A brand is the personality, the individual identity of one or a set of products offered by a manufacturer. As much as a brand distinguishes a product, it also encompasses the product and marketing philosophies of the manufacturer/marketer. As much as a brand reflects the marketers' understanding of consumer needs and how they want their product to be perceived by their target audience, it also captures the pulse of the consumers in terms of upgrades or shifts in their needs, tastes, and expectations from a particular product or service at that point in time.
The first quarter of 2014 just got over and we have already witnessed some interesting branding patterns this year. Let us stroll through a few emerging branding trends for the times ahead.
Extending the Scope of User Experience
Paying attention to improving user experience of one's commercial offering is nothing new. However, in the last few years, we have seen a few instances of companies extending the user experience aspect of their products over multiple facets of a consumer's life.
A prominent case in point is American Express's partnership with Verizon which allows customers to use the reward points to pay for cab rides in New York City. This is a novel way to allow customers to make better and more convenient use of their reward points, which often expire unused when they are accepted by only specific and high-end retail stores. Investing in extending the user experience of a product in this manner not only establishes greater customer satisfaction from using or being associated with the brand but also ensures greater customer loyalty. After all, a delighted customer is the best advertisement for a brand and more companies are waking up to this branding wisdom.
More Visual, Less Verbose
It's an established fact that images make a deeper and more pronounced impact than words. When a brand uses images effectively and extensively to its advantage, it connects better with a larger audience as it manages to communicate with even those members who words don't reach out to, such as small children, illiterate consumers or consumers with a very basic literacy level. In the last couple of years, we have seen a rise in use of audio-visuals and infographics to communicate brand positions.
Take, for example, the Red Bull advertisement campaigns. The brand positioning is very effectively done via a series of comic-strip like narration. Similar narrative schemes are used for the energy drink brand's television advertisements as well as for hoardings and print ads. Even someone who can't read or an' remember the wordings and slogan of the brand will remember the stick-figure illustrations and animations of the ads and what they convey. This trend is here to stay and we will see a lot more graphics than words in branding exercises in the years to come.
Technology Enabled E-Commerce Brands
There is no denying the sudden spurt in online shopping thanks to the ubiquitous, successful, and aggressive presence of e-commerce and e-retail in almost every consumer product market ? right from FMCG and pharmaceuticals to furniture, electronic appliances, and other bulky consumer durables. Recently, Amazon has unveiled its idea of using delivery drones to air-drop goods shopped online to the customer's doorstep within ? hold your breath ? 30 minutes! For starters, this facility will be available only in American locations and it is expected that this initiative will go live in five years. Seeing how quickly commerce and retail operations are adopting digitization, we should expect to see similar or more spectacular technological upgrades in shopping experience. This is nothing but an extension of the 'convenience' factor that online shopping and e-retail brands already deliver.
Wearable Technology Brands
The trend of assimilating as much functionality as possible within a single gadget began in the last decade and the Smartphone is the poster child of this all-in-one philosophy of new age technology branding and positioning. The driving force behind including all facilitating digital features in one piece of technology is to marry convenience of use to convenience of carrying.
Recently, technology giants have carried this 'convenience of carrying all features in one, portable device' to the next level. By making technology wearable, these manufacturers have achieved the objective of making the digital aspects of life meld so perfectly with the physical aspects that the carrier of the technology hardly needs to worry about 'carrying' anything at all! Prominent cases in point are the smart watches, digitized clothing, Google Glasses, etc. Judging by the improved propensity of the new age customer to accept and adapt to technology upgrades, we can only predict more wearable technology brands in the market this year.
Blogs As a Branding Vehicle
While celebrities turning bloggers is a fairly common trends these days, an emerging trend is that of bloggers turning celebrities, thanks to the immense reach of the Internet and people spending a significant amount of their time online. Internet marketers already gauged the potential of blogs to reach their target audiences a long time ago. Cashing on their success and potential, a lot of popular bloggers have tied up with major brands to endorse, review, and sell their products. Many bloggers writing posts on beauty and fashion have also launched their own product lines, riding on the popularity and huge readership of their blogs. This trend is here to stay as readers who follow certain blogs religiously feel connected to the blogger on a deeper level than they would with just a brand or a marketer. There is an element of trust and being able to relate, a personal touch, when it comes to blogs and bloggers.
Besides the above trends, using the social media to communicate brand messages to potential customers is here to stay. If anything, we will only see an increase in the trend of using social media sites to position various brands and communicate on a more personal level with target audiences. Coupled with online retailing, social media branding will only amplify the benefits of an intelligent branding exercise by increasing its reach. Throw in more and more user experience and graphic-based branding to that mix and you get better mindshare and retention of the brand's message.