Branding is what defines a business and sets it apart from competitors. However, in this era of digital distractions, a catchy name and a nice logo are no longer enough to pique the interest of modern consumers. Modern customers want substance and they want purpose.
That said, we can safely say that brand building in the 21st century is no walk in the park. It can take years to build a strong identity that represents your brand. In addition, brand managers deal with other challenges – delivering messages to the right audiences and balancing brand voice and personalization.
In order to help you overcome these challenges as well as ensure effective branding for your company, I have compiled the essential branding trends of today.
1. Logo Adaptability
Companies have to be everywhere if they want to be noticed. If you want to thrive in the digital age, you will need to have a website and be present on several social networking platforms as well.
Because of this trend, many companies are now choosing to create shape-shifting logo designs. This just means that your logos change in size, complexity, or color depending on what you are using it for.
2. Minimalist Branding
Minimalism has taken the world by storm in recent years. It seems the movement has caught up even in the business industry as many companies started stripping down their branding to the simplest possible form.
For example, both Google and Airbnb recently had facelifts that changed their logos to the sans-serif font, a popular typeface for Minimalism.
Other brands are following suit as well by opting for fewer colors, using more negative space, and leveraging simpler typography. In fact, 95% of top companies now use two colors for their branding.
3. Nostalgic Brand Marketing
Trends have been a focal point in the digital age. People have their eyes glued on their social media accounts for the latest technology, gadget, fashion design, and trends in various industries.
However, this culture of “keeping up with the Joneses” can be frustrating and tiring for a lot of consumers. This is why blasts from the past now play a more meaningful role in branding.
4. Branded Visual Content
Humans are visual creatures. We are naturally better at retaining images than any other form of content. However, from a brand marketing perspective, this doesn’t mean all types of visual content can elicit the same response from your target market.
According to HubSpot, branded images can yield 67% more attention than advertisements and other promotional content. This can be attributed to the fact that this type of visual content aims to promote your brand without the risk of over advertising.
5. Social Media Branding
The accessibility of the internet has paved the way for an always-on social media culture. This is why it comes as no surprise that 90% of organizations leverage social media for brand awareness. That said, you should pay attention to how you showcase your products and services on these platforms.
A good way to start is to zero in on which sites your customers mostly use and study the format of each social network. After this, you’ll need to create a consistent visual theme for your accounts.
6. Official Hashtags
Still on the topic of social media, another branding trend that has become essential in the past few years is the use of official hashtags.
According to Omnicore Agency, nowadays, 7 in 10 hashtags are branded – that’s on Instagram alone. By asking your customers to post about their recent purchase from your company and using the hashtag, you can extend your reach to their followers.
7. Online Communities
Customer interaction has many faces. It can take the form of social media comments, instant messages, phone calls, emails, or even through the hashtags on their posts, as we’ve discussed earlier.
Aside from these, there’s another kind of customer interaction that helps you reinforce retention—online communities. These online communities serve as a platform for your customers to interact with each other. According to CMA, 37% of shoppers stick with companies because of online communities. Having the option to participate in discussions about a brand makes them trust a company more.
8. Brand Authenticity
Customer trust has hit an all-time low in the past couple of years. Only 34% of consumers trust brands they buy from. This is why creating an authentic brand image is critical for modern businesses.
Moreover, the same study also reported that a whopping 90% of millennials say authenticity is important in branding, noting that they prefer “real and organic” companies over those that are “perfect and packaged.”
A good example of this would be McDonald’s. They also launched an “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign wherein they address popular queries about their company and post the information through webisodes. As a result, this campaign allowed them to tackle misconceptions about their brand and curb negative rumors surrounding their food.
9. Brand Inclusivity
Diversity, body positivity, and inclusivity are reshaping customer expectations. A survey by Accenture showed that 70% of millennials will choose inclusive and diverse brands over those that are not.
The 2018 State of Branding reported that the majority (79%) of companies acknowledge the importance of addressing issues both social and cultural for their branding strategy. However, a good chunk of these businesses are also struggling to keep up with the demand.
10. Sustainable Branding Initiatives
Studies show that 88% of consumers believe companies can influence societal change. Thus, they should take the lead in addressing environmental issues by providing more sustainable products.
