Make your brand stand out from the herd
I remember about 10 years ago many people in "the industry" predicted branding, like several other aspects of business, would die at the hands of the internet.
This idea, which started when the internet offered a new way of shopping, was that people would return to buying products not brands.
This concept experienced a reincarnation of sorts in the past few years. Web 2.0 was going to replace a brand's reputation with transparent user reviews and allow niche offers to overtake famous "big-hit" brands by allowing buyers to express their true preferences - buying the products they really wanted, unfettered by production, distribution and communication bottlenecks.
Well, it's fair to say brands have survived these pressures. But the practice of branding has been significantly affected in the process.
It's also true that while advertising agencies have famously struggled to reinvent themselves - brand consultancies have not always been at the leading edge of innovation in their own practice.
So what are the factors driving change in branding? We identify key macro trends with the most widespread impact.
- Changing demographic shapes - tailoring products to the needs of ageing populations and the expectations of the "digital native" youth.
- Global connectivity - while many people in emerging markets may not have the money or access to brands, their increasing exposure to those brands through marketing and entertainment shapes their aspirations.
- Technology - certain categories are on the cusp of significant change from technologies in genetics, robotics, nanotechnology and internet. These will shift their overall value propositions and evidentiary basis for benefits.
- Sustainability - this is an issue that's not going away. Relative to Europe, much of mainstream Asia remains preoccupied with prosperity rather than sustainability. But consumer niches are growing and progressive governments and corporates are starting to offer leadership on this issue.
- Emerging economies and Asia - post financial crisis, it's fair to expect that economies and cultures in this part of the world will emerge as producers and shapers of brands - not simply consumers to be exploited.
So how does a "future brand" maximise its long-term potential for business value?
1. It must strive to make people's lives better.
2. It must do so based on a future view of its category and where its brand or company and its products and services drive positive change.
3. Related to this, a future brand must provide an emotional connection to those who are the brand's greatest advocates or ambassadors that sets it apart from its more rational or "me too" competitors.
4. A future brand must actively understand, manage and appropriately exploit all touch-points at which a consumer or stakeholder interacts with the brand as an organisation, a product or service. All sensory stimuli are used to connect and differentiate so that the brand's values, experience and consumer preference are reinforced and aligned to its vision.
These characteristics naturally have an impact on the practice of branding in a variety of ways.
Offering compelling emotional connections with brand advocates requires the acceptance of a degree of freedom in customers' participation with brands, rather than trying to stage "control" experiences so brand management becomes a highly dynamic process of influential interactions with people - not being a logo Nazi.
Yes, branding has a future, but its practice is not the same as its past.
The challenge for practitioners is to understand how brands can evolve and facilitate growth for the benefit of the public.
Tim Riches is the CEO and chief growth officer in Futurebrand.
Futurebrand Related Stories:
- FutureBrand boosts China team
- FutureBrand appoints new GM
- Khan named FutureBrand's APAC CEO
- SG an emerging hub for branding agencies
- IPG content studio launches across Asia
- Riches takes MD role at The Leading Edge
- FutureBrand refines personnel amidst growth
- FutureBrand to dress up Sepaktakraw
- The PITCH: Does branding have a future?
- FutureBrand creates legacy corner for British Pavilion
- Singapore brand on the rise
- The light at the end of the tunnel?
- FutureBrand eyes regional growth
- GolinHarris creates role for growing China market
- The business of giving
- FutureBrand localises Crown Macau