Is modern branding becoming bamboozling? In a hyper-connected world, the way we build and sustain strong brands is constantly changing. There are data-driven insights, powerful new technologies and a smorgasbord of channels. To help shine a light, here are five 2023 branding trends to keep top of mind – today and tomorrow.
Branding Trends #1: Authenticity
When it comes to branding, “keeping it real” has never been more important.
The International Journal of Customer Studies1 says it well: “In an age where consumers are bombarded with targeted advertising messages, when even our smartphones are thought to be eavesdropping on us, brands that convey authentic meaning gain the upper hand over their competitors. Brand authenticity positively influences trust and loyalty, increases brand equity and adds value to the consumer experience.”
In fact, a whopping 90% of consumers said that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support (Stackla data via SocialMediaToday).
Here are our key takeouts for creating a truly authentic brand.
- Define the purpose and values you truly stand for – and can (and will) deliver on.
- Live and breathe them consistently through all content and touch points.
- Understand your customers and ‘hear’ their voices through ongoing research and engagement.
- Don’t talk at your customers and clients – meet them where they are and really connect.
- Personalise as much as possible: and segment your markets for more targeted, refined and relevant messaging.
- Be honest, and steer clear of puffery and exaggeration.
- Use a ‘human’ tone and share the faces, experiences and voices of your team, employees and clients.
Branding Trends #2: Sustainability Commitment
Consumers, businesses, investors and employees are calling for a genuine commitment to sustainability.
A joint study between McKinsey and NielsenIQ revealed, in many categories, a clear and material link between consumer spending and the environmental, social and governance-related claims of products.
In an IBM report, CEOs shared their top challenges for the next five years and sustainability came out on top – up 37% on the previous year.
Here are three important things to keep in mind when thinking about sustainable branding.
- It embraces both people and planet – and it’s about your positive impacts (like community engagement and employee wellbeing) as well as minimising negative impacts (like waste).
- Sustainable practices must be clearly integrated into business plans and corporate practices.
- Transparency and evidence in marketing are key. ‘Greenwashing’, ‘virtue signalling’ and inflated claims are not only unethical – they’ll likely backfire on business, brand and reputation in a big way.
Mariart client Urban Effects, for example, embraces a human-centred design approach to make a lasting positive impact for people and communities – backed by everyday actions to adopt cleaner, greener operational practices. Their sustainability commitment is communicated via a dedicated document with evidence and statistics to highlight specific initiatives.
Branding Trends #3: Employer Branding
With chronic skills shortages, it’s little wonder that employer branding is gaining momentum to reduce turnover and attract (and retain) new talent.
Employer branding is how you are perceived from the viewpoint of former, current and future employees. Done well, it’s about building a reputation for having (and living) clearly defined values, a great workplace culture, and worthwhile benefits.
The numbers speak for themselves:
At Mariart, we know that every successful branding strategy is embedded, and embraced, internally. It happens through internal behaviours and leadership mentoring – but must be supported by a clear and distinct employer value proposition, meaningful brand training and onboarding programs, internal culture campaigns, and authentic ‘storytelling’ from real employees.
Bringing employees along on the branding journey was a key focus when Mariart created a fresh new brand for biodiversity and conservation powerhouse, QTFN (Queensland Trust for Nature). QTFN employees were engaged in the development as well as the implementation of the future-focused branding strategy, taking part in brand training that empowered them to be the champions of the organisation’s rejuvenated brand through their online marketing channels.
Branding Trends #4: Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is a smart tool for B2B branding and marketing – as a way to build your reputation as a trusted industry expert.
Importantly, thought leadership is not a hard-sell or self-promotion. It’s a deeper dive into an industry issue or common client challenge – with helpful information that adds value or starts conversations. It’s a chance to share best practice, new ideas, real-world success stories and social responsibility.
It can be conveyed via digital blogs and articles, videos, webinars, ebooks, research and so much more.
As well as building client loyalty and reputation, thought leadership content can generate leads and drive demand and SEO value.
Want some real food for thought? An Edelman-LinkedIn research study found that 58% of business decision makers read one or more hours of thought leadership per week – and almost 60% said that thought leadership directly led to their awarding of business to an organization.
As always, ‘spin’ is see-through and will do more harm than good. To succeed, thought leadership must be underpinned by genuine expertise and packed full of relevance.
For Cutek, the Brisbane-based company behind powerful, science-backed timber protection products, a branding refresh paved the way for an online content strategy that has sealed the company’s reputation as global industry leaders and innovators.
Branding Trends #5: Content Marketing & Channels
With so much competing noise, powerful branding demands high-quality, strategic content marketing.
Content marketing is using high quality, compelling content:
- that conveys your truly distinctive voice, tone and style
- to build relationships, loyalty and action from your target audience
- across well-selected channels.
Today, haphazard and half-cooked content have no place. It must be carefully planned, created, distributed, shared and published – across the the right channels at the right times for your brand and audience.
While Artificial Intelligence has a growing (and still unfolding) role in marketing, the combination of consistent quality and real connection make brands stand out more than ever.
Authentic, thoughtful, valuable and original content – that cleverly integrates keyword insights – supports your branding, resonates with your audience, wins leads, and is critical for search engine visibility.
A well-chosen, diversified marketing spread is also key.
- HubSpot research shows the top channels used by B2B marketers in 2023 will be social media (including LinkedIn), websites, blogs, and email marketing.
- For B2C marketers, the order is different: social media and email marketing followed by websites and blogs.
- In 2023, marketers plan to invest the most time and resources into short-form video (followed by influencer marketing and SEO).
Of course, the choice comes down to what rings true for your brand and audience. Most importantly, it should be measurable and measured, reviewed regularly, and evolved constantly.
A strategic, multi-channel approach to content marketing that delivers on all of the branding trends identified in this article, has catapulted longstanding Mariart client, Playground Centre, and its New Zealand made play and outdoor fitness equipment into playgrounds in 19 countries around the world (and counting).