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Category: Branding Trends
It’s been nearly 15 years since the first publication of Canadian author Naomi Klein’s book “No Logo” (1999). To many, No Logo has been considered the genesis of the alter-globalization and anti-branding movement.
Of course we live in a completely different world now than in 1999. Since it’s publication, there have been other voices in the anti-branding movement–most notable is Jonathan Baskin’s book “Branding Only Works on Cattle”.
Baskin implies that branding is a complete intangible providing little lasting value, and nothing more than a big waste of time and money. Baskin’s premise suggests consumer purchase behavior trumps the conventional activities of image / awareness branding.
For those who may not be familiar with Klein’s anti-branding book, its premise is organized into four sections: “No Space”, “No Choice”, “No Jobs”, and “No Logo”. The first three sections deal with the negative effects of brand-oriented corporate activity, while the fourth discusses various methods people have taken in order to fight back the big branding (corporate) bullies.
For those voices in the anti-branding movement, the proliferation of brands over the past 15 years might seem as though no one has been listening. The whole idea of brand is stronger and more embedded into our culture than ever before.
Measuring Brand Value
It’s an established practice by marketers everywhere to trumpet the rankings of Interbrand’s (in association with Bloomberg Businessweek) annual survey of The World’s Top 100 Brands. According to Interbrand, the survey “evaluates brands much the way analysts value other business assets”. The idea being the stock valuation of big companies is largely the result of the financial value of their brands.
The truth about accurately measuring quantitative brand value is a matter of opinion. The bigger question for many business leaders and marketers still remains–does branding drive real business performance?
Many advances in measuring ROI for marketing activities have been developed in recent years. However, there is a big distinction between measuring marketing effectiveness and the intangible value of a brand.
If the quantitative measurement of brand value is a black art, (as Jonathon Baskin suggests), why does branding matter at all? And more importantly if branding is nothing more than an intangible activity promoting more consumption and consumerism rather than responsible citizenship, how much influence do the voices of the anti-branding movement have today within modern marketing organizations to make things better?
Where are we now?
These are noteworthy questions. In thinking about how influential the anti-brand movement is today, let’s take a look at the four big ideas and trends put forth in No Logo over a decade ago and see if they’ve stood the test of time.
The No Space Trend
According to Klein, corporations began (in the early 80’s) to seriously rethink their approach to marketing, and began to target the youth demographic, as opposed to the baby boomers, who had previously been considered a much more valuable segment.
These slowly gave way to the idea of selling lifestyles rather than products. Klein argued that large multinational corporations consider the marketing of a brand name to be more important than the actual development of useful and sustainable products.
As this happened, the brands’ obsession with youth and pop culture drove them to further associate with whatever the youth considered “cool”. Along the way, big brands attempted to have their names associated with everything from movie stars and athletes to grassroots social movements. Brands proliferated the culture interrupting consumers at every turn, and leaving no space for anything else.
Looking back on this idea, we can clearly see that big corporations have not lessened their obsession to brand just about everything, and there is hardly a place a consumer can go today and not be exposed to a youth oriented branding message. More than ever, the marketplace is a slush pile of brands and white noise.
Today marketers compete with clutter, rather than other players in their category. This will only increase as brands continue to muscle their way into people’s devices and into their lives.
The No Choice Trend
Klein outlines how brands use their size and clout to limit the number of choices available to consumers – whether through market dominance (Wal-Mart) or through aggressive invasion of a region (Starbucks).
Klein argues that the goal of each company is to become the dominant force in its respective field to add to their ubiquity and provide greater control over their image. Also discussed is the way that corporations can abuse copyright laws in order to silence those who might attempt to criticize their brand.
Certainly market dominance, control and clout from big brands will continue to be a competitive force. However the good news is big brands have failed, through control and manipulation, to stem the growth of more brands and more choice consumers now have available to them. So much so that brand differentiation is getting next to impossible. As brands continue to innovate products and services at light speed, consumers are becoming numb to ubiquitous choice and commoditization–with their default purchase intent based on the cheapest price.
