Agility is key in the Year of the Monkey

Central to most thoughts for the next year – the Year of the Monkey – is a focus on succeeding in today’s fast-moving, multi-channel world.

As a new lunar year begins, here is how key characteristics of the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac we believe are important and relevant for brands to embrace in 2016.

Ambitious and adventurous

There are five different monkeys in the Chinese Zodiac and 2016 is a Fire Monkey year. Fire Monkeys are ambitious and adventurous and we feel that 2016 is a year for being just that. There are many challenges – in every sector and every market – but this is not a year for battening down the hatches. Bold, innovative strategies will win through, leaving more conservative types struggling to keep up.


For brands this means being inherently responsive. The pace at which the world moves is getting faster as we have less time than ever to ponder strategy. Brands have to learn to assess the market in real time and react quickly to information and insight. Consumers’ expectation of the responsiveness of brands is on the rise; so brands must design their business so that they can fulfil and anticipate needs and capitalise on opportunities, whilst addressing risks and avoiding pitfalls.


Consumers are becoming immune to ‘brand speak’ and greater automation processes have enabled faceless touch points that have made the connection less human. How can brands engage with their customers better and in a more human way? 2016 will see a strong focus for brands – particularly in sectors under pressure such as banking and retail – to ‘re-humanise’ their customer experience so that they can build stronger relationships with their customers.

Successful brands will view their customers as people and not as numbers and will look to entertain them and engage them in lively conversation. They will listen and empathise with their customers, weaving in elements of human touch to every aspect of their business to differentiate and curate a unique and great customer experience.


A one-size-fits-all strategy in most cases will struggle to create cut-through. Brands must develop a relentless attitude into understanding their different customer segments by digging deep into consumer insight to enable them to deliver more relevant and targeted experiences.

From an Asia perspective, brands in this part of the world must take into account that what works well locally, may not well work elsewhere and vice versa. Additionally Asia – and even China – cannot be treated as a homogenous region. There is a great diversity within the region that needs to be understood. Building brands in a localised way by catering to specific needs of an audience segment will be far more effective than trying to achieve mass appeal.

One unifying theme across these characteristics is the ability to be agile. We see this as a pressing issue moving to the forefront in 2016. In today’s world change is rapid and the norm. Brands that build this behaviour into their DNA will able to rise and future-proof their strategy by staying relevant to their customers.

* Jonathan Cummings is MD Asia with Start and Kasumi Miyake is Start’s content strategist.

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