There are old brand ads that we still love. But a very small number of global brands manage to withstand the test of time. For Startups these numbers are even more glaring. 90% of Startups fail. There are numerous brands that never take off. There are also brands that are hugely successful for a short while but do not adapt to the changing markets. This begs the question, is it possible to future proof your brand? What can you do so that you’re not remembered as a social network called MySpace or Google’s Orkut? Even Yahoo Mail now is reserved in our memory for nostalgic fondness although it is still alive. Make no mistake, all of them were behemoths in their fields at least for a few years till some technical developments or smarter competitors caught on. What can you do that your brands don’t end up like that? How can you future proof your brand in 2016 and beyond?
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We are not gazing into a crystal ball and are hoping you are not either. We’re talking about future trends based on data and factual insights that we can look at and arrive at solutions for the next few years. Sure, specifics will depend on the sector, but here are aspects that will apply to all brands. The biggest reason Startups fail- they’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist. No amount of branding can help you there. But if you believe you’re in a real market and solving a real need, this is for you.
7 Ways To Future Proof Your Brand In 2016 And Beyond
1. Future Proof Your Brand From Changing demographics:
Did you watch Jon Stewart return to the Daily Show a couple of days back? While it was a joke, but Trevor Noah gets him to move from writing letters, to phones to eventually asking people to share thoughts on social media using a hashtag. This is how today’s generation communicates.
Brand communication needs to be aligned to, and often go beyond user expectations into sharing messages in an aspirational manner. One great example that comes to mind is an Indian women’s apparel brand called Anouk, that’s create at least two ad campaigns connecting with their idea of the modern women. They’ve talked about issues including gay rights to post pregnancy discrimination women face at work. The brand communicates with women who’re willing to challenge stereotypes and stand up for what they believe in. It’s an instant hit with millennial women, which support brands with causes and forward looking communication. Maybe not all women are yet able to live such a life, but that’s something they aspire for.
Another aspect to note in communicating with a new audience is to know where to speak with them, or which platforms to use. From Snapchat to Instagram, the younger demographic, for instance is on social media. It’s important to know which networks brands need to work on to connect, engage and be a part of a new conversation.
2. Future Proof Your Brand For Smarter audience:
Internet has made any kind of information easily accessible. The claims of any advert are easily verified with a simple search. Younger generations are also more technology savvy and well acquainted with market trends. So, brands will have to be more sophisticated with inbound marketing techniques rather than straightforward promotions that are unlikely to sway anyone.
Even big brands like Starbucks are not saved from social media fan ire. During the launch of Christmas colored “red cups”, Starbucks faced a lot of fan media which wasn’t entirely kind. Unfortunately for them, even some influencers/ TV stars took to social media, not entirely favoring the red Christmas theme. And while, this can be just any brand, it is important to know how to react to negativity. My rule of thumb is: negativity can only be subdued by more positivity. This means, accepting things if wrong, listening to customers and focusing on creating positive media as much as possible. Not every reaction can be planned but it’s important to know how to appropriately deal with a very smart social audience.
Starbucks War on Christmas? It’s a red cup, folks. Until Starbucks puts a baby Jesus or nativity scene on the cup while saying Merry Christmas, then pulls it because they say it’s offensive, let’s talk. I don’t remember Starbucks ever being a Christian company, do you? A Santa, a snowflake, some holly, a polar bear, some jingle bells or plain red cup don’t define Christmas for me as a Christian. My relationship with Jesus does. So, I will joyfully sip on my Starbucks coffee, in a plain red cup, and instead of complaining about the lack of decorations, I will lovingly share the good news of Jesus Christ with friends and co-workers or anyone who’s willing to engage in conversation. Merry Christmas to all!
3. Be a Part of the Mobile Future
As we shared in our brand storytelling trends for 2016, mobile data grew 69% in 2014 and is going north consistently. The use and consumer adoption of smartphones, tablets and mobile on-the-go technologies will constantly increase. Having a non-mobile responsive website in today’s day and age is absolute suicide for your brand. Driving consumers from social media onto your website is pointless if they can’t experience you brand up to its best potential. While for large corporations this is usually already covered, many small businesses are still stuck with websites from the 1990s. And this needs to change, now!
You may not go as far as creating a mobile app for your business, but you need to have a mobile responsive website and design.
4. Future Proof Your Brand And Be Ready to Capture the moment:
Although we talk about future, the real trend will focus on the “present” in the future. Customers are now being spoilt with real time data and response. You need to be alert and react to every incident, whether positive or negative and immediately to seize the moment. Be an Oreo in your own field.
5. Connect With Influencers. Collaborate.
Consumer to consumer marketing is twice more powerful than paid adverts and also enjoys a higher recall. A study has shown that on average, businesses generate $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing.
But it’s important to understand who the influencers are. Consumers are now much better informed. They are less likely to buy something just because their favorite actor endorses it. What works instead is the endorsement by people who are seen as experts in a given field with a reasonable online following. For instance if you sell organic food products and a vegan expert who also writes a popular organic food blog says something about your product, that should get you some new fans immediately. Working with influencers impacts your SEO, brand recall and is a new channel to get targeted consumers. There’s no reason why you should not try it.
6. Future Proof Your Brand by Creating An Internal Team Culture
I have written about this topic before and it never fails to surprise me on how brands don’t always focus on building a culture internally that reflects their brand values. A strong indicator of your success as a small business or a Startup is the people you hire and work with.
Using the cycle of failure framework, described by Schlesinger and Heskett (1991) for service marketing, here’s my take on how it looks for brand/content marketing:
Disengaged employees will not help your brand. You need to invest in an internal culture.
7. Focus on Quality And Personalization
There’s no substitute to quality. Writing SEO infested text or copying others mindlessly will lead you nowhere. It is important to focus on the highest quality and personalize it for your audience. Recently, Facebook’s head of agency relations had the following comments on this growing trend,
“Content on mobile has to be “thumb-stoppingly good” and has a “three-second audition” – the time brands have to persuade consumers to watch their ad. Brands need to use data to create ever more personalized marketing and that users are twice as likely to click on a video that has an element of personalization”
BONUS: Invest In Your Own Learning of Future Trends
Luckily you are not the first person to ever market a business or build a brand. Small businesses end up spending 20 hours each week on marketing. Partly because they end up reinventing the wheel instead of investing in learning at an early stage. It is time to prepare yourself for the next years by attending trainings, reading up on books and learning with experienced experts. Even if you are a DIY fan, start at a strong base. Here are some options.
What are you doing to future proof your brands?
Written in collaboration with Enakshi Sharma
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