And with the proliferation of social media driven communications, consumers now control more of the conversation about brands, not the marketer. The control of big brand and big media has been forever tilted in favor of more authentic and transparent online conversations controlled by consumer to consumer.
The No Jobs Trend
Here Klein takes a darker tone, and looks at the way in which manufacturing jobs move from local factories to foreign countries, and particularly to places known as export processing zones. Such zones have no labor laws–which leads to dire working conditions.
In North America, where the lack of manufacturing jobs led to an influx of work in the service sector, where most of the jobs are for minimum wage and offer no benefits and little hope for advancement.
All of this is set against a backdrop of massive profits and wealth being produced within the corporate sector. The result is a new generation of employees who have come to resent the success of the companies they work for. This resentment, along with rising unemployment, labor abuses abroad, disregard for the environment and the ever-increasing presence of advertising breeds a new disdain for corporations and their brands.
True enough, the effects of globalization have brought both pain and gain. The good news is big global corporations are now faced with the reality they can no longer hide from their labor abuses.
Apple’s recent labor practices in China and the human disasters in Bangladesh have shed new light and growing consumer intolerance for these practices. Brands today must add value to the people and communities in which they live, and be more effective stewards of the resources they use to manufacture and distribute products in complex global supply chains.
The No Logo Trend
In this final section of the book, Klein discusses various cultural movements that sprung up during the 1990s. These include Adbusters Magazine and the culture-jamming movement, as well as Reclaim the Streets and the McLibel trial.
Less radical protests are also discussed, such as the various movements aimed at putting an end to sweatshop labor practices. Klein concludes by contrasting consumerism and citizenship, opting for the latter.
Lets be honest with ourselves, branding (for the most part) is a superficial activity and it’s easy for the remnants of the anti-branding movement to get stuck in the tar of the superficial imagery and the propaganda of branding–much to do about nothing.
Today, actual business practices matter much more to consumers than the glossy promises brands will make. Today the behavior of brand owners is what consumers are concerned with when making purchase decisions. Today, consumers no longer care about marketing. They don’t believe marketing claims if they pay attention to them at all. Most try to avoid marketing messages at all costs. Logos don’t matter one bit if they ever did.
Despite this, advertising agencies and their clients will continue to indulge in creating the campaign de jour and develop more innovative ways to use big data to intrude on people. Over the past fifteen years none of that has changed.
With consumer-based economies still struggling to regain solid growth, the good news in the brave new world of the 21st century, consumers everywhere are now paying closer attention rewarding brands with their money only when brand behavior aligns with the sacred and shared values of the consumer community. Only in this context will the value of a brand matter.
In my view, the world changed radically – and in the process, making the anti-branding movement irrelevant.
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Evgeny Morozov is a scold. Little if anything about the direction in which digital technologies are moving these days meets with his approval.
Morozov is not alone. A small coterie of other like-minded critics – Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle and Jaron Lanier, chief among them – have added their voices to a Greek chorus of Cassandras chiding consumers that 21st century digital technologies are a Trojan horse imperiling civil society and personal well-being.
It goes without saying that digital technologies are upending all aspects of life. Every sweeping change like this, whatever its motive force – technology, demographics, the economy, politics – comes with challenges that menace the opportunities. But before we throw the digital baby out with the bath water, let’s put the apprehensions in perspective and ponder our digital futures in more constructive ways. Unlike public intellectuals who earn their keep by stoking our anxieties, brand marketers must fashion real-world solutions that negotiate trade-offs to deliver value propositions that measure up to our manifold hopes and dreams about the good life.
