Is Branding Going Through Another Evolution Or More of the Same?

Branding is always an interesting topic. In many ways, successful branding is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle as it is hard to know just how a consumer sees a particular company.. Paula Lawlor of the Beacon Initiative describes “…branding is what you are.” From your logo to how you are represented in your communications, branding is meant to illustrate who a company is in the world and what sort of person buys from said company.

Coca-Cola is an easy example

It is easy to identify the red and white and particular font used by Coca-Cola. Coke is meant to signify happiness and community. From the recent American ad to the bottles with names printed on them in 32 countries in Europe, Coca Cola has been clear about who they are and why they want the consumer to pick their carbonated beverage over another. They are speaking to lifestyle and values, not thirst.

But is branding really changing or is it more of the same?

A recent New Yorker post by James Surowiecki claims we’re in “The Twilight of the Brands.” He uses Lululemon as an example of how brands are fragile. After the debacle with the see-through yoga pants and the fabric pilling, Lululemon’s brand could no longer be associated with the “lifestyle” they branded. And adding to this public crisis is the access consumers have to information about brands and their products. Surowiecki explains that brand loyalty is largely a relic of a time when information was less accessible. A company can make a fabulous or disastrous product and have it discussed and dissected via social media. This coupled with segmentation and that a company’s reputation is based on the most recent product (not its history) could very well make branding even more ephemeral.

This seems to say that branding has to evolve into a “personality” more than a message

Branding does seem to be more about “who you are” rather than historical performance. Just because Sony made a great television in that past doesn’t mean consumers will trust that its current product is equally as good. Which brings us to Tom Asacker’s question, “Does branding matter?” In his post, Asacker writes, “A brilliant idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.” This seems to agree with Surowiecki’s point that brand loyalty is waning, if not dead. It is not the idea that matters, it is the “impassioned dance.” Branding seems to becoming a mutual storytelling between company and consumers. Perception, context and priorities are more than a message. They embody the personality of the company. Whether an organization sells itself as green, innovative, sustainable or some other sexy concept depends on the consumer participating in creating the message. Brand evangelization, word of mouth and social media posts and shares describe companies as “someone” with whom to do business. If branding is really a mutual act between company and consumer, it may be that branding is evolving.

What do you think? Is branding going through another evolution or is it really more of the same? Join us Friday, February 21, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

How is branding really an expression of the consumer’s desired lifestyle?

What trends or changes do you see in how companies brand themselves?

 How does access to information from other consumers add to a brand’s story?

How is branding more like a company’s personality than a message?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

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