Dust off your marketing LPs, vinyl records, the eight tracks and maybe the gramophone because old-school brand building will be a tune the cool kids of modern marketing will need to be jumping to.


Recently I was invited to join Experience Advisors, a “community made up of digital experience strategists, business storytellers, idea sparkers, and perennial students of business change” (or just an interesting bunch of people). You may have heard us mention it on the podcast as my Rockstar CMO virtual bar drinking buddy Robert Rose leads the band. 

We had our first zoom get-together last week, hosted by Robert and his coconspirator Cathy McKnight (who has also recently been on the podcast), and he chucked us a topic – the future of brands

Branding is a popular topic on our podcast, it is one of our 5 F’in’ Marketing Fundamentals that Jeff and I discussed a few weeks back. Robert asked me to do a “quick firestarter”, so I prepped some notes and thought I’d share them here.

Firestarter

The need to build a brand, or more specifically to build brand awareness, will regain its place at the center of marketing, and we will need to change. 

Maybe I should caveat that, as I am speaking from a B2B perspective, where we are obsessed with measurable activities, like PPC, where you put money in, and you very quickly see a result. It may not be the desired result, but you can’t say you didn’t do the thing and see something. 

Brand building is harder to measure, not to say you can’t, just it tends to fall into the dusty old Wannamaker quote, “I know half of my marketing is working, I just don’t know which half”. And it’s way easier to go back to count how many people attended a webinar.

As I thought about the topic of the future of brands and brand building, I thought about some of the trends we are all seeing:

  • Building an organic following on social isn’t what it once was, as the platforms drive us to paid promotion.
  • Paid search and social is getting more expensive, especially in busier categories, and only the house wins.
  • In the world of Amazon, price and convenience are less of a differentiator. Consumers can choose endless products delivered immediately.
  • If voice lives up to the hype, we will need our customers to ask for us by name, not by category. 

Brand is a Marketing Multiplier

The truth is brand drives everything; a strong brand will yield commercial results in each marketing activity. 

  • If I (as a consumer) am going to tweet about a product and contribute to a brand’s organic reach, I will need to have an affinity with the brand to tell my tribe I like, or maybe even I am like, this brand and the people behind it. 
  • If I am running a paid search campaign, jostling for expensive positions with a crowd of competitors, why would they click on our ad? And not the better-known competitor? That would be brand.
  • In the Amazon example, where we have seemingly infinite choices and immediate delivery, consumers will choose on brand. I know; I recently needed a vacuum cleaner for my car. Do you know how many vacuum cleaners were available to be delivered to my house the next day?
  • If voice is the next interface with the interwebs, as a consumer, I ask “Computer (as that’s what we call Alexa in our house). I need a new pair of sneakers” Nike will very much prefer me to ask for them by name, “Computer, I need a new pair of Nike Air Max”, not just say “sneakers”. 

All Change with Web 3?

One of our group gave an excellent perspective about brand and Web 3, and while I am not an expert or commentator on Web 3, it seems to me wherever we engage or transact, if we want a consumer to act, to choose our wallet, coin, project, DAO or NFT, the promise our brand makes will be significant at that moment. It won’t matter if it’s the corner store or if the consumer has a VR headset strapped to their head.

And Privacy?

You can’t write an article about marketing without mentioning privacy. Trust as a brand attribute will become more critical, as consumers will share information with those they trust. But, that old Wannamaker quote comes to mind here too, as we are likely to find darkness where once there was oodles of consumer behavioral data, and measurement will be trickier, as we all share less of our data.

Brand Trust is an Advantage

It strikes me that established brands will have the advantage, providing they don; f**k it up. We all know that all brands are one broken guitar on a flight away from the wrong kind of Twitter virality that can seriously damage a brand.

I’d like to suggest that brand trust will become more important than products or features – and we may start buying more products from fewer brands. I’d love to pick a better example than the one everyone chooses, but you can’t look far beyond Apple on this one. 

By some measures, they are not the best, most leading-edge products, but they deliver on a quality brand promise. If Apple went into a whole new category, like electric cars or home appliances, the value of their brand would provide a level of commercial success. Even if they didn’t have the most extended battery life, or the iCube ice cube maker made ice cubes that could only fit in Apple cocktail glasses. 

Time to Change in B2B

This puts marketers in a difficult place, especially in B2B, where marketing has become coin-operated. We attribute all marketing activities to revenue, tend to focus on the mid to bottom of the funnel, and have to justify our budgets on this basis. 

As I opened this article, this is old school, but all of us will need to invest in brand awareness, and maybe we won’ know which half is working.


I have to admit; this article went a bit further than the firestarter idea that Robert asked for. The conversation with this group of Experience Advisors just got me thinking and wanted to share. If you fancy this kind of inspiration, why not join apply to join Experience Advisors?


Photo of man with a backpack by Brennan Burling on Unsplash

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