Interpreting Signals to Prepare for an Unknown Future

Interpreting Signals to Prepare for an Unknown Future



While this past election may have been one of the most grueling and exhausting in recent memory, it also brought many previously-unknown communication and strategic realities to light. It’d be easy for brands to brush these issues off as the product and remnant of heightened American political fervor.

But, that would be foolish.

The reality is that this election revealed many signals of an underlying shift in how people interact with institutions, give feedback and make decisions. It’s time for brands to examine these signals and begin to think about what each one means for future business marketing and strategic decisions.

While we won’t know how the market is completely changing, we can look toward the horizon and make educated assumptions. The following is a brief list of several signals and what they could potentially mean for businesses.

Signal: Increase of Distrust

What It Means: Companies will have to “prove” why they should be trusted.

There seems to be a growing undercurrent of distrust of information consumed online. This is fueling a need to not just increase trust, but to prove why it a source that should be trusted.

For companies, the growing skepticism of media (particularly information that is consumed online) can impact how companies communicate and reach their audience. Claims about features/benefits will need to be validated in ways that were previously unnecessary. This validation would be even further strengthened if unbiased third-parties also validate the claims. Regardless of how it is done, the primary signal to note is that markets will want more substantial ways to reinforce the logic behind making a purchase decision.

Signal: Big Data Incorrectly Predicted The Election

What It Means: Big data has its limits and must be combined with something more intuitive/emotional.

Big data really hit its stride around 2008, when it was used (quite successfully) to help Obama’s presidential campaign. Since then, big data has become its own industry, prompting brands (large and small) to invest in and utilize big data to improve their service offerings.

Despite all its benefits, big data got the 2016 election wrong. Companies should see this as a signal of big data’s limitations. Yes, it is helpful (dare I say indispensable?) for a litany of uses. But, it cannot predict (at least not yet) what drives humans to act on an emotional level.

Understanding this, we can make the case that data and statistical analysis should also work in tandem with humanities and artistic disciplines. Combining the two could empower companies to see a different dimension of consumer behavior – one that fuses intuition and analysis.

Signal: Once-Loyal Brand Advocates Switched Sides

What It Means: Companies need to nurture their most loyal customer bases.

Putting political views aside, brands should see this and remember just how important core customers are. This is especially true for companies who operate in constantly-changing markets.

As technologies change and more “disruptors” enter the market, it could be easy to lose focus on their core market. This doesn’t mean you should stop exploring and serving new markets – quite the opposite. As you continue to expand your reach, influence and market value, signals from this past election stress the importance of remembering to go back and take care of those who have always been there for you – because nothing guarantees that they’ll stay with you forever.

Signal: What Worked Eight Years Ago Didn’t Work In 2016

What It Means: Strategic decisions are on a shorter timeline.

Obviously, what worked in 2008 and 2012 didn’t work in 2016. In previous election cycles, there were “tried-and-true” ways of doing things. This election cycle turned this theory on its head.

No longer can we assume what worked in the past will work a year or even six months from now. This has enormous implications for companies and brands. Companies should see this signal and challenge themselves to reevaluate previously-held beliefs (i.e. celebrity endorsements, press releases and traditional advertising).

By recognizing and examining entrenched beliefs, companies commit to being adaptable to rapid market-shifts. Yes, it’s easy to rely on what has worked in the past, especially when employee evaluations are on the line. But, this reliance on a “tried and true” methods of corporate success could upend the entire business.

The 2016 election sent very clear signals for all to see. As we move forward into this uncertain future, businesses should be looking at signals and planning their way forward. It’s important to not view it as a political experience, but as a chance to learn something new about a diverse and changing market. Doing this is choosing to decide the future of the company.