The concept of branding has come a long way—from a near-mythical corporate buzzword attainable only through massive infusions of marketing euros, to a vital and achievable goal for any company, big or small. And like all things branding and marketing related, the methods that work for branding continue to rapidly change and evolve with the times.
As we rapidly advance into 2014, branding trends reflect a tighter, more focused approach that increases effectiveness and return on investment by reaching precisely targeted audiences. Effective branding strategies are moving toward more and improved visuals, meaningful company brand visions, and an outreach that brings customers more personalized experiences.
Read on to find out more about some of the critical branding trends for businesses seeking a successful return on investment in 2014.
Top 14 Branding Trends for 2014
1. Aesthetically Stunning & Functionally Performing Websites
Your website is the hub of your online brand. It’s also competing with a landslide of other websites for the attention of your target customers—so if you’re not standing out visually, you’re losing out monetarily.
How long has it been since you last audited and redesigned your website? Even over the past year, web design trends have experienced major shifts, with the most successful businesses moving away from the flashy and complex towards the simple elegance of less cluttered designs and beautiful typography. Navigation is simplified too, with a rapidly growing, dominant preference to access websites on mobile devices which means your online presence has to be designed to meet that customer need.
Make 2014 your year to invest in a stunning website in both aesthetic, branding and functional terms. Take the time to choose a talented branding partner, designer and developer who can create visual marketing magic for your business.
2. Choosing National Over Global
Think about it: Does your company really have the resources to market your brand to the entire world? Unless you’re bringing in more than $5 / €4 billion annually, the answer is probably not. Trying to build a global brand out of the starting blocks is not necessarily the best use of your time and resources.
Depending on your product offering or service type it’s sometimes far easier and more affordable to grow your business locally or even nationally initially. Once you’re known and respected in your local or national geographic region you can leverage off that success to expand further afield. The loyal customers you’ve gained will also spread your brand through referral, social media and global connectivity too.
3. Social Media: Less is More
Speaking of social, the idea that your business needs to be active on every existing social media network, from AgentB to Zebo (yes, those really are social networks), is finally losing ground. The fact is, spreading your social marketing efforts across multiple networks only succeeds in making them all weak and ineffective.
It’s far better for your branding to choose one, or two at the most, where you can create the best engagement with your target audiences. If you’re B2B, LinkedIn is likely to be your top choice. Visually oriented businesses can find success on image or video-centric social sites like Pinterest, Vine, and Instagram. In a general sense, Facebook and possibly Google+ make fine focal points for most types of companies.
4. Being Authentic
Brands are at their core the relationships between companies and customers, the glue that joins the two. And just like any relationship, it’s less about what you say—and more about what you do. Today, successful branding involves putting your proverbial money where your mouth is, and demonstrating that your business truly stands for the brand you’re selling.
This means you need to make sure that everyone on your team understands, authentically lives and promotes your brand. Every customer experience with your company should reflect your values and beliefs, so you’re consistently living what you stand for—not just telling people about it.
Image via www.toms.co.uk
5. Initiatives Over Monuments
Corporate social responsibility and sponsorship is an important facet of branding. In the modern market, its statistically proven that customers place a much higher value on brands that give something back to the community compared to those that don’t e.g. sponsoring a public service carries much more substance than just hanging a brand name in lights above venues and stadiums.
One good example is the New York City bike program sponsored by Citibank. This is effective branding, because the program offers a healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to the subways and taxis most city residents rely on.
Image via www.citibikenyc.com
6. Environmental Consciousness in Packaging
More businesses are making a branding impact by reducing excess packaging, using sustainable material resources and offering double-duty products, with packaging that can be reused instead of thrown out. This concept appeals to consumers who are conscious of environmental impact—and their budgets. For example, a Dutch light bulb company has come out with packaging that becomes a decorative lampshade and Puma’s reusable packaging is a key part of its brand message.
Images via www.puma.com
7. Category: The New King in Town
Cross-category appeal has been a popular branding strategy for years, due to the perception that the more target markets you can appeal to, the more money you’ll make. But with more consumer choices than ever, buyer demand is becoming more specific.
This is good news for brand marketers, who can now find success by targeting a narrowed set of category values—which in turn boosts branding effectiveness.
8. Content Has Not Been Dethroned
Marketing experts have always trumpeted “content is king,” and with good reason. Great content is still a cornerstone of effective branding—businesses simply need to understand how to leverage it.
Today’s content marketing is less about keywords, and more about contextual relevance. Striking a balance between paid, owned, and earned media with engaging and relevant content can produce branding goldmines for any company.
9. Luxury Branding Makes a Comeback
On the heels of the economic downturn reversal, more consumers are looking for luxury. High-end brands are now blurring gender lines and marketing to broader categories of consumers—such as Johnnie Walker, a traditionally masculine brand that is building a gender-neutral and contemporary tone.
In the luxury market, boomer women are the dominant target, with millennials expected to rise to the top by 2016.
Image via www.johnniewalker.com
10. Differentiating Through Emotion
More consumers are reacting to how a particular brand makes them feel, and marketers are responding with emotionally driven campaigns that help them differentiate from the competition. Budweiser’s heartstring-tugging Super Bowl commercial this year is a great example of the emotional brand at work.
11. “Made for you” for Everyone
There’s no shortage of consumer information out there. Companies that capitalize on the massive streams of data, and find ways to personalize the customer experience, will come out ahead in the branding jungle. Personal outreach and detailed customization will delight your audience and elevate your brand.
12. Conquering Digital Diversification
With so many digital channels available, brands can find themselves being talked about in online spaces they’ve never heard of before. It’s essential to shift the focus from whether you should have that presence to what you should do with it.
Digital and social monitoring will help you keep up with online brand management, and push differentiation and emotional engagement through multiple channels.
13. Viral Visuals
Consumers are becoming much more visually literate. Arresting images, engaging video, and informative infographics are far more likely to go viral than long, tedious text-based pieces. Brand marketers looking for increased exposure should look toward image-sharing initiatives with the potential to spread quickly across social media.
14. Sales Funnels Become Connect-The-Dot Paths
The purchase funnel, or sales funnel, is a long-standing marketing staple that many brands concentrate on. However, with increased category specificity and narrowed targets, the mouth of the fabled sales funnel isn’t as wide as it once was.
Effective brands will look for and focus on path-to-purchase channels, and often find multiple paths that lead to the same purchase. Rather than opening up the funnel and hoping consumers fall in, the savvy brand marketer will find concentrations of potential customers, start building the relationship as early as possible and lead them from point to point until they reach the sale.
Branding in 2014 is an exciting field of opportunity for businesses, regardless of company size or revenue. With the right focus, any business can build a stronger brand through targeted outreach and authentic representation.
Here’s to building a strong, successful brand in 2014!
• Have you audited your brand values, what your brand stands for and what makes it different to your competitors – to see if they are still compelling and resonating with your ideal customer?
• Are you living your brand authentically throughout your business top down and bottom up? What can you do in 2014 to ensure you give your customers and clients an incomparable and unmistakable, consistently superb brand experience.
• Does your brand packaging design grab attention in a couple of seconds, sell your message succinctly and effectively while also delivering on sustainability?