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Mark Bell on 'What is a Brand Nowadays?'

I’m sorry to open by being boring or indeed obvious, but a brand nowadays is no different from when Bass registered the red triangle 130 years ago as trademark.

Ian Edwards mentioned in his well written 2007 piece ‘I believe in the Darwinian Evolution of Brands’ that:

"The need to identify with and to know your status within a social group is something that is fundamental to human nature."

I believe and I’m sure many scientists will support me, that over the coming centuries this will not change. Nowadays, a brand is the most obvious device that we, as humans, can create to allow others to identify with us. A badge that lets them know what we stand for. Who we are as people.

However what has changed is the transparency of the badge, in that, we can no longer get away with saying one thing and then doing something else, or even worse, lying. Because now it’s the customer that’s in the driving seat, saying “I’m in charge, you’re not”. But what does that mean for a brand nowadays?

Well, for planners it’s both interesting and actually quite simple. We now have to plan for every possible interaction the brand makes. To be successful we have to take control of the customer experience. And this isn’t really anything new, indeed, it has been 3 years since Nick Hirst wrote the excellent 2012 paper:

Today however, what is different is that we are forming ever stronger partnerships with academics. And what they tell us is transforming our work. Taking it to the next level. More and more, the study of human behaviour and decision science is playing a role in how brands are taking control of the customer experience. Data and the use of connected devices are equally advancing at a rate of knots to make us better informed in the onward impact of our actions as a planner. However, be warned the following quote from the User Experience community is very apt to us all:

“In UX we use data as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination”

To conclude my biggest worry nowadays is that to take control of the entire customer experience of a brand is going to require collaboration on a scale not seen before. In the past we relied on the relationship between the planners and creatives within the same agency but today collaboration is key across agencies, clients and partners to work together to deliver an effective brand.

Chief Experience Officer at OLIVER

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