In today's business environment, branding has become much more than just staking out a position in a competitive field. Strong brands recognize that they are part of larger ecosystems that go beyond a particular product or service, and they seek to provide solutions to the complex challenges and tensions that consumers face.
Brands today must be able to deliver signature experiences across multiple touchpoints, including online and offline channels. This requires a deep understanding of consumer needs and preferences, as well as a commitment to delivering value and quality at every stage of the customer journey.
Strong brands today also recognize that they have a role to play in driving positive change in the world. This might involve addressing social and environmental issues or contributing to the local community in meaningful ways. By taking a broader view of their responsibilities, brands build deeper connections with consumers and create a sense of shared values and purpose.
Most significant challenges brands are facing today are interconnected:
Changing consumer preferences. Stay relevant becomes increasingly difficult as the requirements are constantly evolving, technological change is swift, and it seems particularly demanding for brands with a complex supply chain.
Intensified competition that pushes established players from different industries to start competing for the same space and a growing number of newcomers from all over the world. This creates pressure on prices and margins and requires additional effort to keep on differentiating one’s offerings.
Digital disruption. Digital marketing has disrupted traditional business models. Brands must be able to effectively reach and engage with customers online, and be prepared to adapt to new platforms as they emerge.
Reputation management. Brands have a lot to lose if their reputation is damaged, and they must be proactive in protecting their equity. This is particularly challenging in the age of social media when negative reviews can spread very quickly.
Social responsibility. Consumers are increasingly expecting brands to be socially and environmentally responsible. Brands must be able to explain their commitment in a simple language and demonstrate it with concrete examples.
A handful of brands have a particularly strong impact today, and their disruptive growth has attracted a lot of attention and scrutiny. While these brands may have achieved impressive results in terms of financial performance, they have also faced criticism for their lack of care for the well-being of their workforce or their insufficient protection of the data they collect.
This highlights the importance of trust in building meaningful and purposeful relationships with consumers and other stakeholders. Trust is at the core of any strong brand, and it is essential for brands to demonstrate their commitment to responsible and ethical practices.
By conducting in-depth research, companies can gain a deeper understanding of what sits at the heart of their brand's DNA, and can identify the key factors that contribute to the brand's positive impact.
Some key questions that brand strategy research can help to answer include:
What values and principles are most important to the brand and its customers?
How does the brand contribute to the lives and needs of its customers?
What are the key drivers of customer loyalty and satisfaction?
By answering these and other questions, companies can develop a roadmap for refining and redefining their brand purpose, and can take steps to maintain long-lasting relationships with their customers. This may involve making changes to the brand's messaging, positioning, or product offerings, or it may involve developing new programs and initiatives to engage and connect with customers.
Here is a collection of descriptions for some 14 brands as of 2020, illustrating the diversity across different strategies.