There was no shortage of challenges for brands in 2020. From the rapidly changing needs of individuals because of Covid-19, to the greater desire for conscious consumption, brands had to innovate to thrive. Their strategies included speaking out about social issues, focusing on sustainability, and creating a strong online community. Recent research shows that brand strategy has become the top priority for chief marketing officers, ahead of analytics, personalisation and marketing technology. As
As brands re-evaluate what they mean to customers, one thing remains constant: people still want to connect with those that put action behind their promise. Consumers will be motivated to purchase when they see that your unique value proposition, brand values and behaviours are real. It’s why brand strategy has to be lived and breathed across every departmental function, from internal work culture and creative campaigns to product development and customer service – all while also aligning with business growth objectives. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at a few rising brand trends, and which newer, growing international companies are showing solid indicators of success by capitalising on brand growth trends. The cultural factor A brand’s ability to reflect society’s cultural values The brands that reflect real life A crop of emerging brands aims to reflect real life by showing diversity in their marketing and normalising formerly undesirable topics, such as ageing and acne. In beauty especially, niche brands are stepping in to fill the gaps left by traditional brands. Starface, an acne skincare brand, for example, has positioned itself to embrace bad skin – an experience that’s just part of being human. The brand refuses to use the words blemish and imperfection in its advertising language, and its pimple patches are made to be seen (just as Hailey Bieber shared on her Instagram stories). Since Julie Schott, a former Elle beauty editor, launched Starface in 2019, sales have grown approximately 50 per cent month on month. Google searches for the brand increased by more than 400 per cent in the past 12 months. Brands that are adapting to the taste, mood and vocabulary of modern culture If you don’t talk like your consumer, how will they ever relate to your message? If you don’t hang out where they do, how will they find you? People want to feel as though your brand is an individual they can relate to. For example, skincare company Topicals has formed an intimate understanding of its target consumer by tapping into their community. The brand has a Burn Book that seeks to tear down toxic beauty standards by collecting responses from real people. Topicals’ approach is effective: the brand launched on nordstrom.com in August 2020, and within 48 hours, it had sold out of products. Within days, the products on the brand’s site had also sold out. Giving your consumers a voice is an ingenious way to build community. Brands in constant dialogue with their customers, collaborators, influencers, communications and cultural partners can communicate in a relevant language that’s immediately understood. At Crown Affair, caring for your hair has become a ritual, not a chore. Image: Supplied The consumer factor A brand’s ability to identify and understand its consumer and what they need Brands are reshaping to focus on wellness Today’s consumer is more conscious of the importance of self-care and mental health, especially in the wake of Covid-19. Many businesses have heard their consumers’ struggles (and probably relate to it themselves, too!). That’s why many brands are adding mental health messaging to their products. Given the relationship between skin and confidence, Topicals has pledged to donate one per cent of its profits to mental health organisations. To date, it has donated more than $10,000. In the haircare space is Crown Affair, intending to transform hair wash days into a relaxing ritual rather than a chore. Founder Dianna Cohen (ex-Away, Spring, Into The Gloss) wanted to “create high-quality hair care rooted in ritual, community and stories”, and ultimately hopes to be the Drunk Elephant of haircare — mirroring the $845 million brand’s education-driven approach to aesthetic wellness. Brands that are helping people adapt to home-based life People are spending more time at home, and brands that can help make the transition more inspiring, fulfilling and comfortable will reap the rewards in the next few years. Pattern’s home-focused group of brands, including Open Spaces and Get Equal Parts, are making daily chores more fun, enjoyable and relaxing through thoughtfully produced organisational essentials and cookware. Pattern’s philosophy had a larger vision in mind from the outset: to create a cosy, inviting home. Meanwhile, the premium olive oil brand Brightland elevates the kitchen staple with small-batch product ranges, cult-status designs and considered content that brings the brand to life through food, art and wellness. In the words of founder and CEO Aishwarya Iyer: “I’m excited to breathe life, personality, character, mood and intention into a forgotten category that also happens to be the foundation of our food.” Andie Swim quickly built a tight-knit online community. Image: Supplied. Brands that prioritise organic community growth over rapid customer acquisition Recent Facebook research shows consumers are less spontaneous when shopping these days, with people doing more research before purchasing. This is where smaller direct-to-consumer brands such as Girlfriend Collective and Andie Swim are thriving because they’re cutting down the steps between the research phase and purchase. They’re primarily doing this by ensuring that they’re actively and intimately present with their target market in casual online settings where consumers spend time. Their brand messaging in these forums is also very clear about their role in the world and their value, which has resulted in faster organic growth. The clothing brand Sidia launched with only three products. It could use its first backers as beta-testers for its products and launch only the ones deemed most important. The brand is now reporting more than $20 million in annualised revenue. The category factor A brand’s ability to expand on the strength of its current classification Brands that are forming a self-expression category Some emerging brands are carving out a place where consumers have full control over their self-expression. Younger consumers and subsets of other demographics don’t want to be categorised according to their gender or fashion choices. Gender-neutral or role-redefining brands, such as Pharrell Williams’ skincare label, Humanrace, and the grooming brand Faculty, are ahead in this area. Their products are adaptable enough to take the consumer in whichever direction they want to go in terms of self-expression, whether that’s through skincare or nail polish for men. Brands that are re-thinking the experience category We often associate experiences with travel or some other unique event. But it’s often the simple, special moments that bring us the most fulfilment. Consumers are looking for more experiences that are not only memorable but are also meaningful, intimate, connected and valuable. The table decorations rental service Social Studies sends coordinated settings to multiple households for simultaneous meals, while alcohol brand Haus creates aperitifs “for that moment in the day when we can slow down, wake up and be present with people we like”. Both brands are focusing on the consumer’s desire to make simple experiences precious and special again. But remember, some businesses make the mistake of only focusing on big-picture values and purpose and don’t connect it with how it will feed into concrete objectives such as revenue and market share. On the other side of things, when profit is the sole goal, consumers can sense a disconnect with your core values. Your brand serves as a compass to bridge these seemingly opposing components of the business to create harmonious synergy. As a result of the pandemic, we’re going to see greater purchasing caution from consumers in some retail categories, while others will flourish. But whether in good times or bad, this same principle holds: people are more likely to purchase from brands they know, understand and trust. I’ve highlighted some examples of brands that are demonstrating brand leadership. But, there isn’t a set blueprint for how other individual retailers can strengthen their brand. The only proven way is by understanding your positioning, consumer and culture within your category and market, and building your company’s brand approach from there.