12th August 2016

Does Brand Matter in the 21st Century?

There is a significant change underway in the consumer-brand relationship. A recent study found that the majority of people would no longer care if 74% of all brands disappeared completely. I read this with real surprise, as throughout my career in the advertising industry, the value of developing a brand relationship with the consumer has always been seen as important. So why has this relationship changed so significantly?

The digital savvy consumer of today is more empowered than ever before and appears to be less responsive to traditional branding messages - some might say they have become numb to them. Alongside this, we have seen the rise in use of Ad Blocking technology. This indicates that the consumer is no longer willing to give brands unlimited access to them via the internet.

A recent study found that the majority of people would no longer care if 74% of all brands disappeared completely.

The data seems to indicate that, in the digital age, traditional rules of branding which involved big ideas, long-term margins and emotional appeal seem to be becoming obsolete in an economy where the consumer is moving to prefer products and services that provide convenience and put user experiences at their core. This leads me to ask the question - does brand matter in the 21st Century?

I believe that branding is more important today than ever. The definition of ‘branding’ has changed considerably, and the parameters set for branding and marketing have also seen a huge leap in the digital age. Today, the smart brands know that their target audience is already out there, eagerly sharing their insights, experiences and objections. It is up to companies to join those conversations in the right way and listen to the conversation to inform them of how to stay relevant. It is no longer the case that ‘those who shout the loudest win’. The companies that will succeed today are those that provide unparalleled user experiences and value to their customers. Consumers would rather go with a brand that they feel good about than with something that is completely new to them, even when there is a difference in the pricing.

It is no longer the case that ‘those who shout the loudest win’.

When consumers recognise a brand, they already have some knowledge of it. As a result, there is less processing of information to make a purchasing decision. We know that going with a trusted and known brand reduces the consumer’s perception of functional, financial, social, physiological risks. The most important factor, though, is that the consumer does not feel at risk of wasting their precious time - an ever important metric because, as we become ever more time starved in our modern lives, brand familiarity is a device which reduces decision making and, in turn, increases sales.

However, to sustain the interest of the consumers, familiarity alone is not enough - quality and service matter too. A product would not stand a chance in the market in this ever-growing competitive arena if it wasn’t able to stand up on its own merits. With open reviews, social media, and the ease by which consumers have become empowered to control the destiny of a brand's fortunes, it is no longer possible to entice consumers with traditional marketing strategies alone.

Though the perspective on branding is changing every minute, the foundation of it is the same - i.e. to provide quality products and impeccable user experience. Yes, I believe investing in branding does matter in the 21st century, but businesses should be open to new, experimental and creative branding strategies coupled with a strong product base to support them. The quality of the product speaks for the brand, and is central to the value and experience that users get from it. If these criteria are met, then consumers will not only promote the brand openly, but will, through social media, help towards further development. This opens us up to more collaborative brand development, which is mutually beneficial on many fronts.

The brand factor has always been looked upon as a major factor when it comes to influencing the buying decisions of consumers. However, as I pointed out earlier, with the recent developments and changes in the consumer’s perspectives on branding and marketing, the situation has given rise to the question of whether brand is losing significance in the present digital age, and whether it still has the power to impact buyers. The internet has opened up consumers to a wide range of choices and options and, in turn, I believe branding has turned out to be much important now than ever before.

Written by Simon Morris | Managing Director

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