Branding: The Challenges of a Modern Market, was featured in Computer Arts Collection, authored by MetaDesign CEO Alexander Haldemann, PhD
For most of the modern era, a great idea, deep pockets, and a creative advertising campaign could establish a brand and make it successful. But alas, the Mad Men days are over. The playing field has changed radically in recent years and brands today face a unique and rapidly changing set of challenges to establishing and maintaining success.
There are four main challenges brands face today. The first is increased competition. As the barriers to entry have come down, competition has increased exponentially. Newcomers can now enter the marketplace at a low cost. The internet gives a global presence to every start-up, and, through social media, brand awareness can be created without the need for extensive advertising budgets.
For instance, the new trainers brand ON is competing with Nike and Adidas right out of the gate. Its brand promise, ‘Cushioned landing, barefoot takeoff’ is simple, but is the dream of every serious runner. Rent the Runway, a start-up company where women can rent dresses from brand-name designers, is competing with the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue. With brand loyalty at an all-time low and new brands emerging at an all-time high, no established brand is safe from being challenged by a newcomer.
The second challenge currently facing brands is the navigation of an increasingly complex media landscape. The ever-proliferating number of media channels and brand touchpoints makes maintaining a consistent and coherent brand image extremely difficult. In the past, when there was only a handful of media through which to communicate to consumers – commercials, print ads, billboards and so on – consistency in brand communication was fairly easy to achieve. Today, the landscape is vast and complex, and new services like Instagram and Pinterest can pop up overnight, leaving brand managers scrambling to seize some kind of influence. This proliferation of media channels can make maintaining a consistent brand image extremely daunting, to say the least.
Third in the list of challenges for brands today is the loss of brand control. Up until very recently, brands dictated their image to the consumer via one dominant channel: advertising. With the rise of social media, every consumer has a voice.
In the best of circumstances all brands can do is try to support their image – they’re now moderators rather than managers. In other circumstances they can lose control altogether, for instance when consumers used social media to rebel against the new Gap logo and muscled the company into restoring its old one. The upshot is that today, communication between the brand and the public is no longer a monologue, but rather a dialogue.
The final challenge to consider is the significant rise in society’s expectations of brands. It’s no longer enough for brands to simply make good products; they have to be socially responsible, too. This means not only caring about profits – and being able to produce goods cheaply – but caring about people and the planet. This is known as the ‘triple bottom line’. It is well documented that if you have two competitive products, people will pick the one that is more socially responsible.
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