Today change is not just a constant but an ever-increasing normality, and the most successful brands are using this to their advantage. Here’s who did that best in 2019.

Tackling societal changes head on

One of the most talked about societal changes in recent times is the positive shift towards people being increasingly free to explore nuanced facets of their gender and sexuality.

One ‘gender traditional’ organisation that has embraced this change is Mattel with their new ‘Creatable Worlds’ kits, representing the first gender-neutral doll”, according to Monica Dreger, head of the toy giant’s global consumer insights division.

Kids can mix and match hairstyles and clothing options on dolls with gender-neutral features. Children aged five or six already grasp modern gender mindsets and are helping to shift their parents’ attitudes at a much younger age than previous generations. The result has helped Mattel shift to being more progressive and in touch with a new generation of consumers who will grow up loving their brand.

Continuing the idea of designing for inclusivity, Xbox recently launched their adaptive kit. The Microsoft developed Xbox Adaptive Kit is here to help those with limited hand and arm mobility play games without the restrictions of existing controllers. It’s a boxy controller with two giant buttons and over a dozen ports for external peripherals, to allow people with disabilities the option to play Xbox in any manner they can.

Adopting modern needs to keep fashion relevant

One of the biggest challenges for established luxury brands is to appeal to the growing number of affluent younger consumers.  According to Deloitte, millennials and Generation Z will represent more than 40% of the overall luxury goods market by 2025, compared with 30% in 2016.  Heritage brands therefore have to talk the same language as their new audiences.

In 2019, Burberry appointed new Creative Director Riccardo Tisci which has seen it emerge as the number one brand for streetstyle AW 19/20.  The looks are eclectic and nostalgic, blending street and sportswear which led to double the growth analysts had expected, with new collections proving particularly popular with Chinese millennials.

Using the change in eating habits to grow a portfolio

Plant-based eating is one of the fastest growing consumer trends in the Western world and recently moved from being an ethical lifestyle choice to 91% of Britons adopting some flexitarian behaviours.  That proves tricky for brands like M&S Food, who have a reputation for indulgent and innovative, but not necessarily healthy, ready meals.

Rather than double down on their traditional business, M&S leaned into the opportunity to create a range that challenged preconceptions around the taste and convenience of vegan food.  They developed an extensive range of 60 plant-based foods and took inspiration from street food codes, to create ‘Plant Kitchen’.  The brand was a huge success, generating millions in incremental sales and bringing a new generation of customers to M&S Food.

Making convenience, sustainable

2019 is also the year when environmental issues and the war on plastic has become a worldwide conversation. Many brands, especially in the FMCG sector, and big retailers are putting sustainability front and centre.

Waitrose launched its plastic-free ‘Unpacked’ initiative in Oxford this June with the trial seeing them remove packaging from more than 200 products to allow customers to fill their own reusable packaging.

Pepsico is similarly looking to reduce plastic with its venture ‘Drinkfinity’.  The multifunctional reusable water bottle enables users to drink plain water or enhance it through popping one of nine delicious infusion pods  into it.  Each 20oz serving of Drinkfinity contains up to 65% less plastic than a comparable ready-to-drink beverage and are much more efficient to ship and store.

Italian espresso giant Lavazza has taken a different environmentally friendly approach, launching the first compostable one-cup coffee pods from a major manufacturer. It’s new biopolymer-based Eco Caps break down into compost in as little as 6 months.

Urban car brand MINI faces more changes than most, with cars seen as polluting vehicles and people no longer wanting to own things – owning a car in the city is starting to seem frivolous and un-p.c. However, MINI is leveraging growing urbanisation, with a focus on maximising quality of life in compact spaces. Launching MINI LIVING with their first co-living space opening in October 2019 in Shanghai few years ago it brings the know-how from vehicles into urban development, transforming a former paint factory into new co-living spaces to live, work and play.  Their new philosophy of ‘creative use of space’ is a great example of how a brand is turning change into opportunity.

One thing is for sure, when humans are faced with change they are at their most receptive and often innovative.