What Makes A Brand Great Today?

uthenticity is the standout consumer value in 2017. What does 2017 have in store for us as marketers? According to the research reports released by Euromonitor International the one factor that is going to create the maximum impact is ‘authenticity’. If marketers really want to connect with the millennial consumers then they need to work on their authenticity.

What is also important to note is that the Edelman’s Annual Trust Barometer showed a global decline in trust with less than 50% people trusting brands? The bigger the brand the lesser the trust. One of the main reasons for this has been the Internet .It has made consumers very informed and brands need to work hard to establish their authenticity. They need to take specific steps to show consumers that they truly care for them.

The search for authenticity has seen a rise since 2010. According to psychologists some of the key factors why consumers are getting drawn to products that claim ‘authenticity’ were trends like globalization, economic crisis, and technology.

Globalization is making the world uniform with everybody drinking Coca- Cola, eating McDonald’s and wearing Nike. This is making lots of people crave for home made, traditional, authentic stuff. The economic crisis has made people trust less the big and fancy brands and reach out for simple, small-scale things. Technology has now changed the face of everything including our vegetables and fruits. We have genetically modified fruits and veggies today. All this has made people want the same simple stuff once more, which they can trust.

So all marketing campaigns have latched on to the new buzzword and started touting their brand as the most ‘authentic’. Go to a supermarket and you will be flooded with products each one claiming to be the real thing, the most authentic, the genuine one, the number 1, the best, the oldest etc. So much have these words been used and abused that they have lost their appeal and their meaning.

THE RISE OF THE NORMCORE The new generation does not care how loud you as a brand shout out from the rooftop how authentic you are. For them authenticity stands for something totally different. It does not anymore stand for heritage, the originals, and the first ones. Instead they define authentic as brands, which have a mission, brands, which are changing lives, brands that are ethical and honest. It stands for brands, which are innovative.

This has given rise to a new trend labeled by many as ‘normcore marketing’. It is a mash up of ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’. Gone are the days of glitzy ads showing the glamorous lifestyle. Now what works is a down-to-earth, normal, brand positioning showcasing the ‘normal lifestyle’. It could be considered as retaliation to mass production, technology, airbrushed images, and a craving for handcrafted, homemade, authentic stuff. GAP was one of the first to adapt this trend and came out with its ‘Dress Normal’ campaign. In fashion terminology that would mean embracing ‘sameness’. The attitude of the new consumers is to strive to merge rather than standout, to be similar instead of different. For brands it means ‘mundane’ is what is attracting the new kids on the block. Anti-trends is the new trend. Big brands, glitzy expensive fashion is not appealing anymore, rather it’s all about small, authentic, real, normal stuff. As marketers we need to remodel our goods and market them differently.

THE RISE OF TRANSPARENCY Consumers normally rank a brand on the basis of three attributes Reliable, Respectful, and Real. A brand is considered reliable if it delivers on the promise and is of high quality. It is considered respectful if it treats its consumers with respect and protects their privacy and data. If the brand communicates honestly, and acts with integrity it is considered Real.

So in the recent battle of the FBI vs. Apple, the brand did not budge from its stand and refused to share personal information of the customer with the FBI. Today not just the technology companies but so many others too own so much personal data of the consumers and if they want to be considered as authentic they should not share the data or misuse it.

According to the rankings of Cohn & Wolfe the world’s most authentic brand is Disney, followed by BMW, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. The other 5 brands that made it to the top 10 were Intel, Audi, Samsung, Adidas, and Lego. In spite of the exploding Galaxy Note 7 the brand seems to have retained its authenticity tag. This is because it has been honest about its mistakes, recalled faulty products and fought hard to win back the trust of the audience.

McDonald’s may not yet have made it to the top 10 most authentic brands but it is working hard towards it. McDonald’s Canada’s ‘Our Food your questions’ campaign has been the most talked about transparency campaigns. It tells the customers to openly ask anything about its products and gives McDonald’s a chance to dispel rumors and stand by its products. The campaign has received more than 40,000 questions and more than 3 million visitors since its launch in 2014. The brand went ahead and even uploaded a video of its beef processing plant to prove that the patties were made from real cows! McDonald’s has been targeted the most with lots of unflattering rumors surrounding it and the company is putting all efforts to build back the trust.

Southwest Airlines in the US has built its brand on the premise of being a low-fare airline. That is the heart of its business model. In order to make the consumers believe that there are no hidden costs or fees the company started a campaign called “Trans-fare-ncy”, where it showed its dedication towards low fares. The people loved it and the campaign garnered not just 5 million likes on its Facebook page but a whole lot of trust from the people.

Food is the least trusted of categories so Panera Bread promised its customers that it would stop using artificial ingredients. It launched a campaign “Food as it should be” where it displayed its menu that listed all the details of the ingredients used, the nutritional information and also an animal welfare report. All this just to show that its food was healthy and safe.

The clothing company Patagonia started a campaign called “How is your clothing made” The aim was to make customers aware of free trade certified factories where workers were paid higher wages. The consumers loved it and liked it not just on Facebook but also with their hearts.

That is how important authenticity has become in today’s world of very aware and informed consumers.

The re-birth of the CMO  The Chief Marketing Officer of the future is no more one whose sole job is to look into the branding and marketing aspects of the brand. Today he is expected to know about all the tools and techniques needed to measure the customer’s voice and understand his buying behavior. If the brand has to do well it is critical that every member in the organization learns to think from the point of view of the customer. It is the CMO’s job to drive that customer –centric mindset within the organization.

The CMO today has to look beyond the traditional methods of marketing and brand building. Today a brand’s reputation and its ability to differentiate itself from competition is the key to survival. In todays dynamic and volatile market points of differentiation get blurred very quickly and if one is not swift and quick to spot the trends one could be wiped out of business in no time. The market is highly disruptive and CMO’s needed to ensure that the brand is always innovating and delighting the customers.

Unilevers has merged the CMO and CSR (corporate social responsibility) roles into one. In many organisations the CMO is spending more on IT than the CIO. Marketing today has become a lot about data and the chief of marketing has to transform accordingly.

In conclusion, if we as marketers want to make our brands great we need to come across as authentic. We need to be transparent in our communications with the consumers. We need to listen closely to them and respond, reform, transform accordingly.

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