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.