The Incredible Shrinking Brands.

How and when did brands get so small? It seems that despite the greater availability of tools and engaging media to connect brands with consumers, the impact of brands on society has greatly diminished. Why are the trillions of dollars currently spent on marketing only getting us “Paris Hilton” brands instead of timeless “Liz Taylor’s?” It seems that this past decade’s media revolution has empowered consumers while making brands more insecure. Our brands now more than ever need to stand for something in order to inspire and stand out. In essence, they need to grow up. Some good old values can help.

Today’s consumers are disillusioned with brands’ inability to make them dream and feel. As brands have gotten smaller, consumers and their expectations for meaningful exchange have gotten bigger. Consumers are instead finding relevance from other sources, including more interactive media, community-driven experiences, and greater involvement in religious, entrepreneurial, and civic activities. It’s as if too much irrelevant brand titillation driven by an abundance of media dollars has driven our consumer to brand indifference. Advertising’s role in shaping a cultural agenda is currently questioned.

There are more brands to choose from than ever before. Strong competition in the areas of consumer research and product development has resulted in near-perfect product categories full of brands with hyper attributes that overwhelm and numb our consumer. And, who can blame them? Can anyone truly explain the difference between all the various levels of anti-cavity control in toothpastes?

This loss of relevance or purpose is happening at a time when consumers want it and need it most. Our post 9/11, post-Enron “community seeking and building” consumer is looking for enlightened leadership in all aspects of their lives. They’re also looking for broader involvement by brands and corporations to address things that traditional players such as government haven’t fully tackled including the environment, intra-cultural dialogue and social equality.

Brands that want to be leaders must learn how to lead. They must facilitate what we call “branded movements” – or powerful collaborative statements with non-traditional groups such as grassroots organizations and influencers resulting in powerful brand communities. How do branded movements begin?

Brands should first adopt a more assertive attitude with regards to the roles they can play in society. They should not be afraid to ask themselves how they can change the world. This type of weighty question will naturally guide your brand to true values and give clarity, edge and purpose to your branding strategy. Plus, doing so will also bring you closer with a stronger base of consumers that are already asking themselves that very question of the brands they embrace.

“Branded movements,” work because they give everyone involved a sense of purpose around the brand and its values. They are also powerful because they allow to brand to touch upon society’s big shifts as well as the themes impacting the day-to-day decisions of individuals and families. The brand becomes both symbolic and relatable, inspirational and accessible. It is then, by being truly a part of consumers’ lives that our shrinking brands can become big again.
By Roberto Ramos, President + CEO, The vox collective

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