The branding conversation has gone back and forth over the years. Branding techniques, strategies, viewpoints, channels, identity, etc over the years have been introduced, evaluated, practiced, challenged, overcome, and forgotten. Through numerous iterations and revaluations, inspired by numerous disruptive brands over the years, branding has arrived at the stage it has today.

This does not mean that the evolutions stop here. With each succeeding generation, we have to reassess what our branding strategy is, who our target audience is, how do we continue to reach them, and how do we remain relevant.

In 2022, we are coming to the latter stage of catering to GenZ audiences and beginning to welcome Generation Alpha. so, what do brands and branding mean in 2022.

Brands and Branding

A representation of the difference between brand and branding and how branding is a longer conversation

Source: Internal marketing tips

A brand is the most honest feeling a customer has about a product, a person, a business, or a company. It is a perception and an impression that exists in the mind of a consumer. Essentially, this means that there are numerous brands about maybe the same product existing in the minds of numerous customers because they each have their own feeling and emotions regarding the said product.

Branding involves influencing how a consumer feels about your brand—whether that be your company, product, or even yourself, as in the case of personal branding.

It is important to note that a brand cannot be something that you have created. It is the result of what is hopefully your best efforts at communicating who you are. Branding encompasses those best efforts.

Branding in 2022

The type of branding prevalent in 2022

Source: Inside Network

So, that being said, over the years, branding strategies and techniques have changed and evolved. This is kinda obvious considering our audiences have evolved over the years, our ideologies and principles have progressed over the years, and even our methods of communication and interaction have developed over the years because of technology.

In 2022, we are in an age of global communities, of accessibility at our fingerstips, and where visual appeal is more advanced than ever before. So, how does that affect branding?

To explain this, let us divide it into the following topics and trends that are proliferating branding in 2022.

Debranding:

Graphical representation of debranding

Source: Basedesign

The whole essence of debranding is removing the brands. While this seems like an oxymoron, it has a deeper meaning. Debranding will be next evolution in branding where real people and real tones of voice are intended to become the interface between consumers and products.

This is a result of the public becoming more aware of marketing and advertising ploys, as well as an overall increase in transparency. The goal of debranding is to create a more intimate connection between the consumer and product by removing any barriers that a brand might put up. Companies are now encouraged to fine-tune their product’s quality, design, and durability.

Some examples of debranding are companies like Everlane, who are transparent about their prices and where their products are made. Another example is Unilever, who has started to focus on sustainable living rather than just selling individual products.

What this does for the future is that consumers will start buying less but not necessarily spending less. They will shift to spending more on few quality essentials againsta fair-trade price. This will in turn make companies focus less investment on marketing and more on product development, allowing more people to be able to afford these quality products.\

Brand approach and marketing has to be more human-centric and infused with values that people can relate to:

Human-centric branding process

Source: Toptal

This is what customers want in order to connect with a company. They want to know that their values are being represented and that they’re not just another cog in the corporate machine. This trend is only going to become more prevalent in the coming years, as companies increasingly realize that customers are looking for connection and authenticity over marketing gimmicks.

The key here will be making your consumers will like they are not just a number but even your communications should be shaped to how the consumers wished to be connected with.

Thus, for businesses who want to stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to start infusing their brand with values that resonate with customers. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Focusing on sustainable and ethical practices
  • Donating a portion of proceeds to charity
  • Fostering a community around the brand
  • Encouraging customers to be their best selves

By taking steps to align your brand with customer values, you’ll not only build a loyal customer base but also create an emotional connection that will help your business stand out from the competition.

A successful example of this is Toms, a footwear and eyewear company that gives away a pair of shoes or glasses to someone in need for every purchase made. Toms’ focus on giving back has helped them build a strong emotional connection with their customers, leading to long-term loyalty and brand advocacy.

What this does for the future is it creates a way for you to be more empathetic with customers, understand them on a deeper level, and develop messaging that will resonate. On the other hand, if your brand is all about “me” then you’re likely to turn customers off. In 2020 and beyond, customers are looking to support businesses that share their values.

An unabashed authentic take on storytelling instead of branded content:

The different components of brand storytelling

Source: tme.net

Gone are the days of inauthentic, self-serving branded content. In its place is a new wave of storytelling that is authentic, relatable, and helps customers see your brand in a new light.

This type of content can take many forms, such as:

  • Customer stories
  • behind-the-scenes looks
  • company culture videos
  • Product demos
  • How-tos

While each piece of content will be different, they all have one thing in common: they’re designed to give customers a look at your brand that they can’t get anywhere else.

This type of content is important because it humanizes your brand and helps customers see you as more than just a company that sells products or services. When done right, it can also be highly entertaining and informative, which will keep customers coming back for more.

A successful example of this practice is Dollar Shave Club’s YouTube channel. The company’s videos are designed to be both informative and entertaining, and they do an excellent job of showcasing the brand’s personality.

What this does for the future is allow customers to connect with the company on a more personal level, which can lead to loyalty and repeat business.

In order to brand your business successfully in 2022, you’ll need to focus on creating content that is both informative and entertaining. Showcase your company’s personality in a way that will allow customers to connect with you on a more personal level. Doing so will help to create loyalty and repeat business.

Hyper-personalization and emotional intelligence:

A graphical representation of hyper-personalization in brand marketing

Source: Rockcontent

As we become more and more reliant on technology, the need for human connection will only increase. This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions. It’s about being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others.

In order to successfully brand your business in 2022, you will need to be able to connect with your customers on an emotional level. You will need to be able to understand their needs and wants and then craft your message in a way that resonates with them.

Some ways that this can happen is by using hyper-personalization and creating customer personas. Hyper personalization is the process of tailoring content and experiences to an individual. This could be something as simple as using their name in an email or showing them products that are similar to what they’ve purchased in the past.

Creating customer personas is another way to connect with your target audience on an emotional level. Customer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and research. They help you understand your target audience’s needs, wants, and pain points.

A successful example of this is Coca-Cola. For over a century, Coke has been one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company’s success is largely due to its ability to connect with its customers on an emotional level. Coke’s marketing campaigns have always been based on emotion, from its early “It’s the Real Thing” slogan to its more recent “Share a Coke” campaign.

Influencer marketing is moving from engagement to ROI for its metrics and success:

The role of influencers in the branding process

Source: Forbes

And with 92% of people trusting an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement, it’s no wonder that so many brands are utilizing this strategy.

But as we move into 2022, the landscape of influencer marketing is going to change. And if you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to be prepared for what’s to come.

What’s changing in influencer marketing?

  • The way we use social media is changing and there is a shift happening from traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to more visual-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
  • And as the way we consume social media changes, so too will the way that brands use influencers to reach their target audiences.
  • We’re also seeing a move away from celebrity influencers and toward micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are everyday people with a smaller, but more engaged, following. And research shows that they’re more effective at driving conversions than celebrity influencers.

A successful example of this is the way that the fashion brand, PrettyLittleThing, uses Instagram influencers to reach its target audience. What is unique about their strategy is that they work with a mix of celebrities and micro-influencers through a tiered approach. For example, they’ll work with a mix of A-listers like Kylie Jenner and Cardi. This allows them to reach a wider range of people, while still maintaining a high level of engagement.

Cookie-less brand strategy:

Humorous way of representing cookