Corporate communications content is often driven by legal and confidentiality interests. But adopting a broader mindset and sharing your company’s vision of the future helps to position yourself as a thought leader. Traditionally, many companies are conservative in their public comments about their competitive environment and future prospects, at least beyond the minimum requirements of a stock-listed company, that is. Marketing collateral such as annual reports mostly reflect on past events and the current operating environment. As a result, investors, analysts, job seekers, media, and other stakeholders are often left wishing they could learn more about a company’s prospects for success in a fast-changing world.
Think ahead and let it showDigitalization, AI, and robotics are altering the ways people behave and disrupting business models. This makes imagining a future landscape challenging, but it’s not only critical for survival and success: it’s also a tremendous marketing opportunity. Uncertainty abounds, and people appreciate those who make it easier to plan ahead. Stakeholders tend to reward companies that openly share their views. Great communicators earn themselves the position of a thought leader, and thought leaders typically enjoy better margins on their prices than their competitors, and generally a better reputation among customers, employees, job seekers, and investors. Not insignificantly, many job seekers and investors seek meaningful values in companies that they want to associate themselves with. What better way to communicate your commitments than to show how the company sees its own role in shaping the future?
It’s not only communications, it’s strategic positioningThe decision to invest in creating effective thought leadership is a strategic one. To put that in perspective, consider the opposite: Many stock-listed companies say the decision to not publish rich competitive or future-oriented information in their corporate communications is a conscious one. While that is probably true, a ‘conscious’ decision does not make it a ‘strategic’ one. Oftentimes in corporate communications, the decisions about communicating (or not) specific views are based on legal aspects and confidentiality, not necessarily an over-arching marketing and positioning strategy.
Companies that get it rightThere are numerous global brands in a wide range of industries who have recognized the power of future-oriented insights in their marketing communications. Here’s a few who’ve put great effort into analyzing their future and communicating the outcomes visibly and proactively: DHL, the global logistics provider, publishes its views on the trends in logistics:
“Now in its fourth year, the Logistics Trend Radar is a dynamic, living tool that captures the development of society, business and technology trends. It has become an inspiring benchmark for strategy and innovation in the logistics industry and has triggered a number of successful, award-winning pilots both inside and outside of DHL in close collaboration with our customers and partners.”LeasePlan, one of the world’s leading leasing companies, with 1.7 million vehicles in over 30 countries, discusses the future of mobility:
“The world of mobility is rapidly evolving. That’s why we’re working to lead the way to what’s next. For our company, our industry and you – our customers. Discover how we’re delivering any car, anytime, anywhere.”Samsung, the leader in smart devices and technologies, reports on the future of living:
“Award-winning architects and Westminster University lecturers Arthur Mamou-Mani and Toby Burgess have spent five years exploring the concept of future living; everything from autonomous communities to new materials and digital fabrication tools. Linda Aitken and Els Leclercq are professional urbanists. Alongside Dr Aderin-Pocock and Samsung SmartThings, they have joined together to conduct research into the future of living.”KONE, the leading elevators and escalators company, discusses the future of cities, offices, and homes:
“The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the world’s cities will add 2.5 billion inhabitants. At the same time, our future populations will change quite dramatically: today about 13 per cent of people are over 60 years of age, but by 2050 every region besides Africa will have at least a quarter of their population over 60. These billions of people will somehow have to be housed, fed and cared for, and their needs will be significantly different from the average urban population today.”Wärtsilä, a global leader in power solutions for the marine and energy markets, has published its scenarios for shipping until 2030:
“The scenarios help us in long-term strategic planning and better serving our customers. What the future will look like in reality depends on the decisions we all make, together and individually. Other factors shaping the future are out of our control, but we can prepare ourselves by means of scenario work.”Not all companies' predictions or visions will be perfect, or even correct. But the opportunity to identify yourself as a leader in your space, spark a conversation with your stakeholders, and challenge your brand to stand out from the crowd has clear benefits.
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