It’s that time of the year again. Time to look ahead and see what the immediate future looks like for the world’s top brands.
Uber simple naming
The sheer number of start-up brands means that to really cut through in the public consciousness, a super simple name that clearly articulates a single minded brand proposition has never been more important. For great examples think: Collectively, Uber, Snapchat, Dropbox.
Google have been ahead of the curve for a while, with a simple naming convention of master brand followed by product descriptor: Google Play, Google Mail, Google Glass and this year Apple followed suit, dropping its iconic “i” to give us Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Expect more brands to follow suit.
The idea of brands having a purpose beyond profit is not new, but 2015 is set to be the year that it becomes almost impossible for a brand not to. With consumers increasingly taking it for granted that the brands they choose will have a point of view and be seen to be taking action on a wide range of issues.
Great examples include Apple with (PRODUCT)RED, American Express’ support for Shop Local and our own client Collectively; a new kind of platform that brings together well known brands with a common purpose, to celebrate the people, places and cutting edge ideas that are creating the change we need to see in the world.
Normal not formal
The world has been growing more informal but there’s still a tendency for brands to be more official sounding than they need to be. Particularly if selling something serious like insurance or a bank account.
Over the last ten years or so, social channels like Twitter have made an impact on how brands communicate. Social only really works when it seems that there’s a human at the other end. Once brands started to inject some personality into their tweets, it was a natural step to broaden across everything from TV, to packaging, to T&Cs and everything in between.
Brands that have developed an authentic tone of voice with a light touch are the ones that have cut through in 2014. Great examples include: Zipcar in the rental car market, Airbnb in the holiday rental space and Lloyds Bank. All in sectors not previously known for being cool, relaxed and in-tune with their customers.
The launch earlier in 2014 of Apple Pay may well turn out to be one of the most significant retail events of the decade. Mobile payments have been growing steadily over the last few years with transactions rising by 48% over the past 12 months to £5 billion but now they are really set to explode with sales predicted to hit £72 billion by the end of 2015. Services like Apple Pay, which brings together both Near-Field and Touch ID and MasterCard’s Digital Enablement Service (DES) both give us secure hassle free contactless payments, that are even easier and quicker than taking a card form a wallet.
In 2015, with the growth of mobile payments we’re set to see an explosion of innovative mobile apps. Apps like Zapper are already testing the water; giving millennials easier ways to pay and split restaurant bills, but NFC will make these apps truly utilitarian.
Mobile payments will also mean that the big retail banks are going to have to reassess how they maintain their relationship with their customers, as those familiar pieces of branded plastic that have been part of our lives for 40 years or so disappear. Mobile payments will make banks increasingly less visible, so they will have to work harder to stay front of mind and sustain their customer relationships.
Bringing the back story to the front
A logo and an identity is no longer enough, people want to know the stories behind the brands. Rapha is a great example of a brand getting it right.
‘The reason why I love road cycling and why I’m passionate about it is suffering,’ says Rapha founder Simon Mottram. ‘It’s a very true, honest sport. It’s based on the idea of the more you put in, the more you get out. Suffering is absolutely at the heart of everything we do.’
Rapha is a luxury brand that has really cut through. With sales of £16+ million and a top spot on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 it’s the authenticity of the brand that’s at the heart of it’s success. Included with every Rapha item is a small label that tells a story of a famous ride or rider. This desire to tell their story is in everything: shops are cycling clubs, there’s a section of their website dedicated to stories and with a product line called “Kings of Pain” Mottram’s serious love of cycling and respect for the sports heritage shines though.
2014 was the year a Chinese brand made the Interbrand top 100 with smartphone maker Huawei. China has long been the factory of the world, manufacturing for western brands for years. When I was growing up, it seemed that all my toys were “Made in China”. In 2014 things are no different with Taiwanese/Chinese companies like Foxconn making a staggering number of the worlds branded electronics: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, to name a few.
Chinese businesses are, however, finally starting to realise the added value a brand can give to their bottom line. 20 years ago not many people would have given a couple of unknown Korean car makers a chance. Today Kia and Hyundai are well respected brands. China’s economy is bigger than Germany, Japan, Germany, France and the UK combined, but few people outside China have heard of it’s biggest companies: Sinopec, PetroChina, Bank of China, China Telecom to name a few. Expect 2015 could be the year more Chinese brands become household names.
Big brands, niche products
The convergence of big data and just in time manufacturing techniques, that make ever smaller production runs possible, means that big manufactures can deliver specialised offers and more targeted sub-brands that meet consumers’ love for personalised products.
Coca-Cola have been the stand out personalised brand with their “Share a Coke” campaign. The first-of-its-kind campaign celebrated the power of the first name in a playful, social way by swapping out Coke branding on bottles and cans with (initially) 150 most popular names.
Meanwhile, Holiday Inn, a business built on delivering a high quality, low cost, standardised product, now offers a wide range of carefully targeted brand experiences: business travellers, young couples, families, etc. With, brand, product, price and marketing all aligned to give a customised and distinctive offer.
We expect the trend for ever more niche products and advertising to really come of age in 2015.