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Brand Trends, 2004 and beyond (Part 1)

What will the brand environment look like in 2004? What lessons have been learned from 2003, and what will the brand trends for the coming year be? The founders of Idea Engineers, MANDY DE WAAL and JANICE SPARK, examine brand trends for 2004, and beyond, in the first of a two-part series.The brand took a big leap forward in business consciousness in 2003, moving from the realm of the marketing department and into the boardroom as an important strategic pillar. In 2004, local and global companies will be pushing to turn the theory into profitable reality…

1. A South African Identity Will Be Brand-Critical

Local is already pretty lekker in branding terms, and the year’s hectic political schedule will see even more ‘nation-positive’ spin in the media. Backed by the good work of past years, South African culture will be even more cool, and a strong local flavour will elevate the legitimacy of a brand’s status. For international brands this means paying careful attention to the mood on the street, and sincere attempts to tie this mood back into brand experiences, and products.

But…

Given the popularity of brand South Africa, there’s going to be an awful lot of ideological clutter in the market. Those seeking to simply leverage local trends for positioning purposes might hit a brick wall. A South African identity is about more than a feel good pay-off line.

2. Community Involvement Equals Competitive Advantage

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) will finally start to move from a vague business adjunct to a business imperative. Apart from the dictates of an increasingly rigid regulatory environment, sustainable development is essential in a wider context; driving the health of society in general, and the health of the brands that service it. Expect strong moves from ‘blue chip’ brands towards meaningful community interaction and the opening up of brand touch-points through community involvement.

But…

Those brands that aren’t interacting with communities on a personal level and are defaulting to ‘cheque book’ CSI will be missing out on a major growth opportunity.

3. The Internal Brand Takes its Place

2004 will see significantly increased spend on internal brand programmes, as companies look to align internal resources with the brand to deliver a consistent on-brand experience that drives bottom line profitability, customer loyalty and shareholder value. The brand will take its logical place as a point of differentiation in the market, and internally businesses will rally around the brand to support this differentiation from an operational and experiential perspective.

But…

Companies need to be careful and, more importantly, thoughtful in their brand-centric dealings with employees, and must be sure to align internal brand-centric programmes with reward and understanding. In short, developing a brand-centric operational environment must be a participative process.

4. Experiential Branding Will Keep On Growing

Product and price parity will tighten their grip across most sectors, and experiential branding will become an increasingly critical point of differentiation, and customer loyalty. Expect most major players to continue to extend the brand experience well past product. The likes of Kulula.com will be able to capitalise on the hard work already done in this area, while the stragglers will be looking to catch up – as soon as possible.

But…

Companies will have to make sure that the consumer actually enjoys a good brand experience! A lot of consumers are starting to buckle under the weight of mediocre brand interactions.

Next, in part 2: Managing Reputation, Brand Protection, Youth Culture and Advertainment.

Idea Engineers is a strategic marketing company that develops brands. More information by calling (011) 803-8111.

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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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