Brand management may change, but this remains the same

I’m constantly reminded of the extraordinary speed with which the field of branding is evolving, as I sit listening to the presentations at the OnBrand conference in Amsterdam. The people around me seem to be sailing in the same very choppy water.

One after the other, I listen to reflections on the challenges of being a brand in our millennium. It strikes me that despite everything that has changed, there’s one thing that hasn’t.

Photo: Jez Frampton, Group CEO Interbrand

Photo: Jez Frampton, Group CEO Interbrand

What’s changing for brands

Everyone - from the C-suite to the front lines, seems to be very confused. This feeling of uncertainty is fueled by the fact that there are so many touchpoints to manage. There is a proliferation of fad-like buzzwords. Despite the introduction of countless tools - measuring, and then acting on the true performance of marketing or communication activities is often a challenge. Paradoxically, the average lifespan of brands, on the whole, seems to be decreasing.

Reactively fighting fires as they appear sucks away time from strategic thinking. Empowering consumers can lead to backlash or outrage, and not everyone’s prepared. It seems like a pie-in-the-sky idea to identify and prioritize worthwhile activities, and then stick to that plan. The role of CMO is diversifying. Marketing teams aren’t set up to deal with increasing churn. If this is all true for brands, divergence in the agency landscape isn’t a surprise. We now see niching and boutique-ing in terms of how branding and marketing services are offered.

Despite all this change, something stays the same:

Purpose is the foundation of a brand.

Having no purpose can be deadly for brands. Trends come, and then they go. Disruptive players are shifting the balance of power within industries. New tech, apps and interfaces are introduced and acquired on the daily. Our opinions of it all can be shared more quickly and loudly than ever before.

The theme of the 2017 OnBrand conference was purpose, and for good reason. Having a purpose gives your brand a strong identity. This identity is what attracts employees, customers, and communities. Purpose is fundamental to sustaining and growing a business and serves as a filter for decision-making.

Branding is NOT an external marketing exercise. A brand is alive. It’s intertwined in the places and spaces and people within which and because of which it exists. And no matter what changes, purpose drives its existence.

OnBrand is a European branding conference in Amsterdam. Hosted by Bynder.

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