Brands’ behavior and customer relationships are crucial to understanding the current branding situation. It is also essential to plan the future and anticipate changes.
It’s interesting to observe the changing environment in which brands find themselves today and how this forces them to rethink all their marketing and communication strategies.
Some time ago, how was the brands’ behavior?
Brand management was a gradual job from the beginning of the last century until the mid-80s. Like strategic planning, it was programmed over the years and could take decades. Thus, the brands’ behavior didn’t vary much in all those years. Neither did the brands’ communication strategies or ways of relating to customers. Back then, communicating a brand consisted of encapsulating a single message in an advertising format and launching and repeating as many times as the budget allowed. We couldn’t distinguish customers based on the intensity they related to the brand, nor the messages chosen with that intensity in mind. For those brands, everything was massive and monotonous; the message, the media, and the audiences.
On the other hand, there was little room for innovation. Moreover, it was a process calculated and controlled by great trendsetters. These were responsible for forging the future products and services that the audience would demand. That is why we can call them demand generators.
So much so that, for example, in the tech sector, the industries had their launch projections scheduled for ten years. These projections gave them enough time to amortize the development of assets that would later become obsolete. That is what Wolfgang Haug called planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is so closely related to innovation that both are two sides of the same coin. The German philosopher believed that the end of innovation was the obsolescence of products blocking the market that consumers could still use.
The customer takes center stage
Currently, these capitalist methodologies are still valid in large areas of the goods and services market. However, globalization, new technologies, media, and living standards have caused customers to take on a significant role. All this caused great changes in the very heart of companies. We can see this notion in the new trends of collaborative product development. There, customers help create the products they will later buy. We can also see it in the exponential growth of crowdfunding portals, which attract investors and future clients to finance their start-ups.
There is no doubt that the influence of fashions marked the 20th century. However, the first decades of this century show us a new panorama with the arrival of digital natives, such as millennials. Companies are no longer the ones that impose lifestyles, fashions, and consumption habits. They have begun to put focus on the customer. Market research departments delve into the consumer’s psychology and ways of being and acting.
In the same way, the growing competition imposed by increasingly accessible globalization forces companies to adapt their offer of products and services. That also means adapting their tone of voice and how they interact with customers. As a result, they could capture new markets and save themselves from obsolescence.
From fashions to trends
On the other hand, the decentralization of fashion has determined the diversification of the markets. We can see that in the growth of new niches and categories representing new audiences. But unlike the strategies used in the past, these new markets are not created by simultaneous innovation but must be sought out by true trend hunters. Supported by technological instruments, metrics, and big-data analysis, the companies manage to capture the needs of a particular audience. Then, they will be able to evaluate if it can be profitable or not to offer them products according to their needs, which means a business opportunity.
Increasingly, this early detection of trends in different audiences is becoming a determining factor for the survival of companies and, consequently, their brands. Those who cannot or do not want to adapt will be crushed by a train accelerating more and more forcefully. A clear example is the case of companies like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. In these cases, global trends toward healthy living are causing these companies to change their purpose. The reduction of sugars and carbonated water, on the one hand, and the reduction of trans fats, calories, and the image of fast food, on the other.
In summary, all these trends make companies rethink their brands’ strategies. Consumers have changed, and brand behavior must change too. The power is no longer in the brands but in the customers. Furthermore, it will be challenging to carry out correct brand management if the brands don’t fully understand what the target audience needs.