Plus shoppers nowadays are more conscious about what they purchase. They make it a point to opt for more sustainable brands whenever they can. In fact, according to the Global Web Index 2018, 58% of Gen Zers, 61% of Millennials, 55% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomer consumers will pay more for eco-friendly products.
11. Socially Responsible Branding
Consumers no longer see products as mere commodities—each one is now a statement. This is why purpose-driven brands have more appeal to modern shoppers. In fact, 87% of customers purchase from organizations who share their cause.
To quote the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, “companies must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for.” One such reason for this is because 46% of all consumers say brands have better ideas for resolving problems than the government.
12. Humanized Brand Personality
The truth of the matter is, it’s difficult for customers to trust brands. They feel like most companies are simply out to get their money. In the Sprout Social Index, they revealed that consumers want to see different behaviors from brands on social media.
As can be expected, shoppers want companies to be honest (86%), friendly (83%), and helpful (78%). However, aside from these qualities, shoppers also like brands that are funny (72%), trendy (43%), politically correct (39%), and snarky (33%). These behaviors make it easier for customers to relate to a particular brand.
13. Technology-Based Brand Strategy
Technology is deeply ingrained in our day-to-day lives as well as the operations of various industries. So, this item on my list of branding trends of the future is not necessarily new.
Marketers and brand managers have been utilizing technology for various aspects of branding for years. They invest in branding technologies to improve engagement (38%), development (20%), and awareness (17%).
Furthermore, these can help them boost customer loyalty (15%) and implement automation (10%). However, these past years, there are emerging technologies that they are slowly adopting to further optimize branding.
According to the 2018 Bynder State of Branding, some of the top tech that marketers are incorporating in their operations are mobile applications (68%), voice assistants (40%), and virtual reality (37%).
14. Customer-Driven Branding
The modern business landscape has taken customer-centrism to new heights. In a study by Bulbshare, it was revealed that a majority (86%) of these consumers view customer-driven brands as more trustworthy.
Meanwhile, 81% of them find brands that collaborate as more authentic than their competitors. The LEGO brand is perhaps the gold standard for customer-driven branding.
One of it’s most recent co-creation campaigns, LEGO ideas, asks customers to check its website each week for new challenges and propose their very own LEGO creations that fit the theme. Winners not only win prizes, but their submissions are also turned into a real LEGO set that will be released in the market.
15. Micro-Influencer Partnerships
According to a TEDx Talk by Rachel David, influencers play a big part in modern brand marketing strategies. If you can get the right influencer, you no longer have to worry about reaching audiences that are interested in your niche.
These people have already established themselves as an authority in their field and have an army of followers and engaged audiences. The gaming industry perhaps utilizes influencer partnerships the most thanks to its large market share in the video streaming space.
The second most-subscribed YouTuber, Felix Kjellberg aka “PewDiePie” performed a simple 11-minute let’s play video of Vainglory by Super Evil Megacorp in 2015 with his fans. The video amassed 2.2 million views to date.
16. Going Phigital
Striking a balance between digital and physical customer experiences is the key to successful brand building. For instance, Audi uses augmented reality tech and touchscreens in their London showroom to create a “Phigital” experience.
With this, visitors can explore the different features of the cars for sale before they even inspect the actual vehicle.
17. Anti-Ad Advertising
Overt advertising has long been considered a nuisance by consumers. In fact, roughly 9 in 10 shoppers find ads more intrusive today than a few years ago. As a result, many consumers simply ignore the advertisements that they see. To cope with this issue, several brands have resorted to leveraging anti-ad advertising.
This allows them to capture the attention of customers by essentially doing the exact opposite of promoting their brand. For example, the dating app Hinge advertised that their app is meant to be deleted. According to them, the application is a surefire way to help you meet the love of your life. So, you’ll end up removing it from your phone anyway.
Step Up Your Branding Game
Gaining the trust and loyalty of modern consumers has become harder than ever. As such, brand activism is becoming more prevalent. In addition, many companies are working towards fostering authentic consumer experiences to meet demands.
To top it all off, tech-driven campaigns that leverage both physical and digital platforms are now the new norm. This just goes to show that brand managers and marketers have to go above and beyond to make sure to capture and retain the attention of their target audience.
Charles O’Tudor is Africa’s premier brand strategist and engagement consultant. He is the Group Principal Consultant at ADSTRAT Africa - One of the most innovative and creative brand consulting firms in Africa. *References | McKinsey Global | Forbes