Brand. What? Brand!

Joint MD Rob Bryant looks back on a year marked by an unprecedented collapse of people’s trust in brands and institutions. His conclusion? Successful branding will have fewer tricks and more truth.

2017 will go down as a watershed year in the way society as a whole views brands. We saw one example after another of institutions failing to uphold the one thing that is sacrosanct in any brand/consumer relationship: trust.

From United Airlines’ beating-up-a-passenger PR disaster to the Ryanair pilots fiasco, and from empty pre-Brexit promises to Donald Trump’s hair-do, the world has been awash with miscalculations, misdeeds and pure old-fashioned muck-ups.

All this hit at a time of increasing cynicism towards marketing and brands. The rise of better-informed consumers armed with information and peer-to-peer recommendations is putting pressure on the unprepared corporations. Many commentators are arguing that brands and their values are becoming less believable, credible and important – as are the outdated agency models that continue to uphold creaking communication platforms.

So where does this leave us as we approach 2018? I for one am sure that a pervasive scepticism among consumers will influence the way they perceive marketing messages and the promises that companies are making to them.

We’ll certainly be working with our clients to ensure their brand strategy remains fit for the times. And as for the new clients who come to us to help transform their fortunes – we’ll be advocating that their brand be stripped down to the essential parts, their narratives made simpler and more transparent.

We know already from our work in artificial intelligence and augmented reality that technology is going to unearth new behaviours. Future brands will need to respond by sticking to fundamental human truths – and building the trust that creates long-term advocacy. We’re all going to have to work a lot harder to be believed and endorsed by consumers. More than ever before, we have to accept that is the consumers who own the brand.

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