The State Of Brand Management

The State Of Brand Management

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you define and grow brand value. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Linda, a VP of Marketing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada who has this question about the evolving state of brand management.

“As marketers we are exposed to seemingly endless content on the sweeping changes impacting our profession. Can you narrow it down to changes impacting brand management?”

Thanks for your question Linda. Various media outlets have been asking us/The Blake Project the same question. Here’s a compilation of our answers:

How Are Consumers Are Changing?

  • Younger consumers have a deep mistrust of institutions and big brands.
  • They want transparency and honesty – to the point where they welcome brands telling the truth and being straight-up about where they will make changes. The days of marketing as persuasion have given way to an era of marketing as a prompt for relationships.
  • These consumers want their relationships with brands to be fun – they want brands to be playful, enticing and to fit with who they are and their needs. Brands say something about them. Brands have badge value.
  • They are fickle – because they are so brand-savvy.
  • They want to see brands taking onboard the things that interest and concern them. They want brands to fix the world they live in.
  • They have a deep sense of community and sharing.

How Has The Perception Of A Brand Changed Within The Past 20 Years?

How Does The Increased Globalization Of Markets Affect The Standing Of Brands?

  • Brands from certain countries and regions still have a particular cache within certain categories (such as Swiss watches, Italian designer clothes, French wines, American jeans, etc.), however, to survive, most brands will need to go global. This requires a common brand essence that transcends country borders, supported by products and marketing programs individualized to the needs of specific countries and regions.
  • If you’re ready to make the shift from a local market to an international presence, it’s critical to evaluate how your brand will translate, literally and culturally. Too often brands are simply looking to transpose what they have to somewhere else, particularly if they have been very successful in their country of origin. In reality a brand is often a spirit expressed in a product.
  • Research by BrandZ shows that as brands compete in more countries, they attract less and less loyalty among shoppers. That’s not a reason to automatically dismiss expansion but rather a reminder that as you do so, you need to plan to counter the home-field advantages: understanding and meeting local needs and tastes; nostalgia; operational and logistical advantages for locals; strong community ties; and of course cultural identity. Factoring counter-measures to these advantages into each of the factors described above will help you find your footing and successfully build your brand in new places.

What, At The Moment Is The Biggest Threat To Brand Equity?

There are many. Here are some of the more serious threats:

  • A driving focus on quarterly profits to the detriment of brand and product investment. (One manifestation of this is focusing marketing dollars on sales promotion rather than brand building, providing an immediate sales lift at the expense of brand equity. Another way this plays itself out is when companies gradually and incrementally lower product quality while raising prices over time. Categories in which this has occurred have experienced major price corrections.
  • As all brands within a category increasingly deliver against most category benefits, the consumer becomes indifferent between brands and makes her purchase decision based primarily on price. (Brand managers must continually refine the brand positioning, especially as previous points-of-difference become points-of-parity.)
  • Brands have been under attack by “copy cat” generic and store brands.
  • Senior managers lose track of what the brand stands for and what makes it different in the marketplace.
  • Brands make a promise in advertising but then don’t deliver against the promise at its points of contact with consumers.
  • There’s been some debate lately about whether brand loyalty is disappearing. Some business and marketing observers have tried to tie an overall decline in brand loyalty to a similar decline of loyalty in society generally.
  • Hollow brands, ones that have no soul, no point of view are quickly vanishing.
  • Brands need to know what their purpose is (beyond making money) to be able to attract, retain and rally ideal employees around that purpose. Further, whatever competes with or is in conflict with your purpose is your true enemy.

Are Brands Losing Their Power As Consumers Become Less Deferential To Authority And More Interested In Personal Ritual And Creating Their Own Lifestyle?

  • Brands are less able to make hollow claims these days. Brands must have a strong “point of view” and they must be authentic, consistent and trustworthy.  Only then, will they win the hearts and minds of consumers. The Blake Project’s research shows that brands must deliver the following five attributes to survive in today’s marketplace: awareness, accessibility, value, relevant differentiation and emotional connection.
  • People will use brands that reinforce their chosen persona and lifestyle and share their values, but the brands must be authentic.

Additional Thoughts On The State Of Brand Management

  • All product categories and brands are experiencing greater price pressure due to increased retailer power and manufacturers’ ability to more quickly “reverse engineer” and match competitors’ products.
  • Commodity categories (categories in which price is the only basis of competition) lack strong brands. Often the problem is the lack of brand vision and relevant differentiation.
  • Brands are still the best defense against category commoditization.
  • Brands provide manufacturers greater bargaining power with retailers. This is one of the few ways manufacturers can shift leverage back to themselves. With strong brands, they can maintain a relationship with the consumer and exert some influence on her shopping behavior.
  • Brands need three things to grow and lead today: 1. An Emotional Advantage: A feeling about your brand that customers don’t feel with other brands.2. A Distinctive Advantage: A way of doing things that customers interpret as different and meaningful from the industry standard.3. A Connective Advantage: A way of engagement that reinforces why customers choose to keep your brand in their lives.

We hope this is helpful Linda. Keep an eye on the comments section, some of our brand savvy readers may add their thoughts.

Do you have a brand management or growth strategy question? Just Ask The Blake Project

***Looking for a great holiday gift for co-workers or clients, send them the new branding book “FOLLOW the FEELING: Brand Building in a Noisy World” today, written by Branding Strategy Insider Kai D. Wright.

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