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How Can Brands Remain Relevant?

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We often get asked by prospective clients about how to create a brand which can remain relevant. We can’t predict the future (*whispers Brexit*), but we can provide some clear pointers to keep your brand future-ready, whatever it might bring.

 

A purpose beyond the present

The first step when you’re setting up your brand is to always keep this question in mind: “Am I thinking beyond the present day?”. The strongest brands are future proof in their foundation. They can move seamlessly across both traditional and digital channels while staying true to their brand purpose.

This starts with the core purpose of your business being adaptable. For example, Patagonia’s mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Their business has taken many forms over the years, from a pure mountaineering gear company to a now (to their surprise) fashionable clothing brand. However, their mission has always remained relevant to who they are and thus to the consumer as well.

This is not to say you can’t adapt along the way. In January 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts changed their name to Dunkin’, to reflect their increasing emphasis on coffee and other drinks as well as sandwiches. By removing the limitation of doughnuts from their name, Dunkin’ became a more flexible master brand system to accommodate any future ventures.

Ensuring your business purpose and vision is future focussed will help you navigate the changing climates and adapt to allow you to thrive.

 

Focus on the end-user

Numerous studies have shown that a consumer’s emotional connection to a brand far outweighs any other rational factors. Brands need to keep in touch with their consumers’ needs in order to remain relevant. A good example of this not being done is the music industry. As a whole, they failed to properly understand their reasons for success; they lost focus and ignored consumers’ love for music in favour of their retailers. As Steve Jobs pointed out “The music industry thought their customer was Tower Records or Virgin MegaStore…but it never was. Those were their distribution channels. The actual customer is the person who consumes the music.”  This understanding and connection Jobs had with his customers led to the creation of iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone and so on…

An example of a brand failing to understand the needs of their consumers can be found with Bic in 2012 they released the “Bic for Her” (no really!). It begs the question: Did they do any consumer research before that product launch? Does anyone in this consumer-orientated company a consumer themselves? How can a brand completely misjudge the consumer sentiment / emotional needs of women?

Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits them and sells itself”. The same is true for branding and the same should of been true for Bic. Great brands do this consistently.

 

Embracing new technology 

Brands who wish to remain relevant in the digital age must embrace new technologies where it fits with consumers’ needs or the business purpose. It’s not about picking up a trend because everyone else is doing it – it’s about asking what new technology is out there that will enhance your customers’ experience, their connection to your purpose and ultimately ensure your brand continues to fit seamlessly into their lives. It’s an excellent way for brands to leverage market share over their competitors where they spot opportunities. There are countless examples of brands failing to do this and suffering as a result: Blockbuster failing to adopt streaming, Polaroid falling victim to digital, Toys R Us providing a stale retail experience – the list goes on. In more recent years, brands willing to be brave with technology are thriving.

The finance industry is a good example where technology is being used to adapt practices to suit changes in consumer behaviour. The global fintech market was valued at around $127.66 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow to $309.98 billion at an annual growth rate of 24.8% through 2022. Growth in the digital payments sector is driving the market for global Financial Technology – see more of our thoughts on fintech here.

 

Market trends

Pay attention to trends and flex to accommodate them. Too many brands ignore trends and get left behind. Currently, there are a number of dominant trends we’re seeing across a number of industries.

Sustainability: 

The packaging industry is facing a major challenge, how do you stay relevant when more and more supermarkets are going packaging-free and consumers want to see single-use plastic gone. The answer is to be part of the solution, not the problem. In 2018, Carlsberg announced a revolutionary ‘Snap pack’ technology, a glue which would hold the beer cans together rather than shrink wraps and plastic rings, the result is a 76% reduction in plastic compared to other multipacks. This aligns to Carlsberg’s mission of a constant “pursuit of better” and a fantastic example of a brand turning a potential industry ending problem into a game-changing solution. Guinness, Coke and Corona are some of the other brands that have followed suit in removing plastic holders for their cans as a result of this innovation from Carlsberg.

Inclusivity:

Calling this a trend may seem strange as many would argue this should be a new normal. However now, more than ever, it’s an incredibly important factor in consumer choice. People are expecting more and more from the brands they follow and 70% of millennials are more likely to choose a brand they believe to be inclusive. Dove, Nike, Gillette are examples of extremely powerful brands that hold inclusivity at the heart of their culture.

Digital-first:

BT launched their new logo earlier this year. Although some found it underwhelming the outcome was an extremely flexible brand mark that can shift between multiple digital channels. It can be colourised and tweaked across multiple sub-brands too, such as BT Sport and BT Wholesale.

Energy brand Bulb uses a digital-first strategy to entice customers away from British Gas and EON, attracting 700,000 new customers. They tie this in with the guarantee of 100% sustainability and use a combination of social media and referral marketing to draw in customers. A great example of a new entrant to the market using the latest trends to take market share away from established competitors.

 

To summarise…

Start with the mindset that your business will need to stay relevant beyond the present day,  constantly adapt and flex to accommodate and adopt market trends along the way and finally, keep your consumers at the heart of what you do. Your brand will be timeless.

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Next Article: The Off Brand Podcast: Why Digital Transformation is Relevant Today (With Didier Bonnet, Capgemini Consulting)