The concept of branding is already undergoing dramatic changes. New technologies have allowed us to go beyond mass production and to mass customize brands. Currently brand manufacturers own their brands. This is changing. In the future brands will increasingly be owned by the consumer. The first signs of this shift appeared in the late 1990s. I documented this phenomenon in my book BRANDchild and named it MSP — Me Selling Proposition.
In the 1950s branding belonged to the USP — the Unique Selling Proposition. This ensured that the physical product, rather than the brand, was the core differential. By the 1960s we began seeing the first signs of true Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP) brands. Similar products were perceived as different primarily because of an emotional attachment. Think of Coke and Pepsi. The consumer tends to drink the “label” rather than the cola. During the 1980s the Organizational Selling Proposition (OSP) emerged. The organization or corporation behind the brand in fact became the brand. It was the organization’s philosophy that distinguished it from others. For many years Nike subscribed to this form of branding. The internal spirit of the company was so strong that its employees became the main ambassadors for its brand.
By the 1990s brands had gained enormous strength in their own right, and the Brand Selling Proposition (BSP) took over. The brand was stronger than the physical dimensions of the product. Think Harry Potter, Pokemon, Disney, or M&M’s. The brand name is found on sheets and toothbrushes, wallpaper and makeup sets. Books and movies aside, the consumer has become more fixated on the brand than the stories.
The world of communication constantly changes. Interaction has become one of the main catalysts. The concept of interactivity has forced us to rethink each and every communication, evaluating and designing it for the ever-demanding consumer. Technological innovation paved the way for MSP brands, which saw consumers taking ownership of their brands. The Canadian brand Jones Soda is a good example of this phenomenon. Consumers design their own label, which Jones Soda guarantees to distribute in the designer’s local area. Nike and Levi’s websites offer to customize any of their models exactly to your need and size.
The Future World of Holistic Branding
There’s every indication that branding will move beyond the MSP, into an even more sophisticated realm — reflecting a brave new world where the consumer desperately needs something to believe in — and where brands very well might provide the answer. I call this realm the HSP — the Holistic Selling Proposition. HSP brands are those that not only anchor themselves in tradition but also adopt religious characteristics at the same time they leverage the concept of sensory branding as a holistic way of spreading the news. Each holistic brand has its own identity, one that is expressed in its every message, shape, symbol, ritual, and tradition — just as sports teams and religion do today.
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