MindFire Communications, Inc.
Branding Trends for 2010
February 22, 2010 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

The way consumers interact with media has created a paradigm shift for consumers. Now it’s time for marketers to catch up. The economy has changed, the rules have changed, and consumer expectations have changed. Approaching branding efforts the way you always have won’t yield the results you need in this rapidly changing environment.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that a clear understanding of what’s in the head of the consumer is critical to success.

A New-York-based company named Brand Keys spends a lot of time talking to consumers about their category needs and expectations, and uses that insight to predict future trends.

Here are Brand Key’s brand and marketing trends for 2010:

  1. Value is the new black. Consumers are looking at spending a completely new way. It is not a question of whether it’s on sale – it’s a question of whether to buy. This means trouble for brands with no authentic meaning, whether high-end or low.
  2. Brands are increasingly a surrogate for value. What makes goods and services valuable will increasingly be what’s wrapped up in the brand and what it stands for.
  3. Brand differentiation is brand value. The unique meaning of a brand will increase in importance as generic features continue to plague the brand landscape. Awareness as a meaningful market force has long been obsolete, and differentiation will be critical for sales and profitability.
  4. "Because I said so” is over. Brand values can be established as a brand identity, but they must believably exist in the mind of the consumer. A brand can’t just say it stands for something and make it so. The consumer will decide, making it more important than ever for a brand to have measures of authenticity that will aid in brand differentiation and consumer engagement.
  5. Consumer expectations are growing. Brands are barely keeping up with consumer expectations now. Every day consumers adopt and devour the latest technologies and innovations, and hunger for more. Smarter marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations. The brands that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the brands that survive and prosper.
  6. The old tricks don’t – and won’t – work anymore. Consumers are on to brands trying to play their emotions for profit. Consumers are looking for authenticity – and they know when they’re not getting it.
  7. Consumers won’t need to know a brand to love it. As the buying space becomes even more online-driven and international (and uncontrolled by brands and corporations), front-end awareness will become less important. A brand with all the right street credibility can go viral in days, with awareness following – not leading – the conversation.
  8. It’s not just buzz. Conversation and community are increasingly important, and if consumers trust the community, they will extend their trust to the brand. This means not just word of mouth, but the right word of mouth within the community. This has significant implications for the future of customer service.
  9. Consumers talk with each other before talking with brands. Social networking and exchange of information outside of the brand space will increase. This will mean more opportunities for brands to get involved in those spaces and meet customers where they are.
  10. Engagement is not a fad: It’s the way today’s consumers do business. Marketers will come to accept that there are four engagement methods: The platform (TV, online), the context (program; webpage), the message (ad or communication), and the experience (store/event). At the same time, they also will realize that brand engagement will become impossible using out-dated attitudinal models.

The common thread through most of these trends is social media. It has created an opportunity for small companies to compete on the same playing field as large, established brands. It also provides an opportunity for companies to connect with consumers on their terms, in a transparent and authentic way. Social media has changed how consumers interact with brands. Because of it, consumers will continue to change how they interact with your company.

Are you ready for the change?

 This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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