2020 hasn’t just been a year of changing how we work and live, it’s been a year of accelerating the changes that were already in place. Scott Galloway calls the transition from “the brand age” to “the product age” one of the biggest changes in consumer trends in decades. Its speeding up during the pandemic makes it a topic we all want to think about, especially as it applies to the future of our work.
In the brand age, a person would fly into a new city, get in a cab, and tell the driver, “Take me to The Ritz.” The airline they flew in on, the cab they rode in, and The Ritz they stayed in had a brand value proposition to gain their customers’ trust (and payments). The brand’s goal was to control the story to guide the ultimate purchase decision. TV, newspaper, and other traditional advertising channels were the standards for telling these stories. It’s how marketing worked for decades.
In the product age, the person gets off the plane, orders an Uber, and searches Airbnb or Hotel Tonight to read reviews and browse for the best option. Brands are still telling their stories to woo customers, but the most effective stories are being disseminated at the product level. The brand can’t totally control the social media conversation, online reviews, or search results like they used to in traditional marketing channels. The product age requires a brand-client relationship strategy overhaul.
If we think back before the pandemic, we can see the change from the brand age to the product age taking off when smartphones and social media entered the picture. However, now that we’ve spent almost a year working, schooling, and quarantining from home, we’ve gone from doing some stuff online to almost everything. This is the acceleration aspect.
It’s not just about what you still can do in the real world and from your phone, it’s about what will we still do in the real world when we can do almost everything from our phones (or other connected devices)? It was social media and Netflix, now it’s doctors and groceries too. No industry is untouched. After 2020, everything important can be done in some form online. A company’s ability to tell their story is only as good as their ability to reach people where they are, and it’s definitively not in cable or magazines anymore.
Our relationship status with more brands and products has changed massively during the pandemic. The gap between those who have embraced the product age and those that haven’t is only going to widen. We want to look at our individual jobs and our broader industries to tease apart what’s moved and what hasn’t moved fast enough. We can focus on how and where we’re communicating, servicing, and building trust with our clients. This is the opportunity to ride the wave of the product age and not be crushed by it. It’s still speeding up.
Want more? Pick up a copy of Scott Galloway’s book, “Post Corona.”