This Week in Business and Brands: Yearly Checkups, Predictions & Prognoses, and More

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Reflecting and Projecting: What’s in Store for 2018

With just a few weeks left until the door closes on 2017, new windows of opportunity are already opening for the new year. Some experts are even giving a sneak peek into 2018, with a forecast that’s flooding the next twelve months with a digital evolution on all fronts. That means harnessing emerging technology as customer experience takes center stage, delivering on ever-demanding expectations of speed, convenience, and personalization. While artificial intelligence might not yet take the full form of cyborg assistants, the AI driving recommendation engines and big data analytics will have to take CX to a new level to keep customers happy (and spoiled). After all, as warned by Forrester’s upcoming “Year of Reckoning,” 30% of companies will actually see declines in their CX performance, so innovation will be needed like never before in order to keep up with the competition. Which brands will win out in the war for obsessive customer-centricity?

Facing the Future: A Taste of Tech

Sometimes the best way to predict the future is to ask those who actively bet on it – and often win. So we’ll always listen when expert analysts from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz throw down their two cents about not just next year, but the next ten. The four key areas they’ve identified for transformational growth are autonomy, mixed-reality, cryptocurrencies, and artificial intelligence. While these may not sound so surprising, their respective evolutions are much further underway than we might realize, as it’s not necessarily the technology itself that needs more time to develop, but society’s adaptation and employment of these new advancements. Just like the smartphone took many years to become ubiquitous, it will take similar stretches before fully autonomous cars and AI are fully embraced on a widespread level – but that inevitability is certainly worth an investment for those who are patient (and rightly confident). From VR headsets to entire cities running themselves, there’s plenty to get excited about – and they’ll be well worth the wait.

Talking Tactics, Tête-à-Tête

Need to quench your thirst for expert marketing strategy? Pour yourself a glass of insights from Gatorade’s CMO Andrew Hartshorn, who’s “fueling” the fire behind the brands biggest campaigns to date:

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  • On finding organizational inspiration: “Athletes have evolved, so our product, technology, and way of reaching them has evolved, but at the heart of everything we do is the desire to fuel athletic performance. That focus gives you great clarity in strategy and execution.”
  • On the brand beyond the product: “All of our campaigns fall into one of two buckets. First are product-driven, highlighting product offerings, the science behind them, and the benefits they offer competitive athletes. The second are equity campaigns: inspirational, motivational initiatives to drive home our sports culture presence.”
  • On taking campaigns beyond the screen: “We created digital content that ladders up to an overarching campaign and also partnered with Gimlet to create a podcast…by thinking of this as more than a standalone TV spot, we’re able to create longer-lasting dialogues with our consumers.”

Healthy Acquisitions: The $67 Billion Question

With the biggest buy of the year, CVS’s massive bid for healthcare network Aetna rocked the M&A world this week, but experts disagree as to the prognosis: is it promising or perilous? While the two brands claim the move will deliver efficiencies, better service, and lower prices for customers, others worry this kind of massive consolidation is what’s hurting the healthcare system in the first place. Both may very well turn out to be true. But if all goes well, the behemoth could revolutionize the industry, leveraging an unprecedented cache of longitudinal patient-customer data to create an entirely new model of healthcare. The stores themselves could become a one-stop-shop for care, with walk-in-clinics serving both prescriptions and checkups under one roof. This could also help lower insurance premiums by creating efficiency and cutting costs on the supplier’s side. Or is the merger just a defensive move for the companies in an ever-consolidating world, hoping to turn the “one-stop-shop” into the “only-stop-shop?” Only time will tell whether the move is a temporary fix or lasting cure…

Role Model Review: The Recode 100

That’s all for this week! We’ll leave you with this look at 2017’s 100 most influential people in tech, business, and media, from Armstrong to Zuckerberg and Cardi to Colin…