Evolution of Brand Management – A Global Perspective

Evolution of Brand Management – A Global Perspective

November 3, 2015

Brands & Brand management are vast topics in themselves. Covering these in a nutshell is nothing short of a challenge. Also, the world today is pacing so fast, defining what is history and what is now is a tough decision to make. Nevertheless, after lot of thought I have decided to limit the history to brands before 10 years and brands in the last 10 years. The past decade has been one of the fastest decades with a lot of changes around us – most importantly in the number of sources of information today, how we consume information, a shorter attention span given the multitude of information sources and hence a great difference in the way brands communicate today across the globe.

"Schick 20 electric shaver 1953 ad" by Schick Incorporated, Stamford, Conn. - Saturday Evening Post, October 3, 1953 ( digital image from http://www.afka.net/mags/Saturday_Evening_Post.htm ). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Schick 20 electric shaver 1953 ad” by Schick Incorporated, Stamford, Conn. – Saturday Evening Post, October 3, 1953 . Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The first brands in history may have been a little over & above commodities & played purely on functional superiority. As time passed and competition grew, the functional superiority would have got broken down to several specialized benefits with some of the requirements as hygiene factors. What was more important with passing time & growing number of brands, was the rising importance of brands to communicate & remain differentiated. While product offerings have evolved in every category & newer categories kept getting multiplied for the consumers, evolution of brands happened in terms of their communication & specialized offerings & thus building an association with the consumer.

These brand associations developed in a way to build a relationship with the consumers – something that brought meaning into the consumer’s life either by the emotions the brand drove or the needs it met; they stood out as different & unique to the brand and were powerful enough to drive salience. A healthy combination of these associations ensured that the brand was successful. And to drive these associations it was crucial to communicate in the right manner the right things.

Over the past decade, the way brands communicate has changed a lot with the increasing rise of social media where consumers participate & with a shorter attention span. Today, brands no longer market TO the consumers. Rather they have shifted to marketing WITH the consumers FOR the consumers. The consumer is no more at the receiving end only. She actively participates in the making of the brand. Hence, we see a clear shift from Brand Propositions to Brand Stories. The brand stories amplify the proposition by showcasing the bond between the consumers & the brands because of one or more particular associations with the brand.

By Intel Free Press [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Intel Free Press [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thus, today we are in an era, where a lot of participation is encouraged by consumers – however this needs to be controlled. With the social media playing a much bigger role now than ever, the stories that consumers tell about your brand needs to be channelized properly. Thus, brands have never had such a huge opportunity earlier. At the same time brands have never been so vulnerable too. Hence, it is very important that brands anticipate the reactions to their actions & communications – be different, however plan well in ahead on how the difference will play as strength for the brand. A lot of anticipation and continuous learning while on the go is what the call of the time is.

Read Also: New Kids on The Block: Where to find them?

As I said, consumers participate ever more actively now than before. What is important to note is this participation can spread like wildfire with no control & a huge buzz if the theme is a viral one. While, this may seem like this is what marketers have always wanted to drive brand salience, care needs to be taken to ensure that the buzz is healthy and drives a meaningful association with the brand & makes it stand apart. It is a very tricky balance to maintain – an interesting buzz with the brand at the heart of it, vs. just the brand and nothing interesting around it or just an interesting theme with no brand around it.

Hence, brands have moved from catering to a smaller demographic target audience to a more inclusive audience where they target a particular mindset and even influence the influencers, not just the decision makers. A very interesting example that explains this is the Volvo Trucks – The Epic Spliad. It wasn’t an ad just for the truck drivers. It was an ad for anyone associated with Volvo & the pride associated with not just the brand for its engineering precision but also the precision of the drivers themselves for being craftsmen in their own respect. Hence, Volvo trucks which probably a decade earlier might have continued to harp on their safety platform has moved on to receive a higher share of popular culture by encouraging participation from the influencers & thus creating a sense of euphoria for the brand.

Read Also: Customers Trust Their Community More Than the Communication from Brands

This is how successful brands communicate today. They ensure that they do not get overwhelmed with the vast options of technology & social media available to them today – rather they plan & plan very well to bring these to use in a controlled yet powerful way so that brands create stories, create content, which make them an even more integral part of the consumer’s life.

Given this context, let us look at the top 20 brands a decade earlier & those of today. I have referred to BRANDZ – Millward Brown’s study to recognize the most valuable brands in the world every year.

Ranks 2006 2015
1 Microsoft Apple
2 GE Google
3 Coca-Cola Microsoft
4 China Mobile IBM
5 Marlboro Visa
6 Wal-Mart AT&T
7 Google Verizon
8 IBM Coca-Cola
9 Citibank McDonald’s
10 Toyota Marlboro
11 McDonald’s Tencent
12 Bank of America Facebook
13 Home Depot Alibaba Group
14 Nokia Amazon.com
15 Intel China Mobile
16 Vodafone Wells Fargo
18 Disney UPS
19 UPS Disney
20 Cisco Mastercard

So what do we notice? Many of the top 20 brands are in the  field of technology & which have been able to evolve to meet consumers’ needs with time, which have been able to differentiate themselves.

Related: Chris Riley’s Take on Global Brands – Nike, Apple, Samsung and Beyond

Some of these brands have been disruptive in nature. The top brands Apple & Google are great examples – Google moving into telecom and Apple moving into wearables are just few to name.

Many of the top brands have successfully traversed the recession that hit the decade in its earlier part either through meaningful innovation or remaining different from the crowd & thus maintaining high presence& the power to continue drive financial growth.

"Apple store Michigan Ave" by Dweider at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_store_Michigan_Ave.jpg#/media/File:Apple_store_Michigan_Ave.jpg

“Apple store Michigan Ave” by Dweider at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Clearly, some of these brands are the best loved brands of the times (Apple, Coke, Facebook, Disney, etc.) – love may not be all, but love matters a lot in driving brand growth.

Moreover Trust has never been so important. Today consumers view quality & value for money as hygiene factors. This is where Trust needs to play a vital role given the fact that everyone is so well connected. Brands may think high quality drives trust. No, that is not enough, it needs to be recommended by other users which drives greater trust. So brands need to give all the more importance to marketing WITH the consumers, FOR the consumers, rather than TO the consumers.

Also, brands with a clear purpose have better equity. As I started this article with in the early times brands were slightly more differentiated than commodities. With the recent times, a strong purpose makes the brand not only differentiated but drives a lot of affinity & strong bonding with the consumers.

In short, today’s brands have a much more complex task to do since everything is interlinked and if not channelized properly, they can easily be out of control with ample scopes of consumers to communicate among themselves about brands. Hence, planning & designing creative that include interesting content & the brand context, have never been so important for brands than before.

Happy creating successful brands! 


Sampa Pal, Head of Client Service, Millward Brown Dhaka

Sampa has 10 years (6 years with MB) of experience in Market Research.

Views in the article are from MB learning.

2 Comments so far

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  1. Sumit Roy
    #1 Sumit Roy 30 May, 2016, 21:15

    What a perceptive article about how brands have evolved.

    Congratulations. One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time.

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