I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in the branding world, there have been some big changes in the last while. The basic concept is that consumers are forcing brands to change the way that they present themselves in order to earn their loyalty – and it’s making for a very interesting period in marketing history. We can speculate about the reasons for this culture shift and credit events like the economic crisis, but a lot of these ideas seem like they were a long time coming. Large companies are having to stop relying on their sheer size or saturation and having to get creative and learn how to tell their brand’s story in a way that connects with their customers.
Some of our favourite branding trends have come out of a response to these behaviors, like the prankvert (or really any form of viral video), creative social media marketing campaigns, crowd sourcing, cross-media marketing, and generally giving the public more access to behind-the-scene information.
Wired’s recent look at Wolff Olins and Flaming’s branding report gives businesses some incredibly insightful information about the new ways that consumers behave and how branding must reflect these cultural changes.
Here are some excerpts from Wired’s article “Three Emerging Behaviors That Are Reshaping Branding”, written by Kyle Vanhemert:
1. People are side-stepping institutions
This one’s a no-brainer, and it has to do with something you hear about all the time: disruption. Consumers sidestepped Blockbuster to get greater choice and on-demand video from Netflix. Warby Parker went direct to consumers and let them side-step traditional eyewear outlets. Airbnb lets people sidestep the hotel industry. “Who would have thought even five years ago that you would rent somebody’s apartment out that you didn’t know?” Heiselman asks. “It’s pretty radical.” And it proves how fast an industry can be reshaped when consumers are given an option to sidestep an entrenched way of doing business.
But that’s not something that’s exclusively available to disruptive start-ups. Big companies, too, can thrive in the side-stepped economy, Heiselman thinks. It just requires focusing on that fair exchange and presenting it to consumers clearly and honestly. People aren’t sidestepping institutions and big brands just for the sake of it; they’re doing so when the fair exchange is more attractive elsewhere. In other words, people aren’t sidestepping institutions so much as institutional thinking.
2. People are making, not just consuming
The second key behavior the report looks at is that people are no longer just consuming–they’re making, too. The report drives the point home with a statistic from a BBC study. Where seven years ago, only 10% of people were active contributors online, now it’s 77%. Much of that contributed content comes in the form of scraps like Tweets or photos, but that change in the flow of content is fundamental and far reaching. “Even if most of us aren’t making our own craft products and selling them on Etsy, nevertheless we have turned from a relatively passive position in relation to the marketplace in the last five years to an active one,” Jones says.
There are different ways to tap into this impulse. Companies that provide marketplaces for consumers to sell goods or services themselves–things like Airbnb, Etsy, Lyft and others–are thriving. Sites like Pinterest that give users a bigger stage or more sophisticated tools for expressing themselves are seeing booming engagement.
3. People are taking back their time
The last behavior might be the one that hits closest to home. In a world where our attention is constantly under siege, we’re increasingly adamant about reclaiming our time. The report’s advice to companies? “Don’t be demanding. Instead, find ways to be completely on demand.”
In an obvious sense, this means making yourself available to consumers on any platform where they might be looking for you. Many big banks have done an admirable job here with their mobile apps, including features like photo-based check depositing to save customers a trip to the ATM. Of course, banks are going to need to think hard about their web offerings, too, with start-ups like Simple waiting in the wings for side-stepping consumers.
But at a point where consumers are interacting with brands on their own terms–and on their own time–the real challenge becomes creating a seamless experience across channels and platforms. “It’s not difficult to work out your mobile strategy,” Heiselman says. “And it’s not difficult to work out your advertising strategy, or your in-store strategy. The thing that’s really difficult is to connect that up and to organize that around the consumer. If you think about it, it’s nobody’s job at a company–often times anyway–to do that.” Read the entire Wired article.
If you’re into branding, marketing, and other stuff like that, you might be interested in our post “Target Market Shift: The Rise of the Instagrandmas”.