Perhaps the future of brands is best summed up in this statement from Interbrand's The Future of Brands: "The future of brands is inextricably linked to the future of business. In fact, the future of brands is the future of business if it is to be about sustainable wealth creation. Further, because of the interaction of brands with society, and since so many socially influential brands are in the not-for-profit sector, the future of brands is also inextricably linked to the future of society."
If the future of brands is linked directly to the future (and success) of business and society, it's difficult to completely identify indicators about what is next with certainty. That said, there are recent trends that have been adopted by various brands that may give us clues.
- Engage your audience.
Successful brands can no longer deliver a one-way message. Competition is fierce in the market place. As a result, it has become more important for a brand to engage and relate directly to its consumers. Car makers have really stepped up to this trend. Think about Ford's "Swap Your Ride" and Toyota's Sienna minivan advertisements. Toyota makes driving a minivan cool. Ford reminds us why more people choose their cars over the competition.
- Participate in partnerships and collaborations.
Brands need to think above and beyond their bottom line and many are doing so by giving back to the community. This community kickback drives profits for the brand, but it also engages consumers beyond the scope of the product's use. Consumers feel good about giving back to the community and as a result feel good about the brand. Take a look at Dawn and its most recent campaign. For every bottle of Dawn soap purchased (up to $500,000) $1 will be donated to help save wildlife in the oil spill. Yoplait in its "Save Lids to Save Lives" is another brand that has partnered with a non-profit organization to raise money for breast cancer. How can your brand make a difference and still leave a lasting impression?
- Provide a social experience. Create a community.
What better way to develop a deeper connection with your consumers than to develop an online community for them to share, discuss and socialize with other consumers within the context of your brand. It is also a great way to learn more about your consumers. This has been an increasingly popular trend and many organizations are either developing their own platforms, such as Harley-Davidson with HarleyLot and Pepsi with their Pepsi Refresh Project. The future will certainly include many new online platforms. How will your brand stay relevant and ahead of the curve with its online outreach?
FutureBrand's Ten Trends for 2009+ gives great insight to the future of brands. Specifically with its #10 Trend: Fear of the Unknown. As stated, "The point of this trend is to push home the point that the future is ultimately unknowable. Yes you can see general patterns and make well-educated speculations about next week or next year based partly on past events and human behaviour. But if history teaches us anything, it is surely that totally unexpected ideas, inventions and events ... have a habit of ruining logical and well laid-out plans."