The Deadzone: Why brand image is dead

2nd Nov 2016

Rewind 10 years and take a look at Nokia. People religiously bought Nokia handsets. They were reliable, fit for purpose and even achieved something of a cult status among younger generations growing up with mobiles for the first time.

Today, Nokia’s mobile phone brand has disappeared. We could go in to the ins and outs of Nokia’s case but what we can see is that brand value is falling. In fact, the results of Havas’ Meaningful Brands analysis revealed most people wouldn’t care if 74% of brands disappeared completely.

So why is this happening? And how can brands offer something beyond a strong image that will futureproof them as consumer demands continue to change and evolve? 

Changing the balance of power

First, let’s take a look at why we’re seeing this brand decline. For the most part it’s to do with the nature of the online world. 

Vying for brand loyalty has always been tough but the rise of Google means that it’s become a fierce battle as consumers are eternally a click away from the next best product and price. A study on ad exposure by Media Dynamics, Inc. revealed that consumers see an average of 5,000 advertisements and brand exposures per day. Add to that the fact that consumers now connect with brands on multiple channels, it is increasingly difficult for marketers and advertisers to win attention.

For brands, this means the balance of power has swung towards the consumer. There are so many product options that the brand is more often seen as least important. For consumers today it’s about the service the brand provides or the price they’re selling products at that makes one company different from the rest.

Image to experience

Picking up on the service side, brands today are increasingly focusing on the customer’s direct experience. As Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

Providing an exceptional customer experience is therefore paramount for brands to facilitate brand loyalty and ensure that consumers are sharing positive stories. So while the value of brands may be declining, the value of customer relationships is on the rise.

Apps lead the way

As established companies adapt to a new landscape, younger internet-based businesses like Uber, Airbnb and Spotify have all achieved huge success with consumers, setting the standard for how a modern brand looks and behaves.

This has come largely from the ability of these brands to deliver dynamic experiences in order to solve a pre-existing problem for the customer in the best way possible. Being customer-centric has become key to branding today.

It’s no longer about creating a brand image but embodying that brand in all aspects of business and marketing.

This core belief translates into a heavy focus on rapid innovation, devoting enormous amounts of time and budget towards understanding how they can provide on-demand services that are even more intuitive, captivating and efficient each time.

The pace of change and development is maintained by the constant awareness there’s always a growing company that can offer a service better than an already established player. This in turn forces every brand to continue raising their game in terms of customer experience, and consumers benefit from the heated competition.

From labels to behaviours

Branding has entered an era of accountability. Consumers want to be associated with organisations that are helping to build a better, more sustainable world and whilst ecological labels might have cut it in the past, brands are now expected to really deliver on their promises.

Take Tony’s Chocolonely as an example from the Netherlands. The company’s founder discovered that the world’s largest chocolate companies were buying chocolate from cocoa plantations that used child slavery, despite the fact that they had signed an international treaty against it. 

The brand’s ‘Bean to Bar’ philosophy answers this issue for customers by buying cocoa directly from cocoa farmers and delivering it to market 100% slave-free. This way consumers can buy into more than just the product, they can live the mission the brand sells.

So ultimately, the brand isn’t dead so to speak - it’s just changed. We will always need brands, but for a brand to be loved the stakes are higher today. Brands must learn to cater to a new, empowered consumer who is looking for a brand that stands for something.

It’s no longer about creating a brand image but embodying that brand in all aspects of business and marketing. This new and competitive digital landscape is a challenge but will also provide opportunities to succeed in this brand new era.

‘Succeed in a brand new era’ was this year’s theme for Bynder’s annual OnBrand conference where speakers from brands such as Uber, Linkedin, Twitter and HubSpot shared their stories on how to build a successful brand in the 21st century.


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