I believe the next stage of advertising will see the re-emphasis on branding.
Marketing tech has become in vogue and it has its role but in a world dominated by Amazon and a ‘sort by price’, but you can only go so low in terms of price. Also, it’s difficult to differentiate yourself from all the others who have got a ‘4-star rating’ in a process which promises a checkout in mere seconds.
This re-emphasis on branding will not be about the logo or brand colours. Those will be there but businesses will realise that these are details in the larger scheme of things.
What will matter is the impact you have on the world because six things have happened for the first time in the history of business:
We are moving to a world where few brands will control the majority of the market and not just in one industry but across industries.
The five FAANG companies; Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google have a market value greater than India’s economy or more than the companies that comprise Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index, and more than Germany’s Dax and France’s Cac 40 put together.
Businesses are global in their impact, pushing beyond one market.
You can’t be a big retail player in any part of the world and believe you won't have to compete with Amazon or Alibaba, or both.
Businesses will align and may for the first time even compete with governments.
From now on governments may not win in this unlikely competition because, unlike governments, these businesses have become so intrinsic or ‘addictive’ to our lives that we can’t get rid of them and they also can’t be outvoted every four to five years.
Since most of these are tech businesses, the speed at which they scale is faster than ever imagined before.
Thus the impact, good or bad, is far less easy to comprehend now.
Many of them are fundamentally changing how we deal with things.
They are literally playing with our brain chemistry more effectively than ever before and, having their own intelligence (AI), they will self-evolve.
But most importantly… The negative impact of some businesses has moved from something further afield for most to comprehend, such as global warming or poor kids in some part of the world being exploited, to it having an impact on a deeply personal level, such as our own well being, our own society’s freedom thus happiness.
We have all chosen to be quite self-involved when the impact was on others but steadily it’s getting personal.
On the other hand, the positive impact will be movements of equality, self-expression, great ideas and knowledge being spread because of them. Think #metoo, which has spread globally courtesy of Twitter and Facebook. We are also, as in my case, now able to know about some culture through Netflix or buy cacao beans from a small business abroad thanks to e-commerce.
As these businesses have grown bigger, a brand strategy will step in and help others create an identity and a voice, and thus define not just how they market but how they conduct business.
Brand building will have to move beyond tactics and confront some big questions.
What is your purpose? Just financial or a social one too? Are you living your purpose constantly or just in the future? What is your take on culture , for employees and vendors? How do you deal with the community of consumers?
I don’t want to imply a moral code here. Some businesses will want to just make money, have a purely transactional relationship with their customers and employee, and that’s fine. The only difference being that this will define their brand, and in this always-on, information-heavy culture they won’t be able to convince customers otherwise.
Your brand vision will step out from the paper to some action, or else you will just be the benefactor of ‘sort by cheapest’ on Amazon; which is still a perfectly legitimate way to make money but perhaps not the aim a lot of people have.
The difference will be the ability to create and evolve these new age brands and this is something the agencies of the future will also need to do.
Saurabh Parmar is a consultant and trainer for brand, digital and start-up growth.