Spy10: branding trends to watch (September Edition)

posted by

Melissa Lohrer


Every time you blink, something changes in the world of business and branding. It’s especially true of this moment in history: as a society in flux breaks from the norms of the past, brands are stepping in to comfort, heal, and make a statement on how they’ll fit into the future that lies ahead. Spy10 is here to capture all the moments you missed, and explore the ones that might mean something big to your brand.. because right now, you could be the next innovator the world needs.
Even as we surpass seven months of a global pandemic, our sense of a new normal is still shifting. Brands remain focused on alleviating new consumer concerns like the recently declared “infodemic” and innovating within emerging opportunity spaces like oral beauty. Learn about about how brands continue to evolve across sectors including pet care, CPGs, and technology:

1) A New Way to Sample


The pandemic put an end to sampling at grocery stores which means food brands don’t have a way to offer consumers a taste and consumers are missing out on trying new products. Ghost trucks are emerging as a potential solution to the disappearance of product sampling. Ghost trucks are a growing section of the restaurant industry that operate online-only and distribute via delivery apps. Food brands are taking notice of ghost trucks and exploring collaborations as a new way to get into consumers’ households.  

Inspiration: Strong Roots, a plant-based frozen products brand, has partnered with New Jersey based Ghost Truck Kitchen to craft a menu that showcases Strong Roots products. As a result, Strong Roots gets a new distribution channel and Ghost Truck Kitchen gets a new menu. With each purchase, Strong Roots sends out marketing materials. Local supermarkets are seeing an uptick in the Strong Roots products sold. 

Takeaway: In a pandemic world, you need to meet consumers where they are. If you’re in a category that relies on traditional distribution channels, get creative about new ways of connecting with your consumer. If you’re innovating, consider creative ways to do small launches, test and learn, etc.  

2) Food System Resilience


The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our global food system. Border restrictions have disrupted supplies and consumers have been heading to stores uncertain whether or not something will be stocked. This is prompting shoppers to take a greater interest in sourcing as they order directly from local farms and support sustainable food. In turn brands are thinking about how to make our food system more resilient and sustainable for the future.

Inspiration: Steward, an innovative “crowdfarming” platform that enables individuals to invest directly in sustainable farms, has seen a huge spike in direct-to-consumer sales. Farms in the Steward network have seen their revenues increase two to three times. The platform itself has also seen a surge of interest from investors looking for more sustainable options. Food system innovations are also extending into retail. Department store Selfridges has teamed up with indoor farming experts Infarm to launch a vertical farming unit inside its flagship store. Selfridges plans to use produce grown within its food hall as well as sell produce direct to consumers. 

Takeaway: The pandemic has created a strain on many supply chains, leading consumers to question what they can depend on. Use this moment of disruption to consider how your brand can respond, recover, and reinvent for new realities. How can you bake resilience into your brand so consumers know they can count on you? Are there ways to diversify your channels and build new partnerships to ensure consumers can always access your brand?

 3) Elevated Comfort

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Since the pandemic started and staying home became the norm, Americans have been prioritizing comfort more than ever when choosing clothing. Clothing sales have dropped overall by 79%, but sweatpants sales have spiked 80%. As we continue to seek out loungewear, brands have been finding ways to elevate comfort and give our beloved sweats a designer feel. 

Inspiration: Ugg is launching what it calls a  “more elevated expression of apparel” with a unisex collection of pieces in comfortable sherpa and sherling fabrics. Ugg seized the opportunity to expand its products after realizing both sales and searches were increasing as soon as the pandemic started. Elevated loungewear doesn’t have to stop just at clothing. Fragrance brands are also releasing products for at-home lounging that blend the line between personal scent and home fragrance. This is seen in Diptyque launching Fleur de Peau Multi-Use Fragrance, a multi-functional fine fragrance product that can be sprayed on body, linens, or inside a room to freshen up.

Takeaway: Faced with a new reality, consumers' routines are changing. Think about how your brand can drive desire and relevancy by creating new rituals and use cases for your products. How can your brand blur the lines between home and on the go? What new occasions is your brand best suited to serve?

4) Oral Care is Beauty Care


The sale of hygiene related products like oral care is on the rise thanks to the pandemic. Sales of oral care products are boosting beauty retailers as consumers upgrade their oral care routine in the name of self-care and decreased access to dental services. Brands are responding to this by blurring the lines between beauty care and oral care as consumers start looking at their teeth in new ways. 

Inspiration: Spotlight Oral Care, an oral health brand developed by dentists, has reported 30% week-over-week growth in sales at Ulta Beauty during the first five weeks of the lockdown followed by steady growth as consumers splurge more on oral care. A recent partnership between Spotlight and beauty subscription box Ipsy sold out almost immediately. Beauty brands are also branching into oral care with Tarte offering a teeth whitening pen and Foreo extending into electronic toothbrushes. 

Takeaway: Be opportunistic about shifting behaviors and emerging crossovers between industries. This may be a good time to carve out a new opportunity space, grow your brand, and reach new consumers. Just make sure whatever path you go down can last beyond the pandemic. 

5) Masked Skincare

If you’ve noticed a new host of skincare problems that come from wearing a mask, you’re not alone. Masks create a seal where humidity, saliva, and germs can’t escape causing “ma2006151100_image01_engskne” and irritation. As skincare continues to remain one of the healthiest sectors during the pandemic, brands are innovating to soothe mask wearers’ skin.

