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The new role of branding

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

In new world order and the current landscape, the new role of branding is to make customers happy and successful

What is Branding for Marty Neumeier?

Marty: You can look at branding is any effort by an organization to build a community of loyal customers. The financial goal is to more people to buy more things for more years at a higher profit. The societal goal is to continually improve people’s lives.

Andy: Marty has defined brand as the gut feeling a person has about company’s product or service. As a business art, branding is the effort to influence that gut feeling, the perception. Put another way, where marketing is a push (sales), branding is the pull — to attract people to you.

Can you share with Branders Magazine readers how did you get into Branding?

Marty: I started as a graphic designer and copywriter, then built a consulting firm in Silicon Valley. I slowly started to realize that design and writing are only valuable when driven by brand strategy, so I read like crazy. My first foray into branding happened when I was designing retail packages for companies like Apple and HP, and leaders started to listen to me. Then I started a magazine about brand-driven design called Critique, and wrote a book called The Brand Gap, which has now been read by 25 million people.

Andy: I was at a career crossroads, coming out of finance and then law school, and I was given a copy of Marty’s groundbreaking book The Brand Gap. I read it overnight and it changed my perspective on business and people. I started making the rounds in several advertising and branding agencies, always referencing Marty’s writings and thinking. Now I get to call him mentor, partner, and friend!

2020 was a complicated year for many industries and Brands around the globe, although, to many others, 2020 market conditions gave numerous opportunities for growth and customer loyalty. In your opinion, what is the new role of Branding within this new world order and the current landscape?

Marty: To make customers happy and successful.

Andy: To hold companies accountable for how they treat employees, the culture they build, and their commitment to quality, relevance and value in what they provide to their customers.

What do you think would be the main challenges brands will face in 2021 and the coming years?

Marty: It depends on the company and the industry. Some companies will have to reinvent themselves to survive, like airlines, bookstores, publishing companies, movie theaters, commercial real estate, general retailers, and universities. Others will benefit from the pandemic, including online retailers, home entertainment companies, networking companies, and online educators. Brand consultancies should do very well, too.

Andy: Brands will have significant challenges anticipating economic and psychological consequences of how our world has changed in the last 12+ months. The human condition has been changed, and it’s too soon to know how, if at all, it will even try to return to what it was before the pandemic. That will affect how people work, how they plan for the future—which will affect how they think about saving for that future, which will affect how they spend now; how they’ll consume media and content, which will affect how brands can best communicate with them…and so on and so on.

What's your advice to Brands to best prepare and overcome these new challenges?

Marty: Reinvent as needed, build a culture around the brand, and put the customer first.

Andy: Prioritize flexibility, testing, the embrace of failing without putting the brand at risk, and the nimbleness to react quickly to keep the customer at the center of everything they do.

And what’s the role of Technology in Branding? In your opinion, are we going to continue seeing Tech as a key player in Brand Strategy? And in terms of Marketing Strategy are face-to-face touchpoints and physical activations gone for good?

Marty: Virtual meeting spaces and online marketplaces got a big push in the last year, with millions of users and customers trying these services for the first time. While a lot of business will revert to face-to-face transactions in the future, a lot of new habits will stick. It’s a good time to be in the tech industry.

As far as tech’s role in brand processes, the picture is mixed. Advertising platforms like Facebook and Twitter now seem like failed social experiments, which could lead to opportunities for new approaches.

And finally, can you share with Branders Magazine, any industries and leading Brands we should look out for in 2021?

Marty: Keep an eye on digital publishing models like Medium and Glose, new educational models like MasterClass.com and Level C (plug!), Tesla and companies in the electric mobility sector, and all companies promising to address the damage and danger of climate change, including energy companies in the wind, solar, and nuclear categories. Look for growth in the food industry, including specialty farms, boutique producers, and new models for the grocery store. And don’t be surprised if Amazon surpasses Apple as the world’s most valuable company. All those pandemic purchases!

Andy: Watch the education space carefully — traditional academic institutions have never needed to innovate their way into the future more than they do now, yet…are they? Education companies and platforms are poised to explode and blow the education markets wide open.

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