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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 6 years ago

2014: The renaissance of enterprise

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With the increasing role of technology, the year ahead will bring many changes to the business world. Your company's performance depends on adjusting accordingly.
by: James R. Contributing Columnist

Many companies are blazing new paths to differentiate themselves as brands. A fascinating and innovative marketplace has emerged out of the recent economic dark ages, spanning from 2007 until now. The following are trends to watch in 2014.

Bootstrapping and entrepreneurial resurgence
Enough with the the sluggish economic recovery. American business is rolling up its sleeves. The whole country is ready to get things done the old-fashioned way - by bootstrapping. Established companies with thin resources are seeking out new and innovative ways to finance their enterprise, and startups are doing it as a way to launch new ventures.

The rise of crowdfunding in mainstream funding
The demise of the traditional banking system, which has historically been the finance engine for small business, has faded as a resource for funding. This funding vacuum has given entrepreneurs the impetus to seek out innovative funding. Crowdfunding will become more sophisticated and mainstream in 2014, and will have everyone from investment bankers to entrepreneurs rethinking how to finance and scale growth.

The scalability of the collaborative economy
The collaborative economy is emerging in the technology and business services sectors. New partnerships and alliances are being fueled out of necessity as an effective way to success. Today's technologies provide entrepreneurs with new product creation and resource-sharing abilities to network and find solutions, rather than use precious funds on equipment and people.

Emergence of local artisans
On the heels of a sluggish economy, we are seeing an emergence of local uprisings on many levels. The rise of artisanal brands will increase in the U.S. There will be more brands in categories once dominated by giants companies (liquor, beer, soft drinks) spawned by startups with a “local” feel. There is something inherently American about this leading-edge trend driven by consumers supporting “organic” and “local” initiatives. Technologies and online forums will continue to fuel the momentum of these startups .

Increase in customer interaction and honesty
Consumers have more power than ever and demand answers. There will be an increase in direct interaction between companies and their customers through social media (comments, product changes, customer input). This will put pressure on companies to be more authentic in marketing and focus on honesty about ingredients, processes, and benefits of the products. Honesty will be the power behind marketing moving forward.

Convergence of the physical and digital experiences
Physical and digital interactions are coming together across a wide spectrum. Smartphones are delivering data while you shop, or watch TV. Tablets are letting you interact with television in real-time. Conferences will focus on gathering and transmitting streams of data while hosting live audiences and speaker forums. This convergence of physical and digital is also taking place in real-time manufacturing. While 3-D printing has been available for decades, it is becoming more sophisticated and inexpensive to own a 3-D printer. The MakerBot is one starter level 3-D printer for only $3000. This technology is quickly evolving from rapid prototyping to mass customization manufacturing.

Content-driven marketing and communications
Consumer influence will continue to evolve the role of business marketing and communications. Chief marketing officers (CMO) will become even more engaged in the business operations. Content will become key in how companies engage with customers. Customers will seek more information, through all channels more than ever before and become more thoroughly educated before moving to an action/outcome.

Big data no longer a Buzzword
“Big Data” will stop being a buzzword, as companies engage in the deeper use of responding with comprehensive information backed by thorough data. The CMO's role will become more influential than the chief information officer (CIO) by embracing and leveraging “Small Data” (contextualized Big Data) to grow revenue and enterprise value. As this develops, the CMO's tenure will lengthen and the career path will ultimately lead to the next generation of CEOs.

Brand stewardship isn't gone
Corporate America has indeed joined the “warm and fuzzy” bandwagon. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs will continue getting attention at the board level in major companies. Employees, communities, media, customers, and shareholders are raising expectations about the role of corporations to take and maintain a leadership position in implementing high-level CSR and sustainable standards.

The overall outlook for the U.S. is upbeat: For the first time in decades the U.S. is seeing a trend toward lower cost of energy. When combined with a drive for success among its workforce, new innovations, lower borrowing and marketing costs, the U.S. will become even more competitive globally in manufacturing. By keeping costs in line, more consumers will seek out American-made products.

James R. Gregory is founder and CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy, communications and design firm headquartered in New York, with offices in Los Angeles and Tampa. He helps clients develop strategies to improve their corporate brands and profitability. Contact him at [email protected].

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