• Transform magazine
  • September 26, 2022

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Building the future of branding

Joe 2020 Edit+01+Copy 2

Joe Rogers is the co-founder and executive strategy director at Australian-based strategic brand and design agency The Contenders. He underlines the three trends in branding which may determine its future.

Most people have spent the last few years putting out the many fires in the present. But there have also been some who’ve been busy building the future of branding while we were looking elsewhere. Here’s the three things you need to know to get back up to speed

Narrative based brands

Narrative based brands blend the doctrines of Aaker and Sharp. Signature stories meet distinctive assets and live happily ever after. Rather than try and nail down every possible twist and turn in a static brand construct, brands are developing ‘Once upon a time’ origin and belief stories matched with coded shapes and colours that can put the brand into most cultural narratives.

The reason this is important is brand salience. In the age of digital discovery, 82% of investigation for new products and services start screen in hand directed by consumer rather than projected in a medium chosen by the brand. Narratives cut through and brands including Aldi, Land Rover, Liberty Media (owners of F1) and North Face have taken clear beliefs but tailored them to be relevant in the moment of consumer discovery.

Beyond big ideas

Brands that are succeeding today are those who understand where culture is going and how the value it provides to brands is shifting. In the old era of ‘The Big Idea' this meant having a point of view on a human ideal whereas today brands have to demonstrate the values they hold are innate and acted upon in their business model.

What great brands are doing is focusing on how they deliver their positioning through intertwining their operational model, technology and communication to deliver outcomes that are progressive and profitable. Where a post child labour scandal Nike once forged the path between purpose and practicality, others from Modi Bodi, Unilever and Lego have followed.

Distinctive assets

False attribution is the plague of any brand. It opens the door for copies and competitors. Job #1 is still to be distinctively identified as you. We already see evolution in the visual identity systems of the world’s biggest brands from Google to Coke where the individuality of Coke Zero has been turned into systemic Coke No Sugar.

The big shift though is the move from a focus solely on visual brand assets to embracing distinctive brand voice. These brand voices are becoming more and more linked to brand action: Different from its confused cousin brand purpose, brand voice is about having an opinion on what is right and wrong in the world delivered playfully or forcibly inside your identity. If you are looking for start points look no further than Oatley, The United States of Soda, Who Gives a Crap (we do, promise) and Ikea.