Branding and Change: The Proximity Opportunity
In an economy increasingly dominated by intangibles, we constantly face a multitude of conversations and definitions surrounding brands, organizations and consumers. Concepts such as branding, purpose, positioning, drivers and insights have ceased to be only marketing terminology and are now integrated in a more inclusive popular dialogue on the role of brands in today’s economy and society.
This clearly indicates a new reality in business -which Interbrand has advocated for since its foundation in 1974- about the role played by brands in influencing choice, generating loyalty and building emotional relationships that transcend mere products, briefs, campaigns or specific channels.
As we can see in the Best Global Brands and Best Spanish Brands reports, as well as their counterparts in many countries around the world, the current economic landscape is changing faster and more radically than during the last two centuries. Brands that did not even exist 15 years ago are now leading the table with double-digit growth; start-ups are breaking records in investment rounds; and consumers are rejecting multi-million dollar advertising campaigns previously been tested in a multitude of marketing and market research laboratories. Change is the only constant in this environment: It is continuous, optimistic, threatening, disruptive, expected and unexpected.
Facing this change requires that brands play a crucial and unique role as the ultimate, essential connection between businesses, channels/environments, and consumers.
The closer we bring the brand to the decision-making center of each company, the better we will be able to act strategically, quickly, efficiently and, what is more important: in a consistent, informed, and aligned manner. Brand is a business accelerator and companies that do not understand this will not survive. As Steve Ballmer, CEO of Nokia, pointed out after their acquisition by Microsoft: “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we ended up losing.”
So what part do new technologies represent in this mix of channels and environments? Leaving aside the famous online vs. offline debate (which has caused great confusion when it comes to managing and facing these new challenges), the answer is rigorously simple: There is no viable digital strategy without full integration into the brand strategy and, therefore, the business.
The more we understand the power of new technologies to amplify and reinforce the power of our brand, the better we will be to integrate them into the global ecosystem of the user experience.
Finally, in the same vein, the closer we get to consumers and respond to their changing needs, the further we’ll move away from the old, misused and misunderstood “traditional branding.” Only then can we provide responses that retain and change the status quo through relevant and sustainable solutions.
Identifying and knowing this new consumer does not mean more market research, focus groups or benchmarks, but instead really approaching their attitudes, behaviors and unmet needs.
Therefore, the more we integrate the reality of psychology, sociology and human behavior into branding, the closer we’ll be to providing business solutions that really generate a lasting impact and meet the objectives established in our business plans.