Branding in the 3.0 era

In the 13th century, the Italians began the brand era by using brands to watermark paper. With this humble beginning, the idea of marking your property, and ultimately a product or service, to differentiate it from others was born.

Mark Twain once said, ‘Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.’ We see this idea embodied in many things in the modern era – an era where brands have evolved in a commercial sense into sophisticated marketing tools that are absolute necessities for a successful enterprise.

Companies invest substantial amounts of money, resources and passion into ensuring their brand both captures their value and embodies their points of difference.

This process has reached a watershed. The explosion of the industrial revolution that gave birth to the modern brand idea has been replaced by the digital revolution.

Traditional high-value brands are coming under increasing pressure to remain contemporary and relevant in an online world.

Gone are the days of the cleverly woven advertising campaign that built brands in customers’ minds on a proposition or promise.

Brands today must deliver. Period. We cannot promise what we can’t deliver because new media has given global voice to our customers.

We must today offer brands that are both optimised for visual, and sometimes physical, delivery over a digital platform. We must also shape our promises in a way that ensures they meet the expectations set by our marketing messages.

Empty promises will yield empty results. This unique environment has seen brands become connected. They are connected in every way and in all directions, from creation to delivery. Companies seeking to build great brands in the modern era need to recognise the importance of the ‘connected brand’.

A connected brand must be optimised for the new channels in its visual and written execution, and it must have tried and proven credentials to give it the substance to back up its promise.

Increasingly these things must also be supplemented by the need to engage with customers in a way that lets them take some ownership of the message.

This ‘participation framework’ has also become a cornerstone of the brand in the 3.0 era. In short, we must find ways to engage more deeply with our customers and value their participation in our promise.

Companies that seize the connected brand opportunity will be the big brands of the future; those that don’t are destined to be consigned to history.

To quote Mark Twain again: ‘Everything has its limit – iron ore cannot be educated into gold.’And in this we must understand our brand may be successful today but it will soon be consigned to the scrap heap if we do not adapt.

Author: Colin Knox, founder of Aspire.