Five minutes with Richard De Hoxar
Richard De Hoxar, creative director of creative agency StormBrands, speaks to Transform magazine about how Covid-19 has changed brand communications and how brands can successfully adapt to changing consumer culture.
How has the pandemic transformed brand communications over the past 18 months?
The creative industry (including brand comms) has always been a reflection of wider society and never more so than now. The pandemic forced our lives online; for work, exercise, entertainment and ‘house parties’, meaning brands have had to adapt quickly and communicate in new ways to retain relevant connections with consumers.
The inevitable shift towards increasingly ‘digital’ forms of communication has been accelerated by the pandemic. We’re spending even more time online, social media is at the centre of the way we communicate - enabling (almost) unfiltered conversation and brands are becoming more aware of the role they can play.
We’ve seen a rise in purposeful communications - brands are finding it more vital than ever to take a stance on global issues such as racial injustice, gender equality, climate change and media transparency. By putting purpose at the heart of communications brands can meaningfully capture the moment and continue societal conversations to create seamless experiences that feel native to their audience.
A poignant project this year saw us collaborate closely with MBA students at the London Business School - we helped to develop a new identity for Black in Business - an empowering movement that’s gives black students and allies a platform to communicate more effectively, and overcome challenges met within the wider world of business.
How can brands successfully adapt to changing consumer culture and audience habits?
As the focus shifts from product to people, brands have to be open to change. It’s all about understanding what audiences are looking for from the brands they buy into, how they connect with one another and how brands can evolve and adapt to meet their consumers’ needs.
Consumers are more aware than ever about the choices they make and look for brands that reflect their own beliefs and values. By having an authentic voice, bold conviction and in unlocking truths, brands can create richer, deeper connections around issues that matter most to their audience.
Digital natives are the future - young audiences who have grown up online, with instant access to information and ever increasing exposure to numerous digital channels. Creativity can play a pivotal role in helping brands cut through the noise to connect with tomorrow’s consumers in more engaging ways - this means realising the potential of the digital worlds that we’re spending more time in and adding value to our experiences along the way.
French retailer Carrefour’s recent appearance within viral shooter-survival game Fortnite is a cunning example of realising shared value between brand and audience. During the game, players can top up their ‘life’ and increase their chances of victory by eating healthily in the fruit and veg section the virtual store.
As new technologies emerge, and communication channels evolve there are ever increasing opportunities to create meaningful connections, but brands need to understand who they are and what they really stand for before they deliver external communications, which they need to do consistently to ensure a coherent cross-platform voice and behaviour.
What does the future look like for brands and the communication channels used to connect with audiences?
Developments in the world of tech have, and always will influence how brands connect with audiences. The increasing number of available channels offers an exciting opportunity for brands to leverage creative thinking to tailor unique and innovative communications for specific audiences, across a new range of touchpoints.
The gaming industry provides a great insight into the future of media consumption; for years gamers have been building virtual communities online, co-authoring creative content and interacting with brands in new innovative ways.
It’s telling that we’ve seen huge moves in cryptocurrency with the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum being increasingly adopted and NFTs becoming one of this year’s hottest creative trends. Some of the world’s biggest brands including Coke, McDonalds and Microsoft have dipped their toes into the world of blockchain collectibles this year with varying degrees of success. Many brands have ensured experiments within this space don’t alienate critical audiences, with proceeds from NFT sales going towards good causes rather than monetary or commercial gain.
There’s also been a lot of talk about the future of virtual environments in the dawn of web 3.0, exemplified by the recent Facebook rebrand to Meta. These ‘metaverse’ spaces aim to allow people and brands to coexist and interact within a new digital world, a place where digital content can be exchanged and shared on the web 3.0 - a version of the internet ‘you’re inside of rather than look at’ This cultural shift towards new more immersive and integrated experiences, points to even more interconnected and interrelated communication channels, with the boundaries between the digital and physical become increasingly blurred.