Fears that technological advances have unleashed a fast-approaching social apocalypse are at least as old as Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic, Frankenstein, originally sub-titled, The Modern Prometheus, which was published barely a generation after the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution.Read More
There’s a profound shift in power taking place in the business arena. With a whole new breed of exceptional new brands living by the rules of Business 3.0, consumers are now attracted to unproven and unknown brands the way they were attracted to established brands in the past. In fact, ‘established’ is now often just another word for tired if not tainted. The future belongs to Clean Slate Brands. Newer, better, faster, cleaner, more open and responsive; consumers are rushing to Clean Slate Brands and are now lavishing love, attention and trust on brands without heritage and history. Driving this trend:
1. Lust for the New > Why for consumers, ‘new’ now truly means ‘better’
The consumer arena has never been more fixated on the ‘new’. Thanks to the democratization and globalization of innovation (not to mention the celebration of entrepreneurship), brands and individuals from all corners of the world are now working around the clock to dream up and launch endless new products and services, that are truly better and more exciting than current offerings. Lower barriers to entry has gone from buzzphrase to reality, especially online.
And to underscore the ‘for and by’ element of the democratization of innovation, new players are by default more nimble and laser-focused on what consumers want now (as opposed to yesterday) than the bigger legacy-laden brands they compete with.
So from being something that was pushed to consumers by businesses (‘new and improved’), the ‘new’ is now subject to an increasingly strong pull from consumers. Excited by positive experiences of a ‘new’ that is genuinely ‘better’, consumers are hungry for more.
2. Instant Trust > Why consumers are immediately comfortable with, even prefer, turning to Clean Slate Brands
The whole concept of ‘brands’ rests on the idea that consumers need recognizable, trusted symbols, honed over many years, to help them navigate the wealth of available choices. However this idea is being swept aside in a business arena now characterized by Instant Trust.
This trend is most relevant in mature economies, where trust in big business has never been lower: only 28% trust big business in the UK, 30% in Japan, 32% in Australia, 33% in the US and 34% in Canada. In emerging markets however, consumers’ trust levels are much higher: 83% in China, 72% in Turkey, 65% in Brazil and India (Havas, January 2013). The question is: will big business maintain this trust?
Four forces are making consumers immediately comfortable with (and even prefer) turning to Clean Slate Brands:
Now that experiences are increasingly shared, and even the newest of the new is instantly reviewed and rated, consumers feel more confident in being earlier and earlier adopters.
92% trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, up 18% since 2007. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information with a 70% trust rating, up 15% since 2008. Television ads were trusted by only 47%, down 24% since 2009. (Nielsen, April 2012)
Clean Slate Brands better reflect the zeitgeist. The fact that they are (by definition) newly established, means that they often have ‘new’ business values – such as higher environmental, ethical and social standards – deeply baked into their business models and practices. Just witness how the values of local, storied, sustainable, progressive new businesses have been consistently appropriated by big businesses, as they stumble to catch up here.
The average age of brands in Millward Brown’s BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands Report has fallen consistently, from 84 in 2006 to 68 in 2012. (Millward Brown, May 2012)
Clean Slate Brands’ simple, lean operations (everything from fair labor practices, transparent supply chains and clean design) are easily understandable – and therefore trusted – by consumers. And with scandal after scandal (from financial products to horsemeat) being blamed on excess ‘complexity’, who can blame them?
Brands that simplify customer decision-making are 115% more likely to be recommended. (Corporate Executive Board, May 2012)
Business practices are now totally transparent (and if not, merely waiting to be exposed). Clean Slate Brands know this. Consumers know that Clean Slate Brands know this. Which explains why, on top of the fact that Clean Slate Brands, almost by definition, cannot have sinned yet (they’ve just started, after all), consumers trust them to act correctly in the future too.
64% of global consumers think most companies are trying to be responsible only to improve their image. (Havas Media, 2011)
Or, to put it another way, many ‘old’ brands were set up in the era of industrial capitalism, when secrecy was a source of competitive advantage and shareholders encouraged pursuit of profit at any cost. Now the world has changed, but even older brands that want to reposition themselves have a hard time wrestling with internal fiefdoms, convoluted legacy systems and opaque supply chains.
3. Open Operation > Why using or buying from Clean Slate Brands feels more meaningful
Clean Slate Brands are natives in a land where communication with brands is two-way, participatory and less reverential, and as such can connect with consumers in a way that older brands often struggle to.
