In 2030, CSR programs have become indispensable for ensuring a business’ sustainability: they guarantee the offer and they meet consumer demands.
“Responsible” actions are increasing: fighting poverty and loneliness; malnutrition and obesity; discrimination and the lack of self-esteem; deficient housing and access to culture… These commitments must be visible and, in a saturated media context, brands need to know how to speak to their publics differently. And what better basis than real life for reaching these publics, for giving them an experience and creating a sustainable commitment? Cities have become the playing field for brands around the world.
Improving daily life via facilities and experiences
In the developing countries we are exposed to committed brands very early on via the Pampers vaccination campaigns, “It’s healthy it’s Sanex” educational programs on hygiene, or nutrition programs from Kellogg’s. Children from rural communities receive healthcare at Ajax dispensaries, attend the Dora the Explorer schools and play in upcycled parks by Coca-Cola.
City neighbourhoods are literally "brand territories", the territories of benefactors who are committed to renovating the production tool and creating sales opportunities. The former tannery neighborhood has become the Leather Center, the spice district is now the McCormick district. Shops flaunt the colours of their key sponsors: the patch of blue in the distance indicates a Tetley tea salon, the purple one specialises in Cream Soda and, well, you know what the red one sells…
Brands have also pre-empted key spots around town. We can stroll along the Vicks Sinex waterfront: new benches have been installed with sea misting systems (they say that if you spend 5 minutes a day there it prevents head colds). The Sanex park to the north is cooler (follow the Nokia signs to get there). We can also enjoy a Birds Eye boat ride: responsible fishing parties are held to learn how to recognise the different fish. For a more romantic option, we can try the SO…? tower. The trip will be sweet or sexy depending on which boat you choose.
More than just an experience to share, life coaching
In the developed countries brands have also worked hard to positively impact our society. With the constant concern of being as close as possible to their consumers, of creating a relationship that surpasses the product or service itself, brands no longer just provide experiences they share moments in life with their consumers. The city is a permanent fair. Pop-up stores, temporary centers, experiential urban furnishing, trompe l'œil billboards, interactive shop windows, drones… Developing experiential, interactive, customised brand content is now the key. Native advertising has come off the Web to appear in real life: "sponsor-mation" is contextualised by neighbourhood, by time of day, and of course by target (facial recognition is very highly developed).
Brands have almost become life coaches. A dandruff shampoo brand offers theater workshops “because what counts is self-confidence”, a bank offers its customers blind dates because “who knows you better than we do?”, a shaving cream brand runs close combat classes “to protect you from every aggression”, etc.
Transportation time is no longer down time. Now it’s a special moment dedicated to resting (opt for the Dunlopillo train), running your home (take corridor Waitrose and flash), to entertainment (direct access to the O2 Arena stadium, watch an Emirates Paris game, or hit the Mondelez Mall for a bite to eat). Living areas have been installed to share a moment with friends and help fight the morose individualism that characterised public transportation not so long ago.
And the brand experience continues at home…
The city has become a 360° advertising experience that addresses every aspect of a consumer’s life. There used to be "an app for that", now there is a brand for that. In striving to manage its impact on society, brands have crossed the line and have intruded into consumers’ personal lives, blurring the lines between buying path and life path. Rarity creates value.
Perhaps we should limit brand voices and turn the existing ones into real experiences, moments when consumers voluntarily (and happily!) don their shopper’s caps to enter into the story and experience the brand wants to give them. Let’s leave the city of the future to the city-brand! Each of us must recognize our playing field and focus on our core business. City issues belong to citizens not to consumers.