On shopper ethics, data, insights and mapping the road ahead

Publisher Mary Maddever on the challenges strategy will focus on in 2020 and beyond.

MaryMaddeverSM_0638 - CopyThis column originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of strategy.

I’ve started making regular jaunts to Unboxed Market, a plastic-free shopping alternative. Beyond the extra travel time and improving my DIY container prep, it’s been a pretty good experience product- and conscience-wise. Sort of a penance for whenever I have to resort to “Amazoning.” And it feels like this may be a permanent new twist to my grocery regime.

This fluid attitude to everything from less meat to less packaging to, just less overall, is one of the reasons brands are upping their data game. It’s gone from keeping an eye on competitors to staying ahead of radical change to whole categories.

That’s a thread that runs through the October issue, from the cover story and Next Big Things, to our Brand of the Year and Strategy Award winners.

The marketers that spoke at the Marketing Evolution Summit (MES) and AdTech this month – invited for bold approaches to building brands for the future – have taken different routes, from improving their eco game to evolving offerings as tastes change. The counter moves on the brand side, like collaborating with Loop (which shared the story of bringing CPG and retailers into their reusable packaging movement at MES), are becoming as radical as the shifts on the consumer side. See the story of Loblaw becoming a media company.

Just as brands rely on more and better data chops to compete, ultimately, it’s people who find the insights, spot the opportunities and figure out how best to pivot. And while data can help de-risk, the bets just keep getting bigger. That’s why stories that delve into the ‘why’ behind new initiatives are so important, so please dive into the Brands of the Year and Strategy Award winners’ section for inspiration and edification.

To help us get to the crux of what’s important next, one of strategy’s Next Big Things is our CMO council plans. We’re reviving a Marketing magazine initiative, convening an editorial advisory board on industry issues that spins off or guides our content.

Over the course of a year, we’ll be inviting a panel of senior marketing execs to share thoughts on challenges and opportunities. Some topics on the agenda will turn into roundtable features, and the input will also help steer content relevance for deeper-dive reporting, as we want this to reflect everything from organizational and ethical considerations to new approaches and best practices. Upcoming CMO council topics include:

Where are we with sustainability?
Meaningful change across the full product lifecycle is required. Who’s getting there and what’s the ROI impact?

Where are we at with D2C 24/7 content?
Consistent, meaningful and customized interaction is the new CRM. Who’s mastering it?

What’s up next in innovation?
The biggest factors fueling R&D now…and what’s in the pipeline.

Where are we with diversity?
What’s working? And where do we need a new plan?

Health and wellness is another space where a ton of change is impacting the category, so in response to feedback, in the October issue, you’ll see our first pharma focus initiative. We launched the Pharma Report sponsored series to keep tabs on how work in Canada is evolving, and next year, expect to see Pharma insights recognized in the Strategy Awards, and we’ll also acknowledge the creative challenges of the category in the future.

If there’s an area of the industry that warrants more focus, please chime in; we want strategy’s lens of “bold vision, brand new ideas” to cover all aspects of the radical changes impacting your business.

Given the shared market challenges, seems like now is a good moment for more industry collaboration, similar to competitors coming together on the Loop reusable packaging program. A core tenet of strategy is to be a forum that builds community. To that end, if there’s a cross-industry issue you’re tackling, we probably have a platform for that.