“Knowing the future is impossible – but making smart predictions about what it holds is.”
There is no doubt that our world has become more complicated as we continue moving forward. The increased complexity is mostly thanks to digital technology. With multiple ways to engage your audience, brands now face a steep digital curve with no signs of slowing down.
Digital technologies have a true north – that is, continuous improvements. There is no turning back from technology. Even traditional media has taken to some improvements over the years. As a result, brand marketing is only going to be more complicated.
PROBLEMS FOR SOME
In one of our previous posts on brand perception vs reality, we discussed how branding is a two-way street. It is a mix of how your customers perceive your brand and your brand’s beliefs. Customers hold a lot of bargaining power now because finding information and alternatives are within the click of a search button.
Social media has become a platform for change. Strong opinions can shape brands positively or negatively. Brands are held accountable for their actions and customers demand transparency.
To top it off, a brand equipped with ad targeting technologies has to deal with the rise of ad blockers. These blockers make the job of marketers and advertisers more taxing – with creativity being ever more important.
However, some brands are loving where the future of branding is leaning into.
AN ADVANTAGE FOR OTHERS
Customers may seem to be in the driver’s seat but that is not impeding the rise of startups worldwide in recent years. The growth is mainly because technology and government intervention have made it easier.
But then again, the ones who have the most control are the big four technology firms; Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, also known as GAFA.
The fact that consumers now rely on technology gives these giants the ultimate control of the future of branding. In the digital world, they can control what information consumers see. For example, think about how Google decides what search results get displayed. Consumers have little say in what kind of content gets pushed to them.
Though everyone is affected, the consumers who are the most affected by this control are none other than the millennials.
A MILLENNIAL VOICE
It is time to turn our attention to the tech-savvy millennials that are now just about to enter the workforce. Things are going to change now that they are the future consumers with buying power.
Globalwebindex says that 4 of every 10 millennials use social media to find entertaining content. Also, they are consuming content on the go making mobile experiences a necessity.
An infographic created by Fuse Media for Adweek showed millennials beliefs about brands and marketing. Brand messages need to be lived out by brands to gain their trust – they also dislike being generalised as a generation.
In other words, when you reference millennials in adverts, do not be cliché; be true to your brand’s identity in all forms of marketing – honest and transparent.
Amanda Slavin, CEO of CatalystCreativ, weighed in her opinion in a post. She said that everything would become more “humanised”. Data Analytics will be less numerical and assimilate human behaviour. She referenced Unilever’s consumer study, saying brands who advocate social responsibility need to take a step further and involve the consumer.
Future consumers will want more personalised experiences which are useful, entertaining and resonate with the company’s beliefs.
If companies fail to do so, how much do you think customers would care?
It turns out, not so much.
BRANDS WHO VANISH, FOREVER FORGOTTEN.
According to a global survey of 300,000 people across 15 countries by Havas Group:
“People would not care if 74% of brands disappeared”
Three-quarters of the respondents expect brands to make a difference in the wellbeing of consumers. Only 40% of the surveyed believe that brands are doing it. Also, 60% of online content by brands was determined as insignificant, irrelevant, and underperforming.
The high demand for meaningful brands shows us that the majority of brands are not convincing consumers that they are doing things for the greater good. Brands need to set up and start making an actual difference by showing that it is more about helping people than making sales.
How should Brands fix this?
To prepare for the future of branding, brands are going to have to do more than just marketing their inner purpose. We have lost sight of the foundations of marketing. Instead, our heads are knee deep in grabbing the attention of customers by pursuing any tactic that reigns as a new way to solve that problem.
The solution is simple. We have to bring back the principles of marketing.
It is that simple.
1. Understanding your industry and audience
You should know by now how your industry works; how it is marketed; what the unique selling points are; and the norms that all companies do, including yourself.
If you do not, then this is where you need to start. If you do not know your own industry, then how can you be confident in winning your customers? Once you do, understanding your audience comes next.
Forget what you currently know about them. Going back to basics, you need to know consumer behaviour (This will be revisited in a full article, sit tight). Consumer Behaviour, in its broadest definition, is about understanding how people select and use products and services. The principle that we want to highlight is that it reveals how people make decisions on buying goods.
For starters, take a look at why they even decided to look for your product or service in the first place.
How? Ask them.
Do surveys. If they are complex, invite them for an interview, over the phone or in person. Do not forget to give them a discount on their next purchase, or any incentive that fits.
Only when you understand your customer, can you know the HOW and WHAT to say to them.
2. Staying true to your brand, by example
Consumers want to indulge and know they made the right decision doing so. The icing on top is knowing that what they indulged in brought about something good too. Take TOMS, a classic example. TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need every time someone buys one for them. Its “one-for-one” business model is sustainable because the very reason for the brand’s existence drives its business. Unless people stop caring about social responsibility, TOMS’s business model will continue to flourish.
Think about an extension that relates to your brand. If you sell toothpaste, then help a cause that fights against mouth diseases. Another example is a cleaning company sharing DIY tips on stain removal, cleanliness and maintenance.
As people, we are conditioned to find connections. If customers cannot see the link between your beliefs and the work you do, then you have already lost them. Help them discover that connection.
Do more, but mean it. The only thing that makes consumers more turned off from a brand is falseness. Brands must genuinely believe in their mission. The only way to do it is by saying it from the heart.
“There’s a 71% correlation between content effectiveness and the impact a brand has on personal wellbeing and quality of life …” – Meaningful Brands
With that, there is a good chance that what you say affects your customers. Be untruthful, and customers will drop you without a second thought. Besides, they would not care if your brand disappeared anyway.
Wrapping it up
With all the pros and cons that come with the future of branding, we have learnt some things we should address right now. We need to understand our industry, audience, and be truthful in what we advocate. Once the foundation is stable, we can then turn to technology to get that message across.
The modern consumer has a lexicon of channels to experience your brand. Using the right content, on the right medium and channel will increase your engagement. Also, do not ignore the impact that millennials will have on the future of branding. In the meantime, the fixes we have discussed work on all types of audiences.
To prepare for the future, build a strong house.