Branding In A Post-Digital World

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
Branding In A Post-Digital World

In today’s whirlwind of information technology, new sophisticated digital marketing tools, and massive amount of (big) data, it’s easy for marketeers to get distracted and forget about the bigger picture and significant trends.

For the past ten years, the Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking has demonstrated how its most valuable sector remains technology. Interbrand determines brand value by evaluating three factors:

1. The financial performance of the brand's products or service,
2. The role the brand plays in purchase decisions,
3. The brand's competitive strength

The top four brands of 2021 — Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google — make up more than 66% of the total value of the top ten brands. Why? People have integrated these products and services from today’s tech giants into their lives — to the point that consumers have stopped thinking about when they use them or how much time they spend with them. These brands are simply part of their lives.

Interestingly, some non-tech brands on the Interbrand ranking have declined. Most of these, like Coca-Cola, for example, have historically relied on traditional advertising and its one-way messaging, rather than adapting their communications to a two-way conversation. Fortunately, it is possible to have a truly digitally enabled relationship today with a little experimentation.

We have changed

There’s no question that how we interact with brands has changed significantly in a world of increased digital consumption. Gone are the days of one-sided brand communications with a promotional agenda. Today, smart brands are fostering two-way conversations with their customers based on trusted information, shared values, purpose and inclusively, so they can authentically impact one’s life and build a longer-term relationship.

In fact, brand perception is based predominately on what customers believe a product or service represents, not what a company communicates. Customers develop their perceptions from use, experience, functionality, reputation, and even the comments of friends and colleagues. By extension, brand equity refers to the value of a brand, and in a digital first world, it is often enhanced by positive experiences that create preference. Brand equity also leads to long-term value creation, rather than just short-term sales.  

In an attention-deficit and time-starved society, successful brands stand out by not merely gaining our attention but keeping our attention by becoming “entangled” in our daily lives. These brands understand that time spent with them is one of the most significant acts possible. Brands that embrace the Share of Life® model drive customer lifetime satisfaction, value, and rewards. Instead of putting all efforts into trying to trigger an immediate sale, these brands aim to understand a customer’s lifestyle and routines.    

According to LinkedIn’s B2B Institute and their paper on “2030 B2B TRENDS: Contrarian Ideas for The Next Decade,” B2B marketers should “adopt a broader definition of ‘value’ and begin investing the majority of their budgets in brand.” The report outlines, “If the only metric that matters is cost-per-lead, lead generation tactics will continue to gobble up the lion’s share of the budget. But if businesses start tracking activation lifts, future cash flows, pricing power, category extensibility, talent acquisition costs and competitive pressures, the value of brand building becomes impossible to deny.”  

Weaving a brand into the fabric of a customer’s day and allocating precious, yet ongoing, moments to regular interaction with that brand, is the ultimate interconnection between brand and customer, and the essence of gaining Share of Life®.  

Is the time spent with your brand considered meaningful?

The measure of attention that audiences devote to your brand is the foundation for our concept of a “Share of Life®” mindset, which is focused around a “value adding” relationship between the brand and consumer. If little or no time is spent with a brand, there is no potential for achieving any Share of Life®. Similarly, if time spent with a brand means waiting in line, waiting on hold for answers, or simply being delayed in the case of air travel or train travel, that meaningless time will have negative implications.

With a Share of Life® mindset, customers will embrace those things that bring meaning to their lives. When there is more meaning, a customer will forget about the time they’re spending and simply integrate a brand into a part of their life. In so doing, they will work together with the brand for the same future vision. The greater the meaning, the larger the Share of Life®.  

Share of Life® is more than simply developing a relationship between a brand and a customer. It strives to ensure that such a relationship will potentially last a lifetime – and is not just linked to a product or service. Consider Share of Life® a paradigm shift taking place at the heart of brands within a digital-first age, moving from what brands had traditionally known as “one-to-one” communications toward a “one-with-one” mentality. We’re now experiencing a dramatic evolution of how brands and customers interact – more directly and even more intimately.  

What’s Next?

The technology giants of the Internet – Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft – already own an immense part of each person’s multi-screen day. But the reach of these giants continues to extend far beyond their core activity, steadily growing Share of Life® with consumers.  

For brands who understand the value of connecting with their customers by fostering a digitally enabled, two-way relationship, they should explore the many engaging and immersive opportunities of the metaverse. Afterall, the way brands communicate effectively with their customers will not return to a world of simple, one-way promotion.

While there’s not a single metaverse today, several major companies are competing to be the lead platform in a highly vibrant marketplace and the next wave of digital disruption, which could become the evolution of today’s internet with an immersive digital world that attracts both consumers and businesses alike. While estimates of the potential commercial value of the metaverse vary widely—from $5 trillion to as high as $13 trillion by 2030, it’s clear that companies can’t afford to wait to get involved. And today, experimenting in the metaverse is at a relatively low cost.  

The metaverse has the potential to affect countless business activities from employee engagement and training to customer experience, from omnichannel sales and marketing to new means of customized and full-sensory shopping, from product innovation to low-cost product modeling, from immersive telemedicine to the simulated impact of health changes.  

According to a recent McKinsey research study, 95 percent of business leaders expect the metaverse to have a positive impact on their industry within five to ten years, and 61 percent expect it to moderately change the way their industry operates. Those sectors most likely to be impacted by the metaverse include consumer and retail, media and telecommunications, and healthcare; many companies in these areas are already experimenting with metaverse initiatives.  

Earlier we mentioned how the technology sector shows no sign of waning in the Interbrand Global Brands Index. But what about other strong brands on the Index with high brand equity? Consider luxury brands like Ferrari (#76) or Channel (#22). While they have passionate customers and create great value, it has been difficult—up until now—for most consumers to spend more time with them. However, immersive experiences in the metaverse can change that. These great luxury brands can build deeper digital relationships that customers can find “time worthy.” If they can figure out what matters most to those who love their brands, they can develop a meaningful relationship in a new virtual world. If they don’t, they could face a decline—not only on the Interbrand list, but in terms of consumer preference.

The pace of change in the next decade is sure to boggle the mind. The bits in a conventional computer’s operating system will be replaced by the qubits in quantum computers running thousands of times faster. Only time will tell which goliath will emerge as the dominant presence in customers’ lives. One thing is for sure, though, the digital and physical worlds will be inextricably linked—making a Share of Life® mindset all the more important today and tomorrow.

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