Is the brand dead? Certainly not, but traditional branding tools are dying. Brands that routinely rely on advertising to tell a story and communicate value, should instead focus on results, referrals and reputation to convey a meaningful story - not words and logos. But does this apply to all branded business?
When a marketing strategy hangs on the success of traditional branding tools, the brand tends to get lost in an already-crowded marketplace. Consumers are highly stimulated creatures and coaxing them into engaging with one-dimensional advertising campaigns does not work for all brands. Rather than dictating value to the consumer, brands need to be dynamic in demonstrating their values and engage through numerous channels, initiating a two-way conversation in order to attract the elusive brand-loyal consumer.
The brand personified
It’s something brand builder Alicia Thakrar, the Managing Director of The Upper Story, an emotionally intelligent creative studio specialising in the beauty, luxury and lifestyle sectors believes in spades. "For me brand is a person and the more dynamic and sincere that person is the deeper you connect with them, and the more memorable they are. You remember the people that make you feel a certain way. Whether it be because of the way they look or something they said that made you smile or think." Part of Thakrar’s marketing ethos is creating a series of 'connection points' throughout the customer’s journey, enabling a brand to tell a meaningful story that engages their target audience, on an emotional level by effectively harnessing the traditional branding tools they already have in their arsenal.
Word of mouth
Of course, in many instances it’s the consumer who is doing the engaging. Alessandro Traverso, COO of Your.MD says referrals helped gain the most traction for his tech start-up. "Word of mouth can take an exceptional product to a level that no advertising ever could." Traverso’s artificial intelligence (AI) service allows users to access healthcare through their smart phones in an era when navigating global public health systems, can be tricky.
Based on the users individual profile, medical history and symptoms, Your.MD uses AI technology to think in the same way a trained doctor, to calculate the probability of someone suffering from a certain condition. By satisfying an 'unmet need', plus having an exceptional product, the app has been downloaded over 700,000 tmies since its launch in 2015.
The aesthetic world
However, it would be remiss of business leaders to throw the branding baby out with the bath water. Brands with exceptional products still require putting their best foot forward aesthetically. "Essentially your brand is your shop window, it’s the expression of who you are and people like buying things that they like the look of," says Thakrar. She builds brand strategy through understanding the target demographic and competitor landscape intimately before conceiving a brand design and logo. The process empowers the brand, ensuring the greatest visibility and magnetism with their target audience.
The importance of values
Emma Davidson the Director of Affinity Capital, a London based investment boutique specialising in structured investments agrees - to a point. "You need a presence and you need to look professional so yes, all the old stuff still stands, but it soon becomes worthless if your brand says one thing and your customer thinks something else." The company works solely on referrals and, in essence, that is their only advertising channel. But for Davidson, creating an impression with branding tools is just the introduction, whilst being "social and supportive of others and giving back without expecting anything in return" is the main body to her brand’s story. Working with those aligned to their value set is another way Davidson communicates value with a ruthless, yet principled attitude to cutting clients where these value sets have diverged.
Traditional branding tools might be irrelevant to certain sectors, but brands that do the research to deeply understand their target market, may discover their audience engaging with them through these outdated tools. While leaning on results, referrals and reputation may be the modus operandi for many marketing strategists, casting the same net over all sectors is problematic when one size does not fit all.
Perhaps the need is for traditional branding mechanisms to co-habit the marketing mix along with results, referrals and reputation in tailor-made marketing strategies for each brand and their target audience.