Is branding changing?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course, it’s changing. With the rationalization of budgets and its direct implications in people’s lifestyle and their consumption habits, brands and companies are now facing a dilemma: should they continue to believe that packaging, reputation, TV spots and in general the classic measures of identity, image and promotion are the most suitable or should they start studying alternative ways? Brand consultants have the duty of pointing out possible problems related to the communication strategy and to offer alternatives. Today, more than ever, solutions must be proposed alongside a complete documentation of all the alternatives and, depending on the costs instead of potential results.
Branding has reached a turning point, which marks the transformation of brand agencies from being primarily designers into consultants and designers. This does not mean that design no longer finds its utility. On the contrary, design becomes a tool for the strategic implementation of brand and communication strategies outlined by consultants. Brand consulting today is directed towards a multidisciplinary activity that must take into account, more than ever, the comparison with the competition in terms of price, distribution, trade policies, product differentiation (tangible characteristics), among others. Brand consultants will be those who – if they are involved in the development processes of companies and products – will have an important contribution from the very beginning, in the drawing process of the advantages of the product or the service.
Consumers themselves are transformed by increasingly rejecting the consumer label and wanting to be treated as individuals. That is why brand consultants will be “tailors” of interactions with these individuals in order to meet specific requirements related to informing people and conceiving the information, the fair price versus features, ergonomics and so on. Former consumers and current individuals can be gained through information. First and foremost, they want the right information. The information can be: from the seemingly trivial characteristics and ingredients that are mentioned on the packaging to the transformation and modelling (in their benefit) of the products or services – as a result of observing changes in lifestyle and behaviour. Today, more than ever, the former consumers who, until now, were said to be the ones who dictate what happens on the market, actually do this by refusing to buy a product just for the sake of advertising, their name or their reputation. This way, they emphasize the right relationship between characteristics, price, consistency regarding the product’s quality and its availability, as they are willing to have a long-term relationship with the product or the service that satisfies these demands. Above all, former consumers want an honest, fair relationship, perceived as a win-win situation by both parties. In this case, I am not talking about promotions, discounts, etc.
Correct and credible information is crucial today, and brand consultants must become its architects. In fact, they are the only ones who can have an overview of the “landscape” of a product or service, being able to integrate their knowledge and multidisciplinary teams. Perhaps, in the near future, brand consultants will be able to call themselves either “information architects”, or “information consultants”, or in a similar way.