BRANDING 50 YEARS FROM NOW
If we are to cast our minds into the future and try to determine what brands will look like and what we’ll consume, we first have to look at the history of brands and what the concept of brand fundamentally is all about.
Painting A New Reality
At its core brand is about creating an illusion, a facade that creates an impression, a level of desirability that takes simple products or services and makes them to be something more than what it says on the tin.
Brands came to prominence and started becoming sophisticated no more than 70 years ago, where big conglomerates like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble realised that by changing the packaging and naming on something simple like a bar of soap, you could create preference in the minds of certain consumers, who would be willing to pay a premium price.
Brands Will Evolve Naturally
So, the way brands have been manipulated and communicated is a very young field. The great thing about brand and brand strategy is that it is channel neutral. It doesn’t matter if it is TV that is popular or it’s the Internet, or it’s Facebook or Snapchat. Brands find a way to communicate on these platforms. So while the field of brand strategy matures and develops, the need for it still remains as it adapts to how it is experienced.
As the mobile phone becomes our main source of entertainment and engagement, the way we live will become more digital in every respect. There might not even be a need for a high street as we could have a VR experience of the shopping centre from our living rooms. Brands will naturally evolve to grab attention on these platforms.
Where You Need To Be, As The Future Is Fast Approaching?
Where things get interesting is how in such a short period of time entertainment, news and content has shifted from being consumed by TV audiences and produced by televisions companies, to being produced by individuals and consumed when and where we like.
What we have is the emergence of individuals as super brands in themselves. When YouTube channels have subscribers over 50 million, and when the most watched YouTube video has over 2.7 billion views, that is immensely powerful. Product owners are realising that they need to shift their budgets from TV advertising onto these platforms and onto these individuals, who have massive influence.
What businesses today need to look at is that they are in the entertainment game too. That they are media companies AND they create and sell products or provide services. People aren’t really interested in the story of your business. But if you can entertain them, give them knowledge, news, some content of relevance and attach your business and brand to that piece of media, then you can win. Each business has the opportunity to be a media owner, and to engage with an audience which it never had the opportunity to engage with before. This is massive and will only get bigger and bigger.
When Will We No Longer Need Brands?
The real threat to brands will only emerge if Karl Marx is correct in his thoughts that societies go from agrarian, to industrial, to capitalist and then to communist states. In a communist society, the state owns everything and the need for brands and differentiation and consumer choice ceases to exist.
While I find it hard to believe that capitalism will ever cease, what I see is that a handful of brands will be in control of everything. Companies like Amazon might control our whole retail experience, or Facebook our whole social communication and interaction space.
Already single powerhouses own a multitude of brands. Gucci and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey own 80% of the fashion landscape. While Unilever and Proctor & Gamble own the majority of the detergents, washing powder and a large variety of other goods within our supermarkets. McDonald’s owns a percentage of Pret, and Coca Cola owns a part of Innocent Smoothies. The list of these kind of examples goes on.
I see more and more of this happening and there becoming juggernaut brands which own our whole consuming experience. Where consumption and entertainment merge and become even more entwined. When that happens the need and expenditure required for multiple brands end entities to exist will cease.
Till then though, grow your brand. Look at where communication and people’s attention is going and make sure you begin the process to entertain and engage with your current and future customers.