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Grounding Brands In Times Of Change

A business series set in various locations in a modern workspace office building.

We can all see disruptive change on the horizon. 5G is just around the corner and that will change everything. It will hasten another big change, the Internet of Things. These two, together, will change business as we know it – probably the rest of life too. That will all happen in the next 15 years. But other changes are happening too: artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain and nanotechnology, just to name a few. As each of these new technologies advances and is affected by the other, the business landscape will transform in profound ways. The changes will affect different market sectors at different rates of speed. So it will seem as if the rules of business will be uneven, possibly even unfair. People will feel anxious and uneasy and unsure of what comes next. (Kind of like now, during the pandemic.) Business leaders will not be immune. They will grapple with how to guide their brands, how to position for the next change. All the more reason to take the time now to establish and codify the business’s values.

A brand is the relationship between a marketable asset and its market. So the management of that relationship is what we call brand management. Business leaders need to be constantly attuned to the needs and desires of their market. It is not unlike a marriage. To make a marriage strong, one has to work at it by anticipating and fulfilling the wishes of one’s spouse. Smart marketers are always anticipating the needs of their markets. That’s how you build a strong brand.

But in an era of constant disruption, we can predict that those market needs will be changing all the time. The Millennial Generation was once touted to be the most brand-loyal generation. Recent studies have shown that they have now become the least. A product that meets their needs one week fails to do so the next. It’s not that the product has worsened in any way. It’s just the need has changed. In this kind of world, how can businesses strengthen their brand and reinforce brand loyalty?

A business can try its best to modify its products or adjust it services to meet the ever-changing needs of the market. Indeed, every effort should be made to do so. However, as life accelerates, and with it commerce, the odds of being able to match market need exactly on time are not good. One needs to predict what the market will need further down the road and develop offerings for that time. A business should strive to be there waiting with the right product when the market returns. But what will guarantee they even come back?

It’s the values they share with the business that will bring them back. In fact, its those values that will keep them from ever really going away. Sure, they may opt to purchase from a competitor this week because the competitor’s offering is a better fit for this week’s need. But next week, there will be a new need. And because the customer values the relationship they have built with the business, they will return; at least they’ll check to see if the business can meet the current need.

A business needs to be more than just the sum of its offerings – more than features, quality and price. It has to be more than just a money-making scheme. More than ever these days, the brand needs to stand for something. It needs to mean something to its market. In the topsy-turvy, uncertain world of the future, that meaning will be the true driver of brand loyalty. Strong marriages are never transactional. The spouses stay together because they mean something to each other. And though businesses are transactional by design, the brands are not. The brands are based on meaning.

That’s why it makes sense now, before things get too distracting, for businesses to take a serious look at their brand. Is it the kind of relationship that will endure and strengthen in a world of rapid change?


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