5 Reasons Brands Have Never Been More Challenged

It’s tempting when consulting Millward Brown’s latest BrandZ report to believe that U.S. brands have never been stronger.

With some of the impressive valuation figures contained in the report, “The Fearsome Five Brands Show Continued Growth,” it’s easy to convince yourself that brands are dynamic, vibrant, healthy and, importantly, essential contributors to company growth.

Indeed, many brands are, but there are also considerable numbers of them who are languishing. This is due in part to outside forces, but also because of neglect by their owners.

Here are five reasons why brands in 2017 have never been more challenged:

1. Targeting is not a substitute for mass reach

The programmatic and digital revolution in media has given rise to the ability for marketers to target very narrow groups of consumers. To thrive, however, brands need mass. As Professor Byron Sharp, author of “How Brands Grow” is fond of reminding marketers, their livelihoods depend on reaching a lot of people to try to persuade a few to include their brand in their consideration-set and purchase it. As Procter & Gamble found out from its 2016 analysis of its Facebook advertising, targeting wasn’t helping build their brands.

2. “New” is no longer a bad thing when it comes to brands

In times gone by, a strong brand built over time provided a strong moat against attacks from new competitors who lacked longevity — and hence, trust — in the marketplace. Today, the opposite is true. Newness is actually a good thing. A new brand or brand extension means an alternative to the status quo, and in some categories (take craft beer), newness has given the consumer license to experiment and play their way through a category.

3. The misguided belief that consumers can tell your brand story

It’s hard to generalize, but in the main, consumers can create candid and honest reviews of products and services, but they’re certainly no experts in storytelling. An over-reliance on UGC can easily mean that the compelling parts of your brand’s story never get told.

4. The short-term rules

With CMO and CEO tenures shrinking to a few years, there’s often no one in leadership positions taking responsibility for the long-term. Besides, most large companies have undergone or are undergoing extreme cost-cutting, at the expense of long-term brand-building.

5. The attention premium

With ad blockers firmly in place, and with their phones 2 inches away from their faces, consumers have no desire to be interrupted by advertising. They simply have too many more interesting alternatives than to stop what they’re doing to watch a spot or read an ad.

While these have been written as challenges, it’s easy for those in charge of brands today to turn them into a list of excuses as to why they’re forced to neglect their brands.

As Millward Brown’s BrandZ shows us, brands can provide tremendous value to business. But if neglected, the value of brands can decline rapidly — and the one thing that helped your business succeed in the first place can find itself drained of power.

To combat the threat, brand owners need to step up and face these challenges. They need to think more creatively about how they can protect their valuable assets by finding fresh and imaginative ways to inject life into their brands. They can do this by developing ideas and crafting stories that can breakthrough culture to reach the masses.