The modern day term branding is believed to have been derived from the Old Norse term to burn – ‘brandr’. Historically, cattle, slaves and crockery were branded with hot irons to indicate ownership, however during the 1800s the transition from ownership (so leave alone), to workmanship, (so buy this), began.1 The ability for customers to identify one product from another and share with friends and family is important to build a loyal customer base.
In the 21st century a brand is a fundamental foundation to the success of a business. Modern day branding is more than just a logo, it’s what customers believe an organisation to be, the emotional attachment they feel and embodies the values of the organisation. No longer do people purchase a product or service based solely on features and benefits, they are looking for products and services from a company that they can associate with, that reflects their own values and demonstrates an understanding of them.
To help influence consumers, brands include a range of interlinking elements, such as slogans and continuity design such as imagery, colour themes, fonts and music to develop an identity to influence consumers in their beliefs. This identity, or, as some would say, personality, is designed for us as consumers to help influence and reassure us about the organisation and its products and services. This is a highly emotive process, one that companies exploit and embrace because consumers need to engage with their heart as well as their head before they will buy.
Traditionally, consumers experienced a brand through advertising on television, radio, billboards, magazines and in store point of sale. This was very much a broadcast method with consumers coming into contact with particular branding when they had a need or by chance.
As branding became more scientific, organisations started to associate their products and brands with sporting organisations and events in an attempt to capitalise on what they see as shared values as they sought to influence consumers and win their hearts and minds. Packaging also improved to reflect the values organisations are looking to associate with their products.
Although these methods are effective, organisations are always searching for ways to influence their consumers and improve engagement with their brands. The rapid growth and development of the internet has seen a shift to modern day technologies; internet, social media, apps and mobile technologies have begun to dominate branding. The internet, and in particular the advent of social media, means that the number of contact points a customer has with a brand has proliferated2. In the past, companies broadcast their message be it via an advert, poster, brochure or website. Today, consumers are looking for dialogue. And so the attention of marketing has also had to change from features, to benefits, to experience, to tribal identification.
The internet allows two-way communication between brand and consumers, enabling 24-hour communication and a huge volume of information sent to consumers in a matter of seconds. Everyday they are surrounded by online marketing strategies that subconsciously play a huge role in the actions taken online. Every minute 200 million emails are sent, 220,000 posts are uploaded on Instagram and nearly 2.5 million pieces of content are shared across Facebook.
Compared to the past, it is easier and quicker to build (or ruin) a brand online. As a result, in the 21st century, the use of the internet to promote is now a necessity. Brands are discussed and shared online by consumers for their own networks for all to see. For the leading brands this has allowed them to respond more quickly in influencing consumers, responding to their likes and dislikes and heading off issues early.
Although brands now have access to consumers 24 hours a day, consumers have the ability to filter, engage or ignore. This puts brands under greater pressure than ever to appeal, connect and stay connected to consumers. Being an iconic brand is not always enough and to get the edge, a small number of brands are starting to find ways of linking their online spaces with their retail space.
By 2020, it’s predicted that the ‘internet of things’ will be present in about 30bn devices and there will be more machine-to-machine communication taking place than human-to-machine communication. More of our communication will be through artificial intelligence and less of it will be human3. Consumers will always be on and always connected. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware and educated, choosing brands only relevant to them. This opens the market place for brands to find ways of greater personalised engagements and to target individual needs and wants.
Companies will have to continue to understand and react to these consumers whilst broadening their wider appeal and public awareness. To not be a part of the modern internet and social platforms would now mean brands are more likely to be forgotten about and left behind in the technological rush.
Audience awareness and knowledge means brands need to maintain authentic relationships between message and action, becoming more transparent than ever. The ability to find out a vast array of information at our fingertips is one that is becoming more and more expected by consumers. The information readily available not only helps to reinforce already established brand opinions, but also means companies need to be more open about background information which was previously absent from consumer knowledge or awareness.
Modern technology advances mean that brand communication is more predominant in everyday life. Smart wearables, such as the Apple watch allows communication instantly without even looking at a mobile phone device. We are already moving onto multiple, linking platforms and screens. The way in which the watch communicates means brands can send out messages tailored to consumers which are instantly received. Brands have always communicated using extremely human values, emotions and language, what does the future hold for the post human brand?
With the future of branding becoming more and more technology based and constantly accessible, consumers are now relying on the modern advances to personally assess a brand or organisation. If not modern or advanced enough, viewers can subconsciously think of them a lesser company, which obviously may not be the case. Brand awareness is now relying on what consumers online are saying and brands need to gain their trust and loyalty.
Emotions have always been at the forefront of branding in the sense that what you see advertised for a brand should evoke a reaction or feeling in response to the product/service. I believe that branding will continue to evoke feelings, however I think that the new technology means we will all be more aware of what is already being advertised quicker than ever. Undeniably the future lies in the technological advances that are occurring every single day and branding will evolve around this. Consumers will become more and more informed and companies will become increasingly sophisticated and competitive with their brand communications whilst being easily accessible online. Social platforms accessed from multi-linked, easily accessed devices could be seen as the future of branding and consumer/company interactions.
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1 Designtoday. Brand new: the history of branding. Online: www.designtoday.info/brand-new-the-history-of-branding/
2 Davis, M. 2009. ‘The Fundamentals of Branding’
3 The Guardian. The future of brands in a post-human world. Online: www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/sep/01/future-brands-post-human-world