Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 6 Hottest Trends in Branding

Branding has evolved quite a bit in the past decade or two. Today, successful brands need to understand and align themselves with six important trends:
  1. Storytelling
  2. Designing the customer experience
  3. Building communities of like-minded individuals
  4. Becoming producers of content
  5. Using video as an important tool
  6. Building a meaningful presence on mobile devices

1. Storytelling
Many esteemed brands have relied on storytelling as one of their success pillars. Think about Ben & Jerry’s story. Patagonia tells a very interesting story about its founder, Yvon Chouinard, a climber and a member of the Southern California Falconry Club at age 14.  Saturn told wonderful stories that made you love the brand. You may recall the television commercial featuring a seat recall problem.  A Saturn rep flew up to Alaska to correct the problem at a customer’s home because there was no nearby dealer in Alaska. The story reinforced how far Saturn would go to satisfy a customer’s need. Or maybe you know the story about how Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan came to create the Method brand of powerful but safe home care products. Storytelling is a powerful tool to convey messages and build emotional connection with consumers.

2. Designing the Customer Experience
We have moved well beyond the age of brand communication. Today, brands must engage their consumers and deliver well-orchestrated total brand experiences. Most of us have read about how Starbucks created the “third place between work and home” that offered its consumers a brief respite during which they felt a little bit indulgent and a little bit pampered. The cafĂ© environment and customer service training were both part of the carefully designed experience. Or think about how the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience is different from buying another teddy bear brand at retail.  Perhaps you have heard about the Opaque “dining in the dark” experience in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York and Dallas. Consider the type of training that must underpin Ritz Carlton’s “Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen” promise.  Charmin has created an app called “sit or squat” that directs people to the cleanest bathrooms when they are traveling. All of these experiences require brands to consciously build their essence and promise into each point of customer contact.

And customers are engaged with your brand whether you want them to be or not. They are busy sharing their brand experiences with others via social media and other online platforms. Some are brand evangelists. Others may be brand adversaries.

3. Branding Communities of Like-Minded Individuals
The most successful brands today are those that have strong values and that stand for something. These brands not only serve as self-expression vehicles but also as communities for like-minded individuals, reinforcing their shared values. Consider Fox News, Tesla Motors, Apple, Mercedes-Benz and Robert Graham. What values do these brands hold? And what does this say about their most loyal customers?

4. Becoming Producers of Content
Remember the mantra, “location, location, location”? With the advent of the Internet, location becomes much less important for many brands. Content is king now. Brands need to prove their expertise through content. They need to tell stories through content. They need to entertain and build emotional connection through content. And they need to add value through content. Who said content was king? Bill Gates in his 1996 article of the same title.

5. Using Video as an Important Tool
More than one billion unique users visit YouTube each month and more than 200 million videos have been claimed by Content ID. With social media, it is easy for a video with outstanding content to go viral. Videos support brand storytelling, they help brands create buzz and they are a part of the interactive brand experience. Video needs to be a part of your brand tool kit.

6. Building a Meaningful Presence on Mobile Devices
Smartphones and tablets are taking over. According to digby.com, over half of American adults are now smartphone owners, “mobile now accounts for 12% of Americans’ media consumption time (triple its share in 2009) and 27% of companies worldwide planned to implement location-based marketing in 2013.” Brands need to engineer a meaningful presence on mobile devices. Charmin’s “sit or squat” app  (mentioned in #2) is a good example of this.

I wish you great success in aligning your brand with these trends.

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