Taking Stock of FragmentNation

By J. Walker Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer, Kantar Cosulting

One week to the day after the 2016 election, Kantar hosted an afternoon event in New York called “FragmentNation.” It was focused on the fragmentation and proliferation affecting the marketplace, and it was planned with the election in mind. The political divisiveness of the election cycle brought home to marketers the scope and difficulty of unifying people around a common cause, brands no less than politics. The unexpected outcome of the presidential contest underlined the urgency of the need to rethink the marketplace of FragmentNation.

Data scientist and pollster Nate Silver keynoted the session with his first presentation about why polling had been so wrong and what this said about division in the marketplace. Top thought leaders within Kantar followed on the FragmentNation program with insights and takeaways about what brands must do to succeed in a so-called marketplace of multiplicity.

Now, it is time to look again at where the marketplace is headed and what’s changing as things move forward.

We have compiled the ideas of nine Kantar thinkers and consultants about what fragmentation means to the marketplace and what lessons brands can take from the events and developments since the election. Andrew Curry opens with a look at how Silicon Valley has fallen from grace in the past year and what this reveals about managing brands in a time of intense passions and high expectations. Bryan Gildenberg revisits his FragmentNation presentation about the pressures on the middle market and the necessity for retailers and brands to look elsewhere for value and growth. Jon Wood illustrates the sorts of opportunities that fragmentation offers brands with a look at the revival of subscription box services over the past year.

Maurice Nicholson looks at racial and ethnic demographic trends from the perspective of the working class and what this means for retailers and brands.

One of the biggest changes in the marketplace over the past year is the growing pressure on brands to jump into social issues and political debates. Nigel Hollis cautions against that, with a view toward careful study and pre-testing before doing anything with political overtones. In contrast, Leslie Pascaud argues that brands do not have the option of retreating to a neutral corner, and even if they did, should link themselves to a social purpose that will animate their loyal customers. Kimberly Pedersen argues that focusing on stories—not stands—is the strategy that can enable brands both to avoid the worst of getting caught in a political scrum and to reap the benefits of connecting emotionally and passionately with consumers.

Ann Green believes that the best brands have always been a part of common culture, and the utilization of unifying themes and values has proven itself again over the past year. Mitch Eggers agrees that the past year has surprised us with the sort of self-containment that is showing up in digital echo chambers, but he sees this as an opportunity for brands to harness the kind of passion and energy that has gone missing from marketing in recent years.

The insights and ideas offered by Kantar thought-leaders are always deeply reflective and highly action-oriented. These short pieces are no exception. Anyone dealing with strategic issues in today’s marketplace will find a lot of value here. In our extraordinary times, inspiration like this is greatly needed. And so, Kantar looks back a little over a year later to find the future of FragmentNation and the way forward for brands to win.


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