Technology is a life force
Technology has become like breathing. We can't live without it. And we're not aware of it until there's a problem. In the technology category, devices, content and distribution systems have coalesced into parallel and competing ecosystems.
New and shiny alone isn't enough. No brand is unassailable. The winning brands attempt to be omnipresent and indispensible.
Not long ago derided as "dumb pipes," telecom providers are creating their own branded ecosystems.
Life is blended
We increasingly move seamlessly between the personal, social and businesses aspects of our lives. Or we occupy these spaces simultaneously. Technology enables this fluidity.
Brands must keep up as we move among the personal, social and business aspects of our lives. Brands that force us to pause or switch devices risk losing us. The rigid B2C and B2B designations don't fully apply anymore. To move smoothly, brands can't be defined by a narrow function. Brands need to assume a higher purpose; then we grant them permission to be present all the time.
BYOD shows how consumers are driving this trend. The Bring Your Own Device attitude is transforming the workplace as people reject IT-issued gear in favor of the brands and devices that they use in their personal lives anywhere, anytime.
Location is not important
Location is everywhere. Location is no longer a barrier because you can reach the consumer anywhere, physically or virtually, at a time that suits the consumer.
Brands in all categories need to meet customers wherever the customers are. Each space, physical or virtual, can serve a different and appropriate function. A physical space can help showcase brand experience and cultivate customer intimacy, while the virtual world can perform the functional benefits of wide product range and simplified purchasing.
In the insurance category, brands have increased their presence in social media. And one leading brand is experimenting with storefront cafélike locations that appeal to younger, first-time customers looking for information without a hard sell.
Consumers expect what they've paid for—and maybe a bit more
Consumers shop from a broad portfolio of brands. A woman may purchase an affordable dress but match it with a luxury accessory. Consumers calibrate their expectations realistically. They're fine when the customer service of a value brand lacks intimate personal attention, but impatient if it lacks efficiency. Consumers don't expect everything from a brand— just what they've paid for—and maybe a bit more, like finding some luxury feel in a mass setting.
Technology enables brand marketers to satisfy these service expectations. By collecting and analyzing customer data, brands can tailor products, services and messages to be relevant for individual customers.
In both super luxury and mass luxury, brands create personalized experiences to make customers feel especially unique and valued. A customer buying an accessory might receive a thank you on Twitter; a couture customer might be invited to an exclusive fashion show.
Customers expect the experience that a brand promises to be executed flawlessly across categories
Having encountered excellent brand experience in some categories, consumers now apply these standards across all categories. They expect excellent brand experience and have little patience when it's missing. And they don't necessarily expect to pay extra for it.
No category is immune from this expectation. No aspect of the brand is excluded, including: how the brand engages in physical and virtual stores; how the brand communicates to customers; and how customers communicate about the brand in their social networks. Brands need to benchmark against the best-in-class brand experience.
This phenomenon can be called the "Apple Effect," since the brand established a standard for design, functionality and service delivered by both physical and online stores. Meeting those high expectations challenges any brand, including Apple, to consistently improve.
Brands are becoming media
Brands increasingly are executing the role formerly filled by traditional media—organizing and reaching audiences with relevant content. That's because the brand's customer data often is more targeted and detailed than the mass-market audience data of TV or print media.
This phenomenon is most apparent in retail because retailers collect and organize an enormous volume of customer data that can be monetized by creating content relevant to an audience segment and a sponsoring supplier. The apparel category is experiencing a similar phenomenon.
While fashion brands still find it important to advertise in industry magazines, their own catalogs often tell the brand story more extensively. Some brands produce their own fashion shows, broadcast in-store or online.
The role of reputation is rising
Brands are attempting to restore trust after it eroded in certain categories, particularly financial institutions. Corporate reputation becomes more important as a way to confer credibility.
After years of fracturing into sub brands, some corporations are promoting their brands under the corporate umbrella of authority. Corporate reputation is especially important to fortify brands on topics like environmental responsibility and good citizenship.
As the recent BrandZ™ report titled RepZ discovered: strong corporate reputation correlates with high market share and improves key brand metrics. And corporate reputation and brand reputation increasingly are one in the same.
Presence in fast growing markets is imperative for global brands
Even in a year of slowed economic expansion in the fast growing markets, it's clear that brand presence in these markets is no longer optional for some categories.
There's a correlation between high brand value and presence in fast growing markets. Presence doesn't assure high brand value, but absence makes high value much more difficult to achieve in some categories. Being well represented in fast growing markets helps brands not only by driving sales, but also by influencing higher assessments of forward-looking earnings, which can lift share prices. The full impact requires being present, relevant and well differentiated.
Global presence especially drove growth in categories such as luxury, fast food and soft drinks.
The middle gets squeezed
Brands at the premium or price ends of the value continuum present consumers with a clearer choice than brands in the middle. When the value proposition isn't clear, it's more difficult to persuade today's cautious consumer to purchase.
In today's economy, brands that effectively make a case for premium or value are better positioned than those squeezed in the middle with a less well defined reason for being and a limited story to tell. There's a market in the middle, but there's little room for error. Brands in the middle can't be mediocre, at least not for long.
In apparel, most of the fast fashion brands and the more premium brands improved in brand value, while those appealing to the broad middle were more likely to struggle.
The individual is the expert
Information is available everywhere, anytime to everyone. The brand-customer conversation is among equals. Brands and customers learn from each other. Brands gain direction and co-creation possibilities.
The brand-customer relationship becomes more of a partnership. Comments on social media are fast, direct, informative and inexpensive. Paying close attention to these comments forges a closer brandcustomer relationship and results in products and services that more closely match customer desires.
The sales rebound of the Detroit automakers resulted from many factors, including a shift from exclusive reliance on traditional media to a sophisticated presence on social media.