The future of brands

In Brandshift released in 2014, authors David Houle and Owen Shapiro write that brands are evolving quickly on two fronts:

  • “Brand marketing is in a state of existential crisis. Everywhere, marketers are being impacted by a series of profound and rapid innovations that are transforming how they communicate with their customers.
  • Consumers are facing their own crisis as these same profound technological changes transform how they earn a living, communicate with the world, and even perceive reality.

There is an ongoing revolution of what brands mean for consumers. Evaluating, reacting and positioning for the future are activities which are now imperative for brands to achieve long-term success.

Five key traits which will deeply affect future success of brands include:


1. Driven by customers

The aspirations of the consumer will increasingly drive strategic decision making of brands. Being “customer centric” will mean more as brands shift to become more fluid in engagement. Customers will increasingly set the terms for brands, demanding more pragmatism, seamlessly-integrated experiences online and offline, and brutal simplicity. Brands which add value to customers by simplifying a complexity in their lives are already disrupting entire industries.


2. Personal and personable

In a world becoming rapidly more technologically complex, it will be imperative for both B2C and B2B brands to be able to decode and navigate this complexity while becoming more personal and personable. In other words, brands will need to be more ‘human’. Brand interactions will become more conversational, dynamic and simple. Language will also need to be more simple and direct, particularly for brands operating in highly-regulated and complex industries.


3. Intentional

Brand will become more than an asset of the company and will be viewed as more than just an identity. Brand strategy will be seen as synonymous with business strategy as brand, strategy and culture converge. Intentional leadership won’t compartmentalise marketing, communications and content storytelling into an operational function – all stakeholders will need to be involved and participating. Sales, customer service and customer-facing staff will be chief experience officers and deeply invested in by leadership.

Ecommerce will lose the ‘e’ as commerce becomes integrated online and off. Shareholders and boards of brands which have under-invested or avoided digital will recognise that significant investment will now need to be made to retain customers and market share.

4. Contextual

As brands become more personal, the messaging will become more and more targeted. This will mean that context will deeply influence and expand brand messaging. Whether it’s different cultural aspirations across regions, generational differences or simply different channels of communication, the fluidity of the brand will enable meaningful messaging and conversation in the right context to engage the right audience.

5. Experiential

Total brand uniformity will result in greater clarity and brand impression. Consumers experience the same brand across all platforms, whether it is digital, in conversation or in person. Experiential branding creates a stronger brand impression by engaging the sensations, feelings and behavioural responses. The requisite of the sensory engagement is a purposeful, well-designed brand that is not contingent on the marketing deliverables, but rather, consumer engagement.

As a product of all these changes, there will be a recognition that organisational brands are impacted in part by the personal brands of leadership and management. As a result, personal branding will become increasingly important, not only to individuals, but organisational brands as a whole.

In what ways are you evaluating and positioning your brand for the future to achieve long-term success?