Branding in the time of AI

There may be a multitude of brands in the market, and more are constantly being added to the mix, but consumers still prefer to patronize brands they are already familiar with.

These brands immediately come to mind when they think about a category.

Thus, it can be concluded with the continuing disruption of the marketplace and the emergence of a new generation of consumers that only products and commodities that have become brands will survive and thrive.

Four stages

Back in the early 1800s, or during the so-called first industrial revolution, the economy shifted from agrarian to mechanization, from largely toiling with soil and land, cottage industries and handicrafts to manufacturing by machine.

The second industrial revolution kicked in sometime in the late 1800s until the early 1900s and was marked by advancements in telegraph, railroad, water and sewage, cheap coal, electrical and telephone, internal combustion cars, buses and trucks, etc.

The third industrial revolution, at the turn of the 20th century, was driven largely by telecommunication, computers and automation, green and renewable electricity.

Today, here at the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, many are witness to a fusion of technologies crossing the cyber and digital, biological and physical sciences divide, marked by breakthroughs in data science, robotics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, fully autonomous vehicles, quantum computing, nanotechnologies, etc. all integrated into practical, day-to-day living.

For example, have you ever wondered how technology platforms like Netflix and Amazon come to recommend titles customized to your preferences?

This is because their technology platforms have kept data about you through the years you have been patronizing their brands.

The fourth industrial revolution integrates technology into practical day-to-day living in the usage of cellphones and mobile devices, home appliances, traffic light controllers including detection of violations, to name a few.

Diverse generations

There are five generations of consumers living on planet Earth, each with its own generational motivations, aspirations, lifestyle, preferences driven by age, demographic profile, experience and life stage.

These are the post-war veterans, born 1901 to 1924, by now 94 years old and above; the silent generation, born 1925 to 1945, today 73 to 93 years old; the still active and enterprising baby boomers born 1946 to 1964, ages 54 to 74 years old; the pass-over generation X, born 1965 to 1976, ages 42 to 53 years old; the much talked about millennials or generation Y, also known as the echo boomers, born 1977 to 1994, between the ages 24 to 41 years old; and the generation Z, born 1995 to the present, ages 23 years old and below.

Reality check

Technology has enabled hyper-competition. Consumer choices were far more limited in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. There was the dominant leader and one or two challengers.

The development of practical technological platforms, data science and the internet spawned new business models. Retail trade has never been the same.

Choices before were SM, Ayala Malls and Robinsons. Today, at a click of a button, even while still in the Philippines, add Amazon, Lazada, Zalora, Alibaba, Honestbee, Harrods, Macys, Nordstrom, 24 Sevres/Le Bon Marche, practically every retail store in the world.

Technology extends beyond software and across all industries, into food, consumer durables, hardware, knowledge and soft services, to name a few.

Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, coffee was largely served and prepared instant and in-home and popular brands were Nescafe, Great Taste and Café Puro. Today, coffee beverages and retail stores are plentiful from Kopiko to Korean, Indonesian and Japanese coffee beverages to coffee houses like Starbucks, UCC, Coffee Project and Seattle’s Best.

People diversity

Back then, pizza was either Pizza Hut or Shakeys.

Today, depending on one’s preference, pocket power and even generation, one can likewise choose from Pizza Pedricos, Greenwich, Sbarros, Yellow Cab and Papa Johns, to name a few.

But still, the good old dominant brands survive and remain at the top of this category.

This shows that brands have far greater value and sustainability over time and through generations.

Both Interbrand and Forbes in 2017 reported that the top 40 world’s most valuable brands were valued at $1.7 trillion.

Within the last decade on different years, both Interbrand and Forbes reported the entry of technology brands on their top 20 list.

These brands include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.

Nonetheless, old-time favorite brands, many still strong even after 100 years in operation, continue to make the top 20 list.

Among these are Coke, Toyota, Disney, Mercedes Benz, Mcdonald, Nike, Louis Vuitton, BMW, Budweiser, Nescafe and L’oreal.

Branding tips

For business owners, surviving into the next generation requires grit, determination, focus, vision and long-term thinking.

Businessmen need to decide whether their business is a commodity or brand.

Giving a product or commodity a name does not mean the commodity becomes a brand.

Printing in-store materials, distributing flyers and mounting trade, motorcade and special events does not mean one has built a brand.

Brands have depth. Consumers have positive associations and strong knowledge about the brand beyond the name.

Here are some ways to build a brand.

One, assess your brand here and now when it comes to brand equity.

Brand equity measures brand health awareness that includes top of mind, loyalty and conversion scores.

But more importantly, brand equity determines the stickiness a consumer has for a brand quantified in numbers from 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest.

This means the higher in number, the least likely will a consumer choose any other option or brand despite certain misgivings e.g. lack of a particular model at time of purchase, too much customer traffic in-store, etc.

When research data come in, not many so-called business owners, even marketing or brand people know how to translate data into actionable steps that can help build a stronger brand.

Fortify your human resources with complementary expert brand human resource.

Two, set aside arrogance. True, business owners have built their business from scratch. But the stage of building is the foundation of a business with potential.

Growing the business to become a brand and a dominant leader in the category based on hard facts and third party research resource, not on internal sales data, hearsay and a network of suppliers, is what separates a business owner with grit and determination from that of a lucky, whimsical driven owner.

Three, business owners with dominant brands in their category have a brand vision. Their brand’s story is a mirror of how they do business as well as treat and commit the brand to their consumers.

If brands have a strategic, compelling brand message that is relevant to the consumer, one can be certain that business owners will put in place structures to deliver the promise.

Thus, owners of real brands with strong brand equity are less likely to be whimsical business owners.

Four, business owners with brands that are likely to roll into the next generations of consumers or consumers with new diversified interests and preferences, do invest in brand building and hire expert brand resource with track record. With expert resource, money they put into branding translates into double-digit gross revenues.

Thoughts

Two renowned business owners have this much to say about branding.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” On the other hand, Donald John Trump, a well-known businessman before becoming the 45th and current president of the United States, said, “If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.”

 

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