At BrandStruck, we’ve analysed over 100 brand strategies, to find out how brand essence, values and character are built up and communicated. Having conducted the research, we’ve noticed that there are a few communication themes that occur more often than others.
Here’s what we see as the three biggest trends in brand strategy:
1. “Stay true”
In recent years, authenticity has become one of the most popular brand strategy motifs, if not the most popular one. Consumers are fed up with companies lying to them about their products and expect brands to “keep it real”. As a result, many brands push their “realness” through communication. This is done on two levels. If the brand has a rich history or it prides itself on its production process, it can talk about the authenticity of its products. This approach usually involves boasting about heritage, the founder, craftsmanship, doing things that match the brand’s DNA etc. If there’s not much to say about the product genuineness, brands frequently focus on their target audience authenticity. This strategy revolves around communicating products as a choice for people who don’t pretend that they are somebody else and stay true to themselves.
There are several categories for which authenticity is a communication must-have as consumers simply demand that. Luxury brands, craft beers, wines, whiskies and bourbons are just a few examples. However, there are brands, representing categories not necessarily associated with authenticity, which have chosen this approach. For example, Sprite (“encouraging the youth to be true to themselves and celebrate their self-expression”), Levi’s (“Original since 1853”), Snapchat (“The image might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that’s the point”) or Wilkinson Sword (“Committed to helping you discover who you really are”)
2. “Believe in yourself”
Empowerment has been growing in popularity as a brand communication theme for the last decade. This trend, which might feel slightly overused, has done a lot of good for unprivileged groups in terms of building awareness of the problems they face every day. Multiple companies have expressed their support for people who feel excluded from society because of their gender, shape, colour, age, religion, disability, nationality or sexual orientation. Although 2016 might have proved otherwise, people increasingly believe that everybody has the right to be happy, no matter how they look, where they come from or who they fall in love with and many brands use that in their messaging – from encouraging people to feel good in their own skin, to making them feel more confident and inspiring them to do things they wouldn’t do before (e.g. being tougher at sport, traveling, finding a new job etc.).
The most well-know example of an empowerment brand is Dove, which has been helping women feel beautiful and more self-confident for years. Nike has been encouraging people to fight their weaknesses and win, no matter who they are. Smirnoff, which describes itself as “the most inclusive brand in the world” has been standing up for LGBT communities, for example partnering with Gay Pride since 2000. Other brands include Always, Google, Starbucks and YouTube.
3. “It’s for everybody”
The last of the three trends we are covering today is about inclusivity, anti-elitism and building a wide brand appeal. Some brands have been positioned as “for everybody” for decades. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Ikea have always communicated their openness and accessibility.
However, there’s a growing number of brands, which gave up their distinct positioning in hope to attract a wider audience. Uber used to be a high-end black car service positioned as “everyone’s private driver”. Currently they describe themselves as “an everyday transportation option for millions of people”. PayPal is no longer a start-up for early adopters but an inclusive brand, which says about itself: “we put people at the centre of everything we do”. Another example is Spotify, which doesn’t want to be perceived as a tech company but a light-hearted music brand for everyone.
In our next blog post, we’ll be looking at a similar topic – communication themes, which are currently used by a smaller number of brands than in the past.
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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.
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