Marketers should take note: 2024 will be the year of brand building

Even under financial pressure, in 2024, marketers should focus on the power of branding rather than the number of clicks on Instagram ads.

Marketers should take note: 2024 will be the year of brand building
Marketers should take note: 2024 will be the year of brand building

Summary: Returning to the basics of branding Brands will face new pressures and challenges

Source: BOF

If the most visible failures of 2023 taught the fashion industry anything, it’s that companies neglecting their brand identity do so at their own peril.

While Farfetch’s fire sale to Coupang had various reasons, the primary one was its inability to build a cohesive brand identity, even after establishing a leading position in the luxury e-commerce market.

Having to unload truckloads of wool materials through widespread social media ads, Allbirds saw its stocks plummet to record lows. Amyris, a company relying on celebrities to attract consumers to its beauty products, filed for bankruptcy in August.

To survive – let alone thrive – in today’s market, nothing is more critical than marketing to shape a brand’s long-term reputation. Look at brands like Abercrombie: In the 2010s, its reputation suffered due to a series of public controversies, but since then, it has made a turnaround by shedding its divisive brand image, refreshing its product line, and attracting older consumers who have always loved the brand.

Or consider Chanel, a brand that has thrived for decades by staying true to its original essence, such as tweed fabric and camellia flowers, while updating designs for modern consumers.

A brand or product may be present everywhere on Instagram or TikTok data feeds, but without deeper meaning behind it, that visibility may only take the company further away from its unique essence.

Performance Marketing – a marketing method where brands only pay based on results, as commonly seen in social media advertising – remains a crucial part of any company’s marketing mix. In 2024, this performance marketing method should be used to amplify a broad brand marketing strategy rather than just serving as a background tactic.

This trend is expected to continue into 2024 because the overall economic context remains uncertain, making it increasingly challenging to capture consumer attention. This year, marketers must view brands as the motivation behind everything they do, from large-scale campaigns and events to short-term social media ads that users can easily swipe past.

Sarah Grech, brand spokesperson at the advertising company Mother Design, said, “Consumers are offering more considered choices, and if you’re not making that connection with them at that level, then ultimately you will get swept away by your competitors.”

Returning to the basics of branding Brand marketing is storytelling. And the story your brand tells depends on its purpose.

Gap Inc. CEO Richard Dickson stated onstage at BoF VOICES in December: “Any brand starts with an idea, and ideas that become brands evolve. That evolution keeps a brand relevant, but new purpose makes a brand immortal in the marketplace.”

That’s a theme he knows well. Dickson previously served as chairman of Mattel, where he oversaw the revitalization of the Barbie brand, which was outdated and underperforming when he joined the company in 2014.

While leveraging its purpose of empowering young girls and updating the Barbie brand to embrace modern perceptions, the brand has been able to make a successful comeback, highlighted by the release of the blockbuster “Barbie” movie in early 2023.

Now, Dickson is attempting something similar with another iconic American brand that has lost its way – Gap.

A brand’s purpose doesn’t necessarily have to stem from philanthropic or social movement purposes; it can be about creating effective skincare products with safe ingredients or designing the perfect t-shirt. Marketing activities should reflect that purpose, which can then be amplified in various ways: through high-value campaigns as well as on social media or events.

For the men’s clothing brand Mizzen+Main, that means reflecting how customers use their products in their ads.

Marketing Director Bethany Muths said, “We know that our customers are working men… a part of reaching [our core customers] is understanding what he does and how he interacts with our main product – a formal dress shirt.”

The brand organized a series of videos called “Thanks for the Time,” where three men – dressed in Mizzen+Main shirts and holding microphones with the brand logo – discuss casual topics like conversations at the “water cooler” in the office, such as mental math methods or hotel hygiene topics.

And when Mizzen+Main set up a temporary coffee truck to increase brand awareness, they established stores in the middle of downtown Dallas office districts, where they could connect with male office workers during lunch breaks.

Coming up with the idea for that story is one thing; determining where to tell it is another. As marketers prioritize certain aspects of their brand marketing strategies, they should also consider new channels—or use existing ones in different ways—to meet customers where they are.

Jamie Wachlarz, marketing director of the influencer management agency Estate Five, noted: “Right now, you’re seeing a lot of advertising, and the ones that are really resonating are the ones that really understand, presenting content in a way that feels deeply personal, authentic, and well-researched.”

In marketing using influencers, that means collaborating with creators who spread your brand and allowing them to unleash their creativity in content creation.

Brands can also use influencers not just for their influence but to create user-generated content that they can then advertise on various platforms, giving a more personal touch to their social media advertising.

Founder and body care brand Sidia. Source: Glossy.co While changing approaches on existing channels is crucial, Erin Kleinberg, founder of the creative agency Métier Creative and body care brand Sidia, said another important aspect is showing up where customers want to see it. For her brand Sidia, that means top spas, such as those at the Beverly Hills hotel, or in the locker rooms at popular gyms like Tracy Anderson’s. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, I love this brand, and it’s everywhere I go,'” she said.

Brands will face new pressures and challenges Marketers will undoubtedly face new pressures from their financial departments to justify marketing expenditures amid an increasingly challenging macroeconomic environment. They must balance that reality with the fact that even with the strongest brand marketing strategies, time is needed to see the full impact on brand profitability.

Jon Claydon, development director of the affiliate management company Acceleration Partners, recommends brands consult performance marketing guides to measure the effectiveness of their brand marketing efforts, even in the early stages. Looking at figures like brand uplift—the positive motivation surrounding consumer awareness of the brand—and brand perception can help demonstrate the effective progress of a campaign.

This can be measured by various tools, such as the earned media value of TribeDynamics and the media impact value of Launchmetrics, both tools identify online discussions and impact surrounding a specific campaign, product, or moment for a brand.

However, brands shouldn’t feel they need to perfect their brand marketing strategy before testing it publicly. According to Ben Hennes, creative director and co-owner of the creative company Happylucky, the best brands are those that have relationships with consumers that make them feel like they’re part of the brand they’re shopping. He said, “As long as brands truly understand their purpose and existence in the world, I don’t think they have to languish in the dark for many years before giving birth to something. They can start a real conversation with consumers and be truly transparent about who they are and how they market.”

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