Inspiration: Korean skin care brand Peach and Lilly has dedicated an entire section of their website to “Maskne Essentials.” This includes products selected by estheticians that can soothe the breakouts and irritation that come with wearing a mask. Even brands outside the beauty industry are innovating to take on new skincare challenges. Uniqlo developed the Airism face mask made with the same moisture-wicking material used in their underwear. Once launched, the masks immediately sold out online and crashed Uniqlo’s website.  

Takeaway: Be resourceful. Think about how problems solved by past innovations can be repurposed to address emerging issues today. How can your brand connect the dots on consumer needs?

6) An Infodemic

The fake news phenomenon isn’t exactly new, but the pandemic made it that much worse. The UN declared an “infodemic” as consumers’ searches for coronavirus facts caused an avalanche of misinformation. Consumers are feeling uncertain as 56% across 40 countries report feeling concerned about what is or isn’t real online. Brands are playing a role in the fight for facts by helping consumers determine fact from fiction and building their own resources for consumers to use.

Inspiration: The US arm of alcohol brand Pernod Ricard announced plans to develop a new app to take on hate speech on social platforms. The app will help consumers report hate speech and see whether (and why) the posts stay up or are taken down. This pressures platforms to be transparent about their decisions as well as to delete harmful content. In another move that directly impacts social media platforms, Finland-based healthcare company Terveystalo launched the ‘Essential Influencers’ campaign. This campaign calls on platforms to add a “verified” badge on profiles of scientists, doctors, and officials who provide accurate and unbiased information about coronavirus.

Takeaway: Consumers aren’t quite sure who to trust right now. Show them they can trust your brand by showcasing your values and taking a stand. Building trust during moments of uncertainty will help grow the overall trust in your brand for years to come.

 7) Science-Backed Brands

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As the coronavirus continues to affect our daily lives, consumers are placing more importance on medically and scientifically endorsed brands. Research shows that 89% of Americans put their trust in medical scientists and those reporting a great deal of confidence in medical scientists has risen to 43%. Brands are taking notice by spotlighting their scientific credentials.

Inspiration: Cerebelly, a baby food brand developed by a neurosurgeon to support brain development, recently became stocked in Target and sells a pouch every 15 seconds. The brand promises to give children the right nutrients at the right time as they grow and develop. The brand combines neuroscience and nutrition backed by multiple medical experts. 

Takeaway: Consumers are placing an increased value on scientific evidence and claims. Think about ways you can back up your brand benefits with meaningful proof points to help consumers feel comfortable and confident in their purchase decisions.

8) The Future is Femtech


Just because the current healthcare focus is on coronavirus, brands haven’t stopped innovating to tackle other health issues. Startups are making waves within women's healthcare by developing new technology and tackling issues like toxic products and taboos head on. These innovations likely won’t slow down anytime soon as the global femtech industry is expected to reach $60B by 2027.

Inspiration: The conventional way of taking birth control pills is full of user errors as 80% of women on the pill miss at least one per month. Emme developed the first smart case that automatically senses and records birth control pills to keep women on track and reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancies. Startup Bloomi is also tackling a very real problem within women’s healthcare: the fact that the majority of intimate care products contain cheap and toxic ingredients. The company offers an online marketplace that sells clean intimate care products like pads and sex toys approved by experts. 

Takeaway: Never stop questioning how things could be better within your industry and what pain points you can solve for your consumer. Consider how your brand can bring new ideas and innovations to spaces that may feel stagnant or stale.

9) Pet Tech Levels Up


As pet adoptions surge during the pandemic, consumers are turning to pet tech to enhance their pet’s quality of life. The pet tech market is expected to surpass $20B by 2025 as pet owners seek ways to improve the manual tasks of feeding, cleaning, and healthcare. Pet care brands are innovating to level up the daily pet care routine and offer consumers peace of mind as they seek the best for their furry family members.

Inspiration: Finn, a new nutritional brand for dogs, formulates pet supplements that combine science and research with modern wellness. They provide consultations and factor in characteristics like breed, age, lifestyle, and mood to ensure each pup is getting the best nutrition for them. Even pet tech brands that have been around for a little longer are seeing a surge in interest in their brand. Kitty Poo Club, a monthly all-in-one litter box solution, reports seeing 3000% growth over the last 18 months as owners seek ways to improve the mundane task of cleaning the litter box. 

Takeaway: If you’re in a category that is seeing fast growth or quickly reinventing, don’t let the category move on without you. Lean in and find ways your brand can deliver on the same pain points in new and innovative ways.

10) Data Self-Care
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Managing personal data can make consumers feel drained and overwhelmed. When they’re confronted with data security issues they feel a wide range of negative emotions with 53% of Americans reporting feeling disoriented, 58% feeling violated, and 37% feeling frightened. These reactions are driving a rise in data anxiety and brands are stepping in to help foster healthier relationships between consumers and their data.

Inspiration: Mozilla and international NGO Tactical Tech joined forces to create a global Data Detox Kit to enhance digital wellbeing. It includes everyday tips to help people control their privacy and security and make informed choices about their data. Facebook is also playing a role in data self-care with its recent partnership with the Central Board of Secondary Education in India to develop a curriculum on digital safety and online wellbeing. 

Takeaway: The definition of wellbeing is expanding to include the complex relationship consumers have with technology in their everyday lives. How can your brand help consumers form happy and positive relationships with new technology and innovations?

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