Is branding dead?

Every year business magazines talk about the top brands but most of the brands on their list are in serious trouble.  Coke and Pepsi, for example, are always on the list, but as consumers move away from soda their sales continue to decline.  So is brand equity dead?

There are some brands that have loyal customers.  Starbucks, for example, always seems to have consumers who are willing to try new drinks, but even iconic brands like Apple are having trouble maintaining their elite status.

One could make an argument that Microsoft is killing it while Apple is losing its edge.  Sure Apple is making a lot of money but their technical leadership has faded and a lot of analysts are saying that consumers may not lay out $1000 for a new iPhone.

So what’s happening with today’s consumers:

1ne: Millennials are all about saving money and not purchasing products they don’t need.

2wo: Saving money is still important to consumers and if it means switching brands they will most likely do it.

3hree: Even with social media most brands don’t listen to customer complaints or suggestions.

4our: Social activism has taken root and can hurt brands if they stay quiet or support the wrong side.

5ive: Consumers are angry and ready to jump on ANY brand that makes a mistake and punish them.

So what does all this mean?  It means that the traditional elements of branding are expanding into things like social status and perceived status when it comes to supporting mainstream idealism.   It also means that brands can’t hide anymore.  The Internet is available to always tell consumers the truth and they will find out the truth if you try to lie.

Branding is not dead, but what you say and do I now part of your brand.  If you close a factory to ship jobs to Mexico consumers are going to find out and punish you.  If your CEO makes tens of millions of dollars while laying off employees the Internet buzz will spread like a wild fire.

A multimillion marketing campaign can be castrated by one simple mistake in social media.  Ads that are annoying and repetitive can actually hurt your sales as consumers say “enough is enough”.

Today we have to go beyond a brand identity and focus on all the elements that make up our brand to customers.  It’s hard to do, but those brands who ignore this rule are going to find out just how much power consumers really have today.

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