Whether it’s through offering financial support, by helping to shape a brand’s operations, or even by contributing to the product itself, customers of Clean Slate Brands often feel more in control – a basic human desire – and that they have a meaningful relationship with the brand.
There are many purchases that are, and will remain, purely functional. But even in traditionally ‘low involvement’ categories such as domestic care, Clean Slate Brands with strong stories and identities can thrive. Witness for example how Method’s design-led, eco-friendly products succeeded against P&G’s and Unilever’s.
Examples of Clean Slate Brands that are making waves > Consumers have always been attracted to local, authentic food and beverage brands. Here are just a couple of recent innovative examples:
Coffee Joulies: US-based company lets consumers decide whether to move manufacturing to China
In December 2012, the creators of Coffee Joulies (a product which keeps hot beverages hotter for longer) asked customers to vote to determine whether or not the brand should move production from an American factory to a less costly Chinese one. Consumers could help decide on the location of manufacturing by making a purchase using either a USA or China coupon code. To reflect the lower costs of Chinese manufacturing, the discount using the China coupon was 10 USD, while the one for the USA was only 5 USD.
Wewi: Brazil’s first ever organic soda is made with Amazonian guarana
Launched in September 2012, Wewi is the first ever organic soda to be produced in Brazil. The low calorie soft drink is made from 100% organic Amazonian guarana, organic sugar and carbonated water, and is free of artificial flavorings and preservatives.
Transport is just one industry seeing the emergence of Clean Slate Brands:
W Motors: Luxury sports car developed in the Middle East
No, Clean Slate Brands won’t always be cleaner or more progressive (unfortunately). In January 2013, Beirut-based W Motors unveiled the HyperSport at the Qatar Motor Show. With a 750 horsepower engine, the HyperSport is capable of a top speed of 240mph, and is priced at USD 3.4 million. The brand (which is the first luxury sports car brand from the Arab region), planned to produce only seven units of the ‘hypercar’, however over 100 orders were received in the week after the car was launched. A signal that ultra-wealthy consumers will spend serious money on a Clean Slate Brand with no history or heritage, even if that involves delivering a resounding ‘too bad’ to any eco-concerns.
Waze: Crowd-sourced navigation app grows from 10 million to 36 million users during 2012
For an example of how consumers will often offer more information to Clean Slate Brands, look no further than Israel-based Waze, a smartphone traffic & navigation app that works by users disclosing their personal information to form community edited maps. Far from causing an outcry from users, in 2012 Waze grew its user base from 10 million to 36 million. One reason is that this sharing contributes to a better product: maps are constantly updated and incorporate ‘real time’ changes through user data. Waze also has a social aspect, with users able to sync with other drivers to share information on traffic issues and gas prices.
Convenience-loving consumers are embracing products and services that make their domestic lives easier, even trusting the security of their homes to Clean Slate Brands:
Lockitron: Home security via smartphone app
Lockitron is a device and app that allows users to lock, unlock and share access to their front door remotely through their mobile phone. Initially rejected by Kickstarter, Lockitron formed its own crowdfunding campaign to raise funds through pre-orders. The initial goal of USD 150,000 was hit within 24 hours, and five days after launching the company had raised USD 1.5 million, with reservations exceeding 1,000% of the original target.
SmartThings: Control of objects around the home via mobile app
In September 2012, SmartThings raised over USD 1.2 million on Kickstarter. SmartThings allows users to connect physical objects to the internet, enabling them to monitor and control doors, televisions, air conditioning, lights, heaters and more remotely via a smartphone app, and to receive notifications when people or pets enter or leave their home. SmartThings retail kits start at USD 299.
Clean Slate Brands are disrupting the personal finance industry, persuading consumers to hand over their financial data (if not actual cash) to services that promise more than incumbents:
Simple: Digital banking start-up focused on customer service builds a waiting list of over 125,000
Simple offers its users simplified and accessible banking through online and mobile apps. Despite not having the heritage and physical presence of a traditional bank, Simple launched its first full release in July 2012, working through the 125,000 customer waiting list that it had built since its launch was announced in 2010.
