Over the last 24 years I’ve published regularly about what I see that’s changing in the world of brand and brand transformation, always coming at it from the business side. After all, for most organisations ‘the brand’ is their most valuable intangible asset. My experience of working with board members and CEOs around the world has taught me that not only do they want to understand the traditional tenets of brand (Why and What), but they also want to understand the practicalities of How brand transformation can drive business performance. In other words, they’re very keen to understand the mechanics of brand in order to maximise the value of this asset over time.

As another COVID-ravaged year comes to an end and we look ahead to 2022, I’ve taken some time to reflect and jot down my top 5 predictions for 2022. Here we go.

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1. The changing paradigm for brand organisation

Gone are the days where organisations could manage their brand or corporate identity by putting it on everything and logo-stamping their way around the world. Modern brand management is about enabling a dialogue between your organisation and its various stakeholders. The era of simply steering, controlling, or managing your identity is over and we have entered the era of orchestrating your brand experience – a complex symphony involving the organisation and its various audiences. Orchestrating a brand experience sounds simple, but it isn’t. It covers the whole spectrum of expressions – behaviour, actions, verbal and non-verbal communication – that create an impression of who you are and what you stand for. To use Page Society ‘language’, it’s about how you articulate and convey your corporate character.

“Modern brand management is about enabling a dialogue between your organisation and its various stakeholders.”

Those brands wanting to come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger and ready for the future will need to reconsider their positioning, where necessary adapting to better meet socio-economic challenges and, most importantly, their audience’s evolving needs. That’s only half the battle as they must also plan for how to effectively, efficiently, and sustainably bring that positioning to life across all touchpoints and channels. The new brand governance paradigm is all about enabling a coherent brand experience across multiple channels and touchpoints – an extremely multi-faceted and complex task that requires more planning and preparation than ever before.

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2. The shift from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism is in full swing and will have a lasting impact on the position of brands for the next decade

With this shift, that was amplified around a few years ago in two annual letters of Larry Fink – CEO at BlackRock – and other initiatives, people have understood that there’s a wider role for businesses to play rather than focusing on profit and shareholder value alone. Their responsibility, impact, and contribution to wider stakeholder groups in society and the planet, has become widely understood. Companies like Facebook and Shell are suffering from this shift, as they seem unable (unwilling?) to act upon this new thinking appropriately and quickly enough. Investors, on the other hand, have increasingly embraced the new mantra, and the stock-rating agencies like Moody’s, Fitch and S&P have acquired many ESG-rating agencies to incorporate non-financial key performance indicators in how they rate stock.

Purpose-led thinking is at the heart of this movement, helping organisations to make this shift tangible and enabling them to roadmap activities that will ensure the success of these new strategies. For brands this means that the whole brand experience will have to be adapted over time to reflect and express the new direction, market positioning, and belief of organisations.

3. Anarchy. Great for music, bad for brands

Christian Lund, founder of Templafy, used this phrase recently, and I like it. Resulting from the changing paradigm for brand organisation, we’ve seen an explosion of brand touchpoints and channels. The potential rise of NFT-relevance and branding in The Metaverse described in this article will further increase these resulting in a potentially anarchic brand experience. I predict a great 2022 for the vendors of brand technology as a result of this development. Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve seen that brand leaders have become more interested in digital asset management (DAM) and templating solutions to increase efficiency and effectiveness – getting more value from creative digital assets with better organisation, access and distribution of branded assets across all possible channels and across departments within organisations.

“I predict a great 2022 for the vendors of brand technology solutions.”

For brand leaders, we see time and time again that it’s difficult to assess the landscape of brand technology vendors and their solutions as many functionalities overlap. There are, however, best-in-class solutions available, depending on specific characteristics of any organisation.

4. Branding in The Metaverse

Similar to NFTs, ‘The Metaverse’ seems far away for many. What makes The Metaverse unique, is that it is the internet best experienced in virtual reality. I know it’s been tried before – when technology was less advanced, for example with Second Life. However, this isn’t far away for those of us willing to embrace it. Whatever you think of Facebook, they and Microsoft are betting big time on the new digital ecosystem, where you can appear digitally in an online world through avatars and other appearances. Compare this development to the early days of the internet, securing your unique URL seemed all well and good at the time, however nowadays, securing an effective and relevant URL has become almost impossible in a very mature marketplace.

For brand leaders, the simplest way to get their heads around the Metaverse-implications, would be to take a closer look at the persona they’re already using, and to start exploring and imagining what they might look like as avatars. Next to avatars, you can then expand by assessing the brand assets that could work for your organisation in this new reality. You can then prioritise by balancing the anticipated effectiveness in brand-terms with the effort and means it will take to achieve that.

5. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): a new space to watch for brand leaders

Whilst branding has become very experiential across the touchpoints and channels that we all know, there’s a new arena being opened. For gamers and art-lovers this is nothing new, they’ve recognised early on that digital characters or items can provide a special meaning. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique files that live on a blockchain and are able to verify ownership of a work of digital art. We’re currently seeing news about the first NFTs being auctioned. Back in March, an NFT of the artist known as Beeple sold for $69 million at Christie’s. The sale positions him ‘among the top three most valuable living artists’, according to the auction house. More recently, Catawiki and L’Oréal Paris announced to be adding a special NFT-auction section to their portfolio. What’s most interesting here are the demographics, as younger people are far better versed in this new world than older people.

“As a brand leader, now is the time to set up a task force to establish one's possibilities and approach in this new brand touchpoint category.”

For brand owners, initially in the business-to-consumer sector, there’s a real opportunity to move into this space. Nike, for example, recently announced that they’ve registered (trademarked) a whole array of digital brand assets (NFTs), to ensure and protect their intellectual property rights in this digital space. As a brand leader, now is the time to set up a task force to establish one’s possibilities and approach in this new brand touchpoint category.

All in all, despite the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic, there are very interesting times ahead for brand leaders. I am always available to chat if you’re interested to explore and exchange further:

E: marc.cloosterman@vim-group.com
T: +31 6 21 24 67 01