How to ensure your brand survives through 2020

By Loni Stark, Senior Director, Strategy & Product Marketing,

July 25, 2018 | 5 min read

The hottest follow on Twitter isn't @kanyewest – it's @wendy's.


Wendy’s twitter account

In the past year, the fast food giant has been dishing out tongue-in-cheek insults to competitors like Burger King and Ihop and exchanging jokes with customers in the comments. Customers are eating it up.

By engaging in a back-and-forth with customers, Wendy's is inviting them to help create its brand. Other brands should follow Wendy's lead. Engaging customers is the only way for brands to stay relevant and thrive in an ever-changing marketplace.

Finding your voice in the marketplace

In the past, developing a brand identity didn't look anything like what Wendy's is doing. Brands spent millions behind the scenes creating an identity, with little input from their customers. This approach often backfired.

Take Tropicana. In 2009, the juice company unveiled a major packaging rebrand for its cartons of Pure Premium orange juice, without asking for customer input. Customers didn't like the changes - sales for Pure Premium dropped 20% in less than two months, while competitors Minute Maid and Florida's Natural both increased their sales. Tropicana quickly scrapped its new design and reverted to the old packaging.

Brands can't exist in a vacuum. Companies can cultivate a cadre of loyal fans by allowing customers to shape brands' images.

Consider beauty product leader Olay. In November 2017, the brand invited customers to model their products on social media during its '28 Day Challenge'. Customers jumped at the chance to be the face of a brand they loved. Google searches for Olay spiked 22%.

Or take JPMorgan Chase. The company recognized that its millennial customers preferred digital banking over brick-and-mortar transactions. So they designed Finn, an online banking app that allows users to pay bills and transfer funds. After a successful trial run in the St. Louis market, Chase launched the app nationwide last month.

For its part, Coca-Cola launched a 'Share a Coke' advertising campaign in 2015, which featured groups of friends enjoying sodas with their names printed on the bottles. The campaign generated 25m new Facebook followers. Coca-Cola recently made its products even more personalized by allowing customers to order bottles with their own name on the labels.

Solving customer issues

Brands have more opportunities than ever before to pinpoint consumer preferences and adapt their offerings accordingly. With the Internet of Things, for example, or the growing network of web-enabled devices like smartwatches, vast amounts of previously untapped data are opening up.

Take Nest, the smart thermostat that automatically learns owners' preferred temperatures. Nest's smart technology gathers information about a user's home. For instance, it can tell whether an owner has an attic or garage.

Using thermostat data, brands can personalize ads for homeowners. Users with an attic might see ads for internet-equipped mousetraps that automatically send push notifications to people's phones when a mouse is caught.

This level of personalization pays off for everyone. Eight in 10 customers say they're more likely to buy a product that is marketed personally to their needs.

Staying ahead of the curve

As marketing evolves, customers will expect even more personalized engagement from brands. To stay competitive, brands have to adapt as consumers' preferences change in real time.

That's where artificial intelligence comes in. Humans may not be able to instantly identify patterns in user behavior - but computers can.

Brands need to identify which data is important and which data users would find creepy. Then, they need to set up systems to collect that data. AI can then sort through it and find insights that help brands identify new customers and sales opportunities.

Using machine learning, AI runs the same simulations thousands of times to teach itself how to better identify new targets. Machine learning is more efficient than traditional third-party data collection - it can examine millions of data points in a fraction of the time.

Branding is a partnership between buyers and sellers. Companies that approach their customers and invite them to grow that partnership, while respecting their privacy, will thrive in an evolving business climate.

Loni Stark is senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe


More from Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +