As 2018 comes to a close, we at Emotive Brand can’t help but reflect on the trends and forces that defined the year. The Golden Age of subscription services continued to shine brightly, bringing personalized eureka moments to thousands of people. Politics seeped into everything, with brands either choosing to walk the line or pick a side. And our data, once seen as merely a byproduct of business, has continued to become the engine of business itself.
Looking ahead to 2019, we examine five challenges that brands are facing right now – and how to overcome them using a transformational business strategy.
1. Incremental change is fine – just not if you want to be a market leader
“Anything you can do, I can do better” is a mentality shared by many brands and vengeful siblings, but it misses a key point. Your biggest competitor is not another brand, it’s the category you’re in. There will always be another company offering a similar service. The way to differentiate is by fueling big idea innovation. The most innovative companies look for transformation everywhere: in new channels, communications, value propositions, and more delightful experiences. Airbnb is not a slightly more affordable hotel, it’s a thoughtful reconsideration of what it means to travel. Lyra is not a slightly better employee assistance program, it’s a smarter approach to emotional health.
2. Strategy is (and always will be) your strongest weapon
Before brands can delight or amaze, they first need to understand. Knowing what your customer needs, wants, expects, or desires should not only be the foundation from which your product is built, it should drive growth initiatives and resource allocation. For a great example of a brand capitalizing on customer insights, look at Wayfair. Buying furniture online is nearly frictionless – except knowing exactly how the piece will fit in your house. “View in Room 3D” is a brilliant use of augmented reality, allowing people to use their smartphones to precisely visualize how that sectional will look in their living room. The brand strategy informs and enables the business strategy.
3. There’s no real excuse for communication breakdowns anymore
Now more than ever, there’s a glut of communication tools to foster collaboration and eliminate silos within your team. It’s your responsibility to discover how your team works best, and then equip them with the right tools to win. Maybe it’s a matter of personality, and it requires facilitating a workshop to identify your preferred working style. Or perhaps it’s a matter of product, and something like Slack or LogMeIn will streamline your processes. Either way, your internal communications should be treated with the same urgency and gravity as your external ones.
4. Creating a consistent brand experience is worth the headache
Recently, our design team had the pleasure of visiting the Letterform Archive, a non-profit center for typography and lettering in San Francisco. In the archive, we flipped through Coca-Cola’s advertising manual from 1948 – and we couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy at the simplicity of the media sphere. Radio, newspaper, print. That’s it. Now, of course, we live in a hyper-fragmented landscape where a mixture of screens and devices vie for our attention. If you’re selling soda in 2018, you somehow need to have a mastery of Snapchat and smart refrigerators, in equal measure. This is a nightmare for brands as they attempt to optimize the customer experience. But you can’t afford to ignore a social media channel or device aspect ratio if you want to remain relevant. For guidance, look to Netflix. Regardless of device or account, user preferences are seamlessly remembered and transferred. At the end of the day, people don’t care about the medium. They just want results.
5. In this age, only emotive brands are remembered
Here in the office, there’s a certain Maya Angelou quote that gets said often.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In all your interactions for 2019, you should be asking yourself, how does this make our customers feel? Our partners? Our employees? The branding process can be obtuse. There’s jargon, terminology, workshops, and processes that everyone, especially those in the C-suite, might not be familiar with. But that’s the brilliant thing about emotion – it transcends language to hit you right in the heart. You may not know everything about your brand, but you know how you want it to make people feel. That emotional impact is your compass. Let it guide your decision making and it will undoubtedly lead you to a place of business and brand transformation.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in San Francisco.