TransferWise: Crowd-sourced currency exchange undercuts banks
UK-based TransferWise is a service that connects consumers seeking to exchange GBP and EUR (and since November 2012 USD), and avoid bank service fees, high commissions and/ or poor rates. Currencies are exchanged according to the common mid-market rate as reported by worldwide currency markets, rather than traditional retail bank rates, which are usually much worse. Since the company launched in January 2011, users have exchanged over EUR 10 million and saved more than EUR 500,000 in the process.
In the tech world, the dizzying pace of change means that one moment’s Clean Slate Brand can quickly be overtaken by the next:
2go: South African mobile messenger service beating Facebook in Nigeria
South African social messenging app 2go saw continued strong user growth in 2012. Indeed in Nigeria, the service is pushing out Facebook (with over 10 million users, while Facebook has 5 million). The number of Facebook users in Nigeria was reported to have dropped by over 300,000 between November 2012 and January 2013, while 2go claimed to be adding 50,000 new registrations a day.
Snapchat: Temporary photo sharing app sees explosive growth
Snapchat is an app that enables users to share images that can only be viewed by the recipient for a few seconds before they ‘self-destruct’. The developers announced in October 2012 that the service was processing 20 million images a day, by December this had risen to 50 million per day; in contrast to the limited success achieved by Facebook’s similar ‘Poke’ application.
Even in health, where consumers might be expected to be extra mindful about dealing with Clean Slate Brands, upstarts are making waves:
23andMe: Personal genetics company targets 1 million customers
The ‘personal genetics’ DNA testing company 23andMe announced in December 2012 that it had raised USD 50 million and was aiming to expand its genotyping to 1 million customers, up from the 180,000 it had profiled to date.
Non-profits and social businesses are not exempt from the Clean Slate Brand phenomenon. Just one example:
Who Gives A Crap: Toilet paper brand donates profits to help build toilets in the developing world
Who Gives a Crap is a brand of toilet paper from Australia which donates 50% of its profits to help build toilets in the developing world. The brand reached its target on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in August 2012, raising USD 50,000 in 50 hours. A 24 pack of rolls is priced at USD 20. Proof that there’s room for Clean Slate Brands in even the most staid and ‘mature’ industries.
“Clean Slate Brands often have ‘new’ business values – such as higher environmental, ethical and social standards – deeply baked into their business models and practices.”
Implications and Opportunities
First, let’s get one thing straight. The Clean Slate Brand trend won’t wipe out all desire for brands with history and heritage. There will still be some consumers, at least some of the time, who will want to turn to established, proven products from trusted, well-respected brands. Or lust after illustrious brands that go back decades if not centuries. Remember, no trend ever applies to all consumers, all of the time.
But Clean Slate Brand is a trend driven by a profound shift in consumer preferences, and as such should get entrepreneur‘s juices going, while at the same time making switched on business professionals instantly question the attitude, tone, structure and approach of their brand.
And while the ranks of Clean Slate Brands might be filled with innovative small businesses and fresh start-ups, the characteristics behind successful Clean Slate Brands can be adopted by any brand, including old, big ones:
- Learn from the excitement of Clean Slate Brands and seize the opportunity to do things differently. Think new products (such as Nike’s revolutionary super-sustainable Flyknit running shoe), or even whole new business ventures (such as Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom’s M-Shwari savings service).
- Reduce complexity: Take a leaf from BMW’s ‘We Only Make One Thing. The Ultimate Driving Machine.’ campaign, or pare back bloated product portfolios and company structures. Bring clarity and speed to internal decision-making, and watch as consumers find it easier to understand everything about your brand.
- Bake in responsibility: Witness how even established brands such as Patagonia attempt to keep their slate clean with high-profile commitments to sustainability (such as the brand’s Footprint Chronicles initiative).
- Speak with an authentic voice and have something interesting to say, and big brands too will connect meaningfully with consumers. Witness Whole Foods’ wholesome, helpful Twitter account, now followed by over 3 million people.
