Marketers Must Rethink Some of the Basics of Brand Strategy
As the primary stewards of brand-building, marketers have become complacent thanks to a convergence of factors-massive changes in technology, market structure, distribution, information, communication, and consumer purchasing dynamics. In the face of these challenges, many overwhelmed marketers have thrown in the towel, moving away from the leadership roles that characterized the early days of brand management, opting instead to react and respond to what they think customers want. What’s worse, they’ve also taken to copying one another in the process.
Historically, it was far simpler for brands to stand out from the crowd. There were fewer competitors, brands, and product/service offerings in most categories, and industries-there were even fewer categories and industries.
Not surprisingly, it was significantly easier for brands to be distinctive in consumers’ eyes with fewer alternatives. Obviously, a lot has changed. Following are seven distinct yet interrelated factors that have affected branding the most.
1) Technological Advances
Virtually any brand, global or local, can reach customers and prospects with minimal effort-barriers to market entry have been virtually eliminated. Brands are launched and flourish almost instantaneously.
Historically, there were fewer options in the market across the board – fewer categories, fewer brands within those categories, and fewer alternatives within any given brand. Today more competitors are going to market with more brands than ever before. A more crowded and competitive marketplace makes it far more challenging for brands to stand out from the crowd.
3) Changes in Communication and Media
Thanks to smartphones and computers, we consume content constantly, whether we’re lying in bed, waiting in line, or even in front of the TV. Take television, for instance. Back in the day, three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) ruled the airwaves. People didn’t have cable TV, much less the internet. Because of this, branding was reasonably straightforward: marketers bought ad time on a given network and were guaranteed to reach a hefty percentage of consumers within their target media demographic.
4) Changes in Distribution
New technology has changed distribution dynamics in the world of both B2C and B2B, especially for service-based businesses. Advances and innovations such as affordable air travel, virtual offices, teleconferencing, email, and video conferencing make it easier than ever for a potential client in Paris, France, to hire a company based in Paris, Texas. As Thomas Friedman noted in his best-selling book by the same title, the world is flat.
5) A Spike in Available Information
The explosion of the internet gave customers access to information that was once the exclusive domain of large companies. The dramatic changes in the media environment also increased the amount of information available globally, and knowledge is power.
6) Enlightened and Empowered Consumers
Technological advancements have fundamentally changed consumers’ decision-making processes, giving way to a new path to purchase. Multichannel journeys are on the rise; gone are the days when consumers moved in a linear and sequential manner from awareness to consideration to trial to repeat purchase to loyalty.
7) Changes in Marketers’ Behavior
Many brands jump on the digital bandwagon with an “I can do that, too” attitude and automatically add every trendy technology and platform to their marketing mix. In reality, it’s never a good idea to blindly follow the latest trends without first gaining an understanding of how implementing a new approach or technology will benefit your brand.
So, What Does All This Mean?
Traditional brand strategy components such as positioning, architecture, experience, and extendibility need to evolve to account for a radically different digital environment. Bottom line: to differentiate our brands without missing out on new opportunities, we must rethink some of the basics of brand strategy. It is time for companies to resume their roles as leaders through more robust brand strategies based on differentiated brand positioning, not on copycat behaviors.