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Brand trends for 2003

By Mandy de Waal and Janice Spark

What will brands do in the future based on how they’ve behaved today and in the past? Mandy de Waal and Janice Spark, look at brand trends for the coming year and beyond.

The business of branding will remain big business in 2003. Marketers will deepen their understanding of brands and appreciate the importance of building brand equity. Companies will learn more about building brands and building market share, as well as the relationship between brand relevance and customer loyalty. These are the other trends that will shape the way marketers create, manage and protect brands in the coming year.

1. Branding endures despite an embattled economy

Economists predict that a depressed climate will endure both globally, and locally, for at least the next six to twelve months. Marketers will respond by shaving their budgets, rather than slashing them. Clients will seek the best return on investment and demand more innovative solutions from their marketing partners to help them weather an embattled economy. Branding will remain a mainstay, as marketers realise the power of building brands and their value in
surviving tough economic climates.

2. A shift in strategic focus from brand awareness to brand resonance

Traditionally brand strategies have largely dealt with competitive differentiation together with the benefits and emotions associated with brands. In 2003, environmental and social issues will bring increasing pressures on brands. Alongside this, consumers will become more sophisticated, self-reliant and smarter. What this means for branding is a strategic shift that will see the
brands of tomorrow becoming more reflective of company’s attributes and its relationship with its customers. The shift of power will increasingly move from marketers to customers as consumers become more demanding and sceptical. In consumer-driven markets over-promise and under-delivery will be a brand’s death.

3. Brand experience is everywhere and everything

Building brand-driven customer touch points within the organisation will be the biggest challenge that companies face. This will be particularly true of banking and financial companies that will struggle to maintain the integrity of their brand, and deliver on its promise at call centres, service points, and through diverse channels including interactive and cellular channels. Customers will interact with brands everywhere and those companies that marry their brand
promise with its actual delivery will rise to lead market share.

4. Brand extensions will drop off, while marketers will realise the value of
old-fashioned service

In a frenetic market, marketers will learn that less is more and that the road to increasing market share is paved with good, old-fashioned service. In recent years brands have increasingly engaged in extensions to increase market share. The coming years will show that there is power in a narrower focus as brands return to the basics and companies learn that growth is often achieved through the simplest of things – brilliant service.

5. Brand relevance will extend through the supply chain.

In the past consumers were prepared to take brands at face value. In recent times consumers have made decisions beyond the brand, to the suppliers and contexts that affect it. This trend will deepen. Consumers will want to know who makes Nike footwear and under what conditions. They will be concerned with the brands of the clothing suppliers to Edgars and Mr Price stores, as well as the labour issues surrounding the creation of these clothes. As social issues increasingly affect South Africa, the relevance of brands will become increasingly important for consumers.

6. The brand black market will rise alongside brands

As brands create value, so too this value will be realised by racketeers wanting to make a quick buck. Counterfeit brand products will proliferate, but as they do an industry will emerge alongside it focused on protecting brands. These will range from high-technology tracking devices to marking technologies that verify the authenticity of products.

The best advice we could give marketers in 2003 is to under-promise, over-deliver and connect with customers whenever you can, wherever you can. While brand strength will discourage consumer switching, consumers will abandon products and services that don’t live up to their core promises. A case in point is the cellular market that has seen significant churn following a new brand entry off the back of complacent service levels and aggressive pricing.

Connecting with consumers will be a key thrust for 2003. Marketers should not limit their activities to the point of sale, but should realise that consumers experience brands everywhere and the promise of that experience must be reinforced through every interaction, through every channel and at every point the consumer meets the brand. As channels both converge and proliferate,safeguarding the integrity of the brand experience will become crucial.

Mandy de Waal and Janice Spark are the founders of Idea Engineers, a strategic marketing company that develops brands and businesses. They can be contacted on tel. +27 11 803-8111 or e-mail Mandy on mandyd@mweb.co.za

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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