And if your brand feels too large and unwieldy to become a Clean Slate Brand, then why not partner or even nurture those that are? From Telefonica’s Wayra Academy (active in 13 territories across Europe and South & Central America), to P&G and General Mills’ recent collaboration with crowdfunding portal CircleUp, this is a great way for even the largest of companies to tap into the Clean Slate Brand trend.
Compete. Win. Learn. The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in Your marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
At root, all marketing is local, but never more so than today. Economically, the geographies that matter to brand marketers are sub-national, mostly local. In particular, marketing is increasingly all about cities.
For one thing, local city economies matter more than national economies. A recent paper by Brigham Young University economist Todd Mitton found that the economic performance of sub-national regions within the 101 countries studied is influenced more by natural factors than by institutions, except when these regions function autonomously. Which is to say, when not dominated by far-away national institutions, everything comes together, natural and institutional, to enable key sub-national regions to excel and outperform the rest of the country. The takeaway is that national economies as a whole fare better when local economies are unleashed and untethered.
What is true for macroeconomic policymakers is true for brand marketers, too. Local is where the action is, cities in particular. Not the least reason is that cities are where people are. Excluding urban “clusters,” which often include small towns, the 2010 Census found that 71.2 percent of the U.S. population lives in 468 “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people. But the concentration within cities is even more pronounced – the top 48 urbanized areas account for more than half of the U.S. urban population. It is estimated that 60 million of the additional 100 million people projected by 2043 will live in one of nearly two dozen “megapolitan” areas.
It’s no surprise, then, that cities are also the engines of economic growth. A Brookings Institution analysis of 2009 economic data found that in 47 of 50 states, metro areas accounted for the majority of a state’s economic output. Even more, in 15 states, just one metro area accounted for the bulk of output. Cities produce a disproportionate share of exports. Cities attract the most talented, best educated people (whom Richard Florida famously described as the “creative class”). And cities possess the most valuable assets for future growth.
What’s true for the U.S. is true globally as well, particularly in emerging economies. From 2010 to 2050, the urban population of the developed world is projected to grow 0.6 percent per year. In contrast, the urban population of the developing world is projected to grow 2.4 percent per year, or a total of 2.6 billion people. In 2007, a mere 600 cities (out of 4,000 or so worldwide with populations of 100,000 or more) accounted for 60 percent of global GDP. Between now and 2025, the top 600 cities will account for 65 percent of GDP growth in the global economy. The mix of the top 600 cities will change, with 136 new cities, all from the developing world, 100 of them from China.Read More
The Facebook newsfeeds we will see at the end of next year will look very different from the ones we see now. We will see the rise of bigger, bolder, more interactive – and intrusive – Facebook advertisements in 2013.
It was only a matter of time before Facebook sought to monetize and justify its massive valuation. The drive for effective and revenue-generating advertising will draw on its powerful social ecosystem, pushing the creative formats and placements far away from the ads we see today.
Brands will be permitted to be more visible on members’ newsfeeds, growing the use of sponsored stories and video ads (which will become highlighted in users’ feeds). Advertisers will also be prominent across more of the landing page – expandable and richer formats will be prevalent by the end of the year. With these new opportunities will come increased responsibility for advertisers to deliver quality content that enhances the user experience rather than invades the platform.
Facebook will morph from a relatively private social space to a business entity driven by the bottom line. Brands will need to tread carefully as they explore these new opportunities. Some users will tolerate prominent advertising in return for free access to their friends and social connections, but others may balk at increased commercialization. Seeing their personal data sold for targeted advertising may cause resentment, unless brands deliver engaging content that is appropriate for this personal space.
As brands start to invest higher CPMs in more impactful ad units, it will become increasingly important to optimize visuals and messaging. Some of this will be measured in real-time, and copy-testing of Facebook ads will also start to be more widely employed. By the end of 2013 we will better understand users’ reactions to Facebook advertising, and we will know which formats successfully deliver brand impact without alienating users. – Martin Ash
2. Social Media Listening Evolves From Monitoring To InsightRead More