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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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Brand Trends, 2004 and beyond (Part 2)

What will the brand environment look like in 2004? Last week MANDY DE WAAL and JANICE SPARK examined four major trends: South African identity, community involvement, internal branding and experiential branding. In part 2, they look at the next four big trends …5. Managing Reputation Will Remain a Major Challenge

Following Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat et al, reputation is an obvious brand bear trap, especially for global players. Expect an acceleration of PR’s move away from spin doctoring and towards the protection and nurturing of company reputations. The role of PR in building and maintaining company reputations will (slowly) become more valued and understood.

But…

This trend ties into the growing necessity of brand transparency. Those brands seeking to build reputation as a creative exercise (and to coax the public into believing they’re something they’re not) should beware. As Parmalat will be able to testify, the public backlash against deceit will be strong.

6. Brand Protection Becomes an Imperative

Expect the counterfeit brand business to keep on booming on the back of the real thing in 2004, and expect a consequent elevation in the need for legal services in this area. Also look for a continuation of litigation in the culture jamming sphere. Expect to see Laugh it Off conducting more TV interviews outside the high court, and look for more confusion from the big brands on how to handle culture jammers.

But…

Big brands will have to be careful not paint themselves into the wrong corner by chasing after people that are making fun, or money, out of them. Endless court actions could lead to public perceptions of the ‘big bad brand’.

7. Youth Culture

In 2004 the clamour for the hearts, souls and wallets of the youth will hit fever pitch. Expect every brand under the sun to jump on the hip hop bandwagon – and expect the youth to be getting more than a little bored with the media’s interpretation of their lives, and the continued onslaught of ‘buzz branding’.

With YFM having taken a firm grip of the youth culture power seat, the issuing of more radio licences will open the door for new ‘bright young media things’. Whether any will be able to capture the imagination like Y has done is open to debate.

But…

Youth brands will need to find the balance between intellectual integrity, social credibility and making money. Walking the tight rope will be tricky.

8. Advertainment

The product placement blitz will continue, with more and more TV and radio shows being designed around the sponsor’s objectives.

But…

Consumers are increasingly media literate. How effective is Advertainment really? It’s anyone’s guess…

The best advice we can give to marketers for 2004 is to hang to your hat, and don’t get swept away by the hype. As always, under promise, over deliver, and make sure that whatever brand innovations you undertake you do your homework carefully. The experiential brand environment is now common place, and consumers will be turned off by brand experiences that aren’t backed by slick delivery of the product itself.

The public wants to know more about the business behind the brand. Does the business operate ethically in social and environmental terms? These are big questions that companies will need to be able to answer honestly. Consequently, reputation management will become an increasingly critical component of the overall business strategy. For many companies the move from spin doctoring to transparent reporting will be a major challenge.

Idea Engineers is a strategic marketing company that develops brands. More information on Idea Engineers is available or 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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