The Future of Branding
The only consistent in branding is that branding is constantly changing. Brands create themselves. Systems are detecting gaps in brands through social media monitoring, click-through rates, and A/B testing. They also look beyond the immediate product space for changes in the broader environment and use this data to anticipate consumer needs. It is this consumer and their needs that shape brands. There is massive data about minute-by-minute buying behavior through predictive computing, accessible for brands to make use of. Therefore consumers co-create through interaction with brands. Brands need to be proactive and fluid, letting the brand inform the marketing brief. Marketing thus moves away from management to maneuvering.
Brands will become intelligent and adaptive. Brands will need to anticipate the consumer’s need before they know they have those needs. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technology will produce continuous and fast results that brands can use to enhance their communication. If these technologies are used optimally, brands will become intelligent, customizable and collaborative, morphing with unprecedented momentum. Brands are becoming viral by default – uber fast and ultra-short lived. Knowing this message, bombardment needs to evolve into productive interaction by applying data to create significant experiences and engagement. Promotion will become singular and essence driven, with fewer long-term campaigns. Consumers will become brand partners and not only customers. Therefore, advertising will become a driving tool for transactions.
Brands will become the result of consumer aspirations. Consumer aspirations are continuously
evolving along with brands. Standardized branding is being replaced by meaningful, socially-minded, authentic, and experiential approaches. Consumers have an unconscious bias for emotions. Studies have revealed that consumers are downgrading brands to commodity status if the brand fails to connect emotionally. Clean-slate brands – brands with little or no heritage are finding appeal by infusing aspirational business values like fair labour, transparency, and
co-creation deeply into their business models and practices. The importance of values, however, varies by generation. Baby Boomers and Millennials make much more value-based purchases than Gen Xers or Matures. Therefore, meaningful messaging will be centered around values. If not, brands will not be heard.
Ethical and ideological concerns outweigh the value for money. It is personal values that edge out what we see as conscious consumption. Value-based consumption is increasing in the growing global middle class.
Therefore affordable yet socially and environmentally responsible consumerism is the future. Brands need to be transparent about their values because they will be held accountable.
Brands will become friends. Crowds of like-minded people form on social media, where brands
are becoming a near-continuous touch-point. Brands need always to be on and not tied to one product.
Micro-competing brands will be at play. There needs to be constant storytelling to those who are part of the story, and engagement with your friends should be early and often. What consumers want in terms of products and delivery platforms can be found with data insights and interactive communication.
Reach is now more important than relationships. Awareness is winning the battle of the mind,
with loyalty falling to second place as relationships with brands will not matter that much in the future.
Consumers are light users and not fans ab initio, opting for more direct brand engagement.
On top of that, studies suggest that Millennials are pragmatic consumers, and post-recession knows that generic can offer both quality and saving. In this regard, personalization is even more critical. In the future, brand engagement won’t go away entirely but will move toward greater consumer control over what their products and services look like and do. Here lies the purpose of digital media channels to spread the word about the brand via engaging content rather than building relationships with frequent users. A communication strategy needs to maximize the number of consumers reached and the frequency of interaction. Fragmenting media channels and preferences mean that getting many consumers will require many channels. If most consumers are light users, loyalty programs should reward light and first-time users.
There is no more e-commerce. It is just commerce. It is convenience and availability that drives future consumer purchasing, not impulse, making branded goods an exclusive differentiator. A strong brand identity is needed to motivate consumers to make purchases beyond their convenience threshold. Due to various automation advances, technologies are rapidly becoming capable of real-world autonomous operation. All these factors move brands to ensure low-friction transactions and the high importance of packaging due to declining in-store sales making the “unboxing” experience of utmost importance. The most successful brands motivate consumers to make the extra effort to avoid theconvenience of store brands, generics, or competing brands.
Brand partnerships are part of future brand ecosystems. The tug between the supply chain and brand ecosystems is on the rise. Brands are increasingly responsible for everything that happens in their supply chains, and consumers expect better, faster, and more personalized experiences and recognition. Consumers expect brands to make the best possible use of the data they share with them. In line with this, companies form partnerships and charge a premium for usage rights of their partnering products. For example, only a specific brand of coffee might be used in a particular coffee machine, or same-branded detergents and bleach formulated to work best together. With a brand ecosystem approach, loyalty should be rewarded for using various products within the ecosystem. Better living can be promoted through these partnerships.
Lastly, brands will become embedded in life, virtual and real. The challenge is to find the seamless opportunities offered by the plethora of insights and consistently offer strong, fresh brand messages to create awareness, instill values, and engage continually and refreshingly.