Branding in the New Normal

(feature image courtesy http://mbrownassociates.com)

At the most rudimentary level, branding was initially an act of making a mark on objects (or animals in the good old times) using a branding iron. The literary word is now applied to define the concept of assigning a brand name to goods and products, and “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”

Branding is definitely a process that has evolved over the years, and to think marketers and companies can still use age old marketing techniques to keep their consumers strung and close, that is an absolutely defunct approach.

Sasha Strauss, who is a keynote speaker, Managing Director of a brand consulting firm called Innovation Protocol and an adjunct professor at two business schools, tried to explain the void that the changing times has produced in the world of branding during his keynote speech, “Branding in the New Normal”, at the Think Branding, with Google conference in 2013.

In his talk, he spoke about how company executives have a hard time connecting and communicating their brand with the consumers living under the ‘new normal’; the ones who are always connected to the digital world, aka ‘the millennials’ or ‘the baby boomers’. The constant fight of products not being interesting enough and the consumers not being responsive enough gives marketers the research opportunity to figure out what’s really going wrong.

Previously, consumers were treated as just consumers; there was no emotional or intangible connection between the sellers and the buyers. They were just monetary labels and only a scale to figure out how successful the product is selling. But consumers do not want to be treated that way anymore. They are not just money milking machines. The advent of Internet and dispersion plus the availability of more information has resulted in consumers being aware that the companies have definitely, over the years, ‘totally overcommitted and absolutely underdelivered’.

With the break of this trust, a void is now existent and consumers are still looking at companies and marketers to fill this void; not with just false tangible promises but with intangible ‘something to believe in’ philosophy. ‘Authenticity’ is that magic recipe that would eventually allow companies to connect with their audience.

In summary, Sasha Strauss suggests seven ways in which companies can build their brands and better communicate also with their audience:

  1. Nothing should be assumed; everything that companies know about marketing should be discarded. The information is great in history textbooks, but they don’t apply anymore and more time should be spent to actually find out what the brand is actually about and what they intend to represent.
  2. Companies should empathize more with their consumers. Again they are not just monetary labels, but steps should be taken to respect them and understand them as individuals who are an equal part of the economy.
  3. Brands should work in advocating causes and concepts dear to their consumers and celebrating their lives by giving them a feeling of genuine care from the brand.
  4. Brands should work on being more relatable to their audience, and this is possible if the companies are more empathetic and advocating towards their consumers.
  5. Brands should be able to curate their information and be able to personalize their brands to different niches of their audience.
  6. Not only curate, the consumers look forward to the learning experience with the content that brands produce, and therefore brands should also work on be the teaching medium that the audience is looking for.
  7. And lastly, care. This resonates with the advocacy of the brand; consumers want to see companies as not just buildings where people work in but actually entities that have a conscience and a social responsibility towards the community and the environment.

In retrospect, these ways could work in some industries and even countries, but they definitely do not form the standards of branding in the new normal. You would still come across consumers readily believing false information from dubious companies in today’s age, in spite of the booming internet and social media. With the ever-growing data bank, it’s getting harder by the day to recognize brands that have a genuine need to connect with their consumers over capitalistically minded institutions. The proposed way works great on paper, it is yet to be seen how well they pan out, not only with a few companies but with major and innumerous brands across the globe.

Rumor has it! – Twitter to introduce filters for photos.

Looks like Twitter isn’t holding back and is ready to jump onto the ‘edit-your-picture-with-all-those-hipster-cool-filters-and-then-share’ bandwagon – well at least that’s what some reports say.

Though there hasn’t been any official announcement yet from Twitter, this report, by  Nick Bilton from New York Times, suggests that Twitter plans to bring in filters for photos; nope, not those basic ones, but actual Instagram-like filters, allowing users to click pictures, edit, and share them without a third party interference. Well even if they may be rumors, reasons are in plentiful to believe for them to be true. As we know, Twitter had plans to purchase Instagram, but instead, lost it to Facebook, who purchased it for a billion dollars. Then Twitter took a bigger step in July, severing Instagram’s API access for the app’s “Find Your Friends” feature, therefore, now making us believe they’re unto something!

According to the same report, Twitter plans to roll out this feature in the coming months. This update would be available on their mobile apps, but for now there’s no news on whether it’ll be available on the Web. Opinion wise, if they do, this Web feature may be the winning point against Instagram, which is only a mobile application so far, but you may never know.

There has been mixed opinions over this news; some welcome this as a huge step towards the whole outlook on photo sharing on Twitter, yet some think it’s ‘too little, too late’ and Twitter is wasting their time in bringing up something new, rather than solving existing problems in hand.

Personally, I would welcome this move. Most of us take pictures via Instagram and then share it on Twitter or Facebook since there is definitely a larger following on those. Also since I cannot afford a nice yet pocket damaging data connection to manage my ‘not Twitter or Facebook’ apps, yet love to use filters, I usually have to come back to a place where there’s nice WiFi and then share my pictures, and thereby totally lose the whole point of ‘sharing on the go’. It’ll also be interesting to see how they work this out for the Twitter for Blackberry app, with BB 10 coming out soon, and their lack of initiative towards building an official app for the Blackberry Playbook.

Real, unreal; who knows?

How did you wake up this morning? Your mom woke you up? Or your hubby? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? A human? Or that annoying ringing device we all dearly call it the ‘alarm clock’? I can tell you, I woke with my tab buzzing near my ear every 5 minutes. Not to forget, the cellphone and the amount of calls, messages, Facebook and Twitter notifications. From the start of your day till the time you hit the bed for a good night’s sleep, you’re constantly in touch with the world. Oh no, not that physical touch, who does that nowadays? It’s through some electronic device or the other, through some technology.

Technology; it can never leave us, and we cannot leave it. It’s just there in front of us, behind us, left, right, oh wait, everywhere! No, it’s not like I’m being skeptical of technology or something, it is doing that job it has been assigned and destined to do; make our lives easier. That is the whole purpose of humans spending precious time trying to build up that technology so that one day it helps ease our functions throughout the day. At times, we are really thankful that particular technology exists; sometimes we curse it for not being good enough for a particular use.

So now that technology has become an integral part of life, it’s always been an heated topic of debate; the advocates can list you one after the other why we do need technology in our life; like wise the critics can also list out why technology might be killing us day by day. Regardless, the technology is doing the job it has been assigned to do; the question remains how much we, as humans, are letting it affect us.

Technology has surprised us in many ways. Ever since the beginning of the literary or entertainment world in general, technology is one genre that is sought after; all those sci-fi novels, comics, movies, and the sorts. No doubt, themes like technology taking over the human world and the constant war between the real and the virtual worlds are quite dominant, thus we have movies like The Matrix trilogy and the Tron series to support those themes.

Poster Remake Meme – The Matrix

The Matrix is the first of the trilogy series, released in the year 1999. The story revolves around the character Thomas Anderson, who lives a dual life also under the name Neo. He’s contacted one day by a computer ‘voice’ called Morpheus and slowly throughout the movie, we see how Neo is made to come in terms with the truth other than what he believed else wise. He is said to be ‘The One’ who can save the human race from the Matrix; a computer-generated dreamworld built by the machines to control human minds. The Matrix trilogy is more than what it seems; we could write a foot long essay also and still won’t be able to justify the ideas discussed or our opinions about this movie.

Poster Remake Meme – Tron: Legacy

The Tron series, first released in 1982 and its sequel in 2010, is also another sci fi movie with the similar theme. It revolves around the character Kevin Flynn, a programmer who gets dragged into the world of his own programmed game, while trying to save his work being stolen by his own boss. The movie deals with his battle for his own survival in the game world and his attempt to save that world from the MCP (the master control program), an artificial intelligence program, who has the evil plan to take over the world, both the virtual and real. The sequel deals how his son, Sam Flynn, gets involved in a similar situation and tries to save his father, who’s again stuck in the virtual world he was trying to construct, called ‘The Grid’, and Sam, Kevin Flynn and the last standing ‘ISO’ Quorra attempt to stop Clu, the antagonist, to take over both the worlds.

The movies are similar across various themes. There is acknowledgement of both a real world and virtual world, and transporting from both these world is definitely possible. There is a menacing antagonist (or companies) who wants to use the produced technology for materialistic gain and take over the world. The protagonists are in war to protect the real world from being consumed by technology and keep that line between the two worlds from blurring.

Similar plots it may seem, but they are different in their own ways. The movies are produced in different time periods, and the use of special effects and advanced ideas, is tremendously commendable, keeping the technological limitations in mind of that time. In my opinion, the directors and scriptwriters of the Matrix have done a brilliant job in keeping the audience engaged throughout the movie, not leaving any loopholes unanswered, thus being the box office hit of that year. The story line is complex and mind boggling, but does leave a lasting impact on the mind. Tron, on the other hand, couldn’t manage to do the same. Nonetheless, the visual and special effects used in ‘Tron: Legacy’ were the eye candy you look forward to in sci fi movies.

Light trails, lasers, disk wars, that unimaginable speed, fights, mind bending powers, bullet saving moves, machines, that blurring line between the real world and the virtual world; all captivate the mind for a good 2 or more hours and always remain the point of fascination for all ages. Concepts like these shall prevail as long as the audience is interested to watch or their intellect is challenged to understand the complex worlds of the reality and virtual reality.