Future of Brands Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2553 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Business - Advertising

Future of Brands

The ability to infuse a unique identity into a given product or service, and have that identity resonate long-term and deliver valuable market differentiation, positioning, sales and long-term loyalty is the essence of effective branding. Dr. David Aaker, who has authored several foundational books and competed dozens of studies in the field of branding has defined the Aaker Model, which seeks to define these aspects of branding (Aaker, 2007). The Aaker Model includes components of branding as a product, organization, person and symbol, clearly showing a multifaceted perspective on the value of a successful branding strategy over the long-term. Long-term brand management, maintenance and growth are predicated on ensuring brand investments are made with insight into which strategic direction the brand needs to go in order to optimize its value (Balmer, 2012). The intent of this analysis is to propose the future of product branding, assess the impact of technology on consumer knowledge and awareness, and also evaluate the current trends in maintaining brand image. In addition, theories and best practices in brand management to build customer trust. An evaluation of the roles, problems encountered, skills required and functions of a brand manager to improve marketing strategies are also discussed, and appraisal of the value of technology in promoting a strong brand image within the online business environment is also analyzed. Empirical data from branding research studies are cited throughout this analysis to provide evidence supporting key findings and conclusions as well.

A Perspective on the Future of Branding

The progression of branding from being product- to customer-centric has also driven a corresponding evolution in the use of personas, or aggregate representations of customer segments and audiences. Instead of just relying on a brand for differentiation and the maintenance of a corporate identity, which was a pervasive strategy over the last three decades (Balmer, 2012), branding has evolved into a competitive foundation for future growth, aligning with personas to deflect defection and increase customer loyalty (Bogomolova, Romaniuk, 2010). As marketers have exponentially improved their use of analytics, more precise measures of customer loyalty and its cumulative effects on profitability have emerged (Forza, Salvador, 2008). Marketers can produce Lifetime Customer Value (CLV) analysis quickly as the majority of activity is occurring in digital channels, which makes the majority of activity traceable and analyzable (Kahn, 2009).

Analytics have given marketers and brand management professionals greater insights into the relative effectiveness of their short- and long-range strategies, providing more rapid feedback cycles for each strategic iteration of branding and marketing initiatives. Paradoxically the abundance of analytics and the advent of Big Data, or very large data sets showing the cumulative effects of strategies on brand equity has made the intangible aspects of brand management all the more critical (Maxian, Bradley, Wise, Toulouse, 2013). Branding could never be reduced to an equation as it includes emotional, intuitive and non-linear processes that defy quantification, yet the advent of Big Data has underscored the essence of effective branding strategies more than has been the case in the past (Maxian, Bradley, Wise, Toulouse, 2013).

The future of branding is going to be more governed by the customers' experience and how well a given brand aligns with very specific expectations. Analytics, Big Data and the predictive analytics the latest generation of technological tools can deliver are showing a glimpse of how powerful the precise analysis of customer expectations are and how effective branding strategies are deliberately designed to surpass them. The future of branding will be much more attuned to a highly personalized customer experience first with a continual series of reinforcement strategies for delivering excellent customer experiences. Closing the gap between expectations and experiences is what the future of branding will be and is rapidly evolving into today. This shift is being accelerated with how pervasive digitally-based branding and marketing strategies, which are yielding a wealth of brand, customer and marketing data, are quickly being used to understand the nuances of what customers expect. It is also being accelerated by the use of analytics to track brand detractors vs. loyalists and calculate the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a measure of customer loyalty and profitability (Bogomolova, Romaniuk, 2010). The future of branding will also be highly individualized to specific customer audience and segment expectations, preferences, unmet needs and wants. The precision that branding is capable of today will accelerate on this dimension as well, providing ample proof and continual reinforcement of the more salient factors of brand management and promotion by audience and segment. The combining of advanced analytics, Big Data, predictive analytics and modeling will be combined with the inherently unquantifiable aspects of expectations and emotions, delivering a greater precision of branding that has ever been possible previously. This will save brand management and marketing professionals years of fine-turning and literally dozens of cycles testing their branding messaging to gain the highest levels of accuracy and effectiveness.

Assessing the Impact of Technology on Customer Knowledge & Awareness

In a recent series of studies undertaken by Gartner Inc., a globally-based research and advisory firm which analyzes branding, marketing and sales effectiveness from an enterprise software perspective, the following findings were generated. In a recent study of 181 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), 83% said that their investments in brand-related technologies contributed directly to their company's ability to profitably grow over time (Jump, 2012). 70% said that their investments in technology to sustain and grow insight into their customers and key segments gave them the ability to more quickly launch into new markets and regions globally (Jump, 2012). 67% said that their investment in technologies allows them to more successfully track and understand customer purchase decisions and patterns, and also understand how differences in customer expectations vs. experiences helped define brand equity. The cumulative studies undertaken by Gartner also showed that just as Dr. Aaker had said, branding is the most integrative aspects of any strategic communications and planning initiative within a business (Aaker, 2007). This was seen in examples Gartner provided of how Microsoft has lost brand equity by not keeping each of aspect of their branding, marketing, product and go-to-market strategies aligned and synchronized with each other.

Technologies used for existing branding strategies as defined by the CMOs who participated as respondents in the Gartner study are shown in Figure 1, Gartner Analysis of Technologies Used for Implementing Branding Strategies. As would be expected, the most dominant technologies in use include designing, developing and maintaining a corporate website, followed by an intensive investment in social networks. Digital or Online Advertising is third and Content Creation and Management is fourth. Commerce experiences will accelerate, especially in highly price-elastic, differentiated or luxury products within the next five years. Today it is fifth, and is influenced by the respondent base of CMOs primarily from high tech manufacturers who sell a mix of commodity-based and a few high-end products.

Figure 1: Gartner Analysis of Technologies Used for Implementing Branding Strategies.

Source: (Analysis of Reports Accessed with Permission from the Publisher & Jump, 2012).

Gartner also did an analysis of why Microsoft has lost branding equity over the last year, from 2012 to 2013. What they found further supports Dr. Aaker's premise that branding is a highly orchestrated strategy that must include exceptional performance form each area of a business to succeed (Aaker, 2007). Figure 2 shows an analysis of why Microsoft's brand has dropped in terms of value. The leading cause of their brand losing value so quickly is deterioration of product quality. The bottom line of this analysis and section is that branding must be tightly orchestrated across the entire organization if it is going to be successful. It must also stay very focused on bridging between expectations and experiences, supported with exceptional product quality and the full synchronization of all factors as well, as the Microsoft example illustrates.

Figure 2: Microsoft Brand Equity Loss Analysis

Source: (Analysis of Reports Accessed with Permission from the Publisher & Jump, 2012).

Evaluating Current Trends in Maintaining a Brand Image

In 2013 the majority of marketers are clearly focused on the triad factors of cloud-based applications including analytics, mobile and social networks. The combination of cloud applications, mobile and social networks are also dominating the current strategies and trends for not just maintaining brand image but also expanding overall market potential and reach (Jump, 2012). The most dominant trends brand management professionals and their staffs are using today include augmenting their social networking sites with highly targeted content, using intensive search engine marketing strategies and investing in corporate website redesigns. Additional trends include the use of branded applications on mobile devices, investments in and continual build-out of online communities for customers, and the continual infusion of new content for e-comemrce and broader corporate websites as well. All of these factors are managed across the technology platforms of cloud, social and mobile, with the orchestration point of these branding strategies often being on referenceable customers and their stories of success using the products of interest. Customer references are the galvanizing point around… [END OF PREVIEW]

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