Brands must rediscover their purpose

How and when did brands get so small? It seems that despite the greater availability of tools to connect brands with consumers, the impact of brands on society has greatly diminished. Why are the trillions of dollars currently spent on marketing only getting us "Paris Hilton" brands instead of timeless ones from "Liz Taylor?"

How and when did brands get so small? It seems that despite the greater availability of tools to connect brands with consumers, the impact of brands on society has greatly diminished. Why are the trillions of dollars currently spent on marketing only getting us "Paris Hilton" brands instead of timeless ones from "Liz Taylor?"

It seems that this past decade's media revolution empowered consumers while making brands more insecure. More than ever, our brands need to stand for something in order to stand out. In essence, they need to grow up. Some good old values can help.

Today's consumers are disillusioned with brands' inability to make them dream and feel. As brands became smaller, consumers' expectations for meaningful exchanges grew bigger. Consumers now seek relevance from other sources, including more interactive media, community-driven experiences, and more involvement in religious, entrepreneurial, and civic activities.

It's as if too much irrelevant brand titillation, fueled by an abundance of media dollars, has driven our consumer to brand indifference. Advertising's role in shaping a cultural agenda is currently questioned.

Today's marketplace offers more brands to choose from than ever before. Strong competition in the areas of consumer research and product development has resulted in near-perfect product categories full of brands with hyper attributes that overwhelm and numb our consumer. Who can blame them? After all, I'm not sure anyone can truly explain the difference between all the various levels of anti-cavity control in toothpastes.

Our post-9/11, post-Enron, "community-seeking and building" consumers seek enlightened leadership in all aspects of their lives. They also want broader involvement by brands and corporations to address things that traditional players such as government haven't fully tackled, including the environment, intra-cultural dialogue, and social equality.

Aspiring brand leaders must learn how to lead. They must facilitate what we call "branded movements" - or powerful collaborative statements with non-traditional entities like grassroots organizations and influencers resulting in powerful brand communities. But how do branded movements begin?

Brands should first adopt a more assertive attitude for the roles they can play in society. They shouldn't fear asking themselves how they can change the world. Such a weighty question will naturally guide your brand to true values and give clarity, edge, and purpose to your branding strategy. Plus, doing so will bring you closer to
consumers who are already asking themselves that very question of the brands they embrace.

A "branded movement" works because it gives everyone involved a sense of purpose around the brand and its values. It also allows the brand to touch upon society's big shifts, as well as the themes impacting the day-to-day decisions of individuals and families. The brand becomes symbolic, as well as relatable, inspirational, and accessible. Only then, by truly being a part of consumers' lives, can our shrinking brands become big again.

Roberto Ramos is the president and CEO of The Vox Collective.

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