Organizations invite and leverage user-generated content. This has led to a greater importance being placed on how brands build trust with consumers and, in turn, how consumers affect reputation.
Trust is being directly developed between consumer and brand, with marketers seeking to create exceptional brand experiences that reinforce the brand promise and generate favorable consumer comment.
In a social media culture, a brand must not hide from its consumer; it must engage on its own terms and be proactive listeners and prompters of communication.
Brands and the organizations that support them must be mindful of sustainability. This means not only managing economic value but a societal one—managing a carbon footprint or pro-environment packaging or complying with an appropriate regulatory environment.
The most successful brands seek to lead in this regard within their industry sector. Brands have been moving beyond the simple “green” concept, which mostly referred to environmentally friendly practices, packaging and positioning, to sustainability, which demands a more holistic approach that includes everything from labor practices and equity to the environment to long-term economic impact.
A brand is a continuous connection. Mobile technology has multiplied both access and interactivity between a brand and its users. The new media landscape represents a new way to listen and a new way to make an emotional connection between brand and consumer.
Brand experiences have become customized as the consumer’s desire to be unique and expressive of self in more permissive ways has been matched by proliferation and ability of media and business to deliver custom products and experiences. Examples: In fashion, NIKEiD customized shoes; in food, the proliferation of international cuisines and offerings; in media, politically-customized news channels such as Fox, MSNBC.
In economic downturns and early recoveries, brands that emphasize basics will be best positioned to succeed.
Apple and Google have proven this with their ability to attract top talent and fund innovation. GM, BP, and Samsung have each produced their own renewal and resurgence case studies.
In terms of branding success, there’s no difference between a consumer staple category-leader like Kleenex and a high-end, discretionary category leader like BMW. Each must establish and maintain market leadership, embrace rabid fans with pioneering product and messages, and stay focused and engaged to remain fully-realized brands.