access to the brand’s social platforms. Unlock the gates to your brand’s marketing channels and give your employees or team the tools to present as they please – no filter necessary.
Employee influencer programs are on the rise (see Walmart and Spotlight) with TikTok offering a new way for consumers to see behind the scenes. Most brands use influencers to drive sales, but you’re not most brands. Make it purposeful by inviting your IN-FLUENCER to highlight the best and worst aspects of working at your company. It will pay off in the long-term. After all, nothing says transparency like addressing your own flaws and publicly explaining how you plan to overcome them.
We’ve been talking about co-creation for a while now, but getting employees involved in the development of a new product shows you value their opinion and could help you create products that are truly designed with the customer in mind. The P&G example is a strong starting point. Take it to the next level by making your team the face of the campaign. Give them a platform to share their first-hand experience of creating and sampling a product.
Authenticity is key. With this in mind, carefully consider the way you present your content. Will you go live and bare it all?
It’s important to find staff members that feel intrinsically motivated to convey your brand message and are willing to put themselves on a (virtual) pedestal. Could you have fellow employees vote for their favorite candidate in a reality TV-style throwdown?
Make sure you have a firm handle on employee sentiment before handing over the mic. Conduct an internal audit. If you spot any red flags, hold fire: use the feedback as building blocks for your next strategy deck. But if you’re in the clear, there should be nothing to fear.
How will you repay your IN-FLUENCERS for their labor? Presenting as the face of the company is no easy task: it’s important to reward your social media superstars accordingly.
Don’t know where to start? Dsmn8 helps brands turn their employees into influencers. But remember, to make your IN-FLUENCER strategy stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to prioritize purpose, not profit. Think about which topics you’d like to cover, and sketch out a rough content plan.
Last but not least, use our Consumer Trend Canvas to apply the knowledge you’ve just acquired and turn insights into innovation.
From "The Fight for Facts" to the new "Hands Off" economy, our previous Make→Shift issues provide a cornucopia of purpose-driven insights, plus actions you can take on the trends that matter.