Opinion / 24.01.20 / 4 min read

Buck the 2020 trends with inertia

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when every business with any form of marketing function pushes their take on the year’s upcoming trends, from Facebook and Forrester to Kantar and Kelton. In fact, there’s so many of them that Baiba Matisone, Alexis Cheong and Julian Cole et al. have done a sterling job of collating them all under one roof (see here). But with so much information on predicting the next latest and greatest change*, is it possible to not capitalise on them and transform the fortunes of our clients’ businesses and indeed our own?

Buck the 2020 trends with inertia

Figure 1. ANA’s ‘marketing word of the year’ over the past five years (ANA 2020).

Unfortunately, yes. The sheer volume of predictions can make things feel a little overwhelming. Especially when they’re huge, broad-brush concepts (see above) and even more so when they’re at odds with one another. For example, I stumbled across an article on ‘What Matters in 2020’ stating “Brands Mature as Platforms for Social Change”. And then immediately read a piece shared by the Director of Insight at a research firm that found “a brand’s position on social issues ranks almost bottom for importance when buying its products”, true both consumer and category wide. This is why and where we should stop. Stop with the speculation. Stop with the predictions and stop with 2020 trends. For now at least…


We should start 2020 with inertia instead (inertia, the commercial killer, really?). Yep, I mean inertia in the unchanging sense and not the do-nothing sense where all the stigma lies. The things that remain constant in an otherwise volatile world. Things that hold historical merit in terms of foundational knowledge and learnings. This feels like an appropriate time to share a perhaps cliché but relevant reference from, according to Forbes, the world’s wealthiest man.

“I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time”.

Perhaps someone a little more relatable to cement the point? Bill Bernbach, founder of one of the advertising and marcomms industry greats…

“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own”.

Core. Human. Drivers. To acquire; To bond; To learn; To defend. We don’t crave personalisation. We crave – instinctively – bonding with others; feeling valued in our relationships. And we certainly don’t crave brand purpose (well, some of us do…). That’s not to say that personalisation isn’t valuable to brands in 2020 or indeed that we should ignore trends altogether. Rather, that we should refocus our efforts.

Inertia first, trend second.

Inertia First. Trend Second

To exemplify my point using the four aforementioned drivers (not that all brand communication should be rooted in one of these, just rooted in human motivations – wants and needs – and not led by technology or other tactical-level decisions), here are some recent cases of brands that have done a fantastic job of demonstrating this priority:


Figure 2. Successful global brand communications in 2019 (D&AD 2020).

Return to Chapman’s Peak’ by Mercedes-Benz. First, a story of the safety, class and status acquired through their products – past and present. Second, autonomous vehicles.

Universal Love’ by MGM Grand Resort. First, reimagining love songs to make them inclusive for relationships of all shapes and sizes. Second, vinyl.

Read more. Listen more.’ by UNESCO. First, the importance of going beyond your own echo chamber. Second, viral.

Dream Crazy’ by Nike. First, encouragement to take a stand on something you believe in. Second, ‘challenger brand’.

The danger of trend-chasing is that it can be all-too-easy to divert from your brand’s original course of direction; distracted by the new and shiny that everyone else is also distracted by. At Mr B & Friends, we develop brand strategy for our clients with 100% commitment to an unwavering central focal point we call an ‘Organising Thought’. In our experience, this typically goes beyond brand, serving as a business platform that drives a number of success-critical activities, from: Comms (campaign & collateral etc.) and Effectiveness (brand health & performance marketing etc.), to Experience (offline & digital etc.) and Culture (internal & employer brand etc.) – it all hangs together.

So, try striking this fine balance and buck the 2020 trends with inertia.

1. ANA 2020 Marketing Word of the Year 2.D&AD 2020 2019 D&AD Awards Winners (Intergrated) 3. Forbes 2020 The World’s Billionaires 4. Google 2020 Google Trends 5. Inc. 2017 Jeff Bezos: The unchanged question 6. Lawrence and Nohria 2002 Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices 7. Medium 2014 Bill Bernbach and the Beginning 8. Medium 2019 What Matters in 2020 9. Twitter 2020 Brands and Social Purpose


Sarah Dennis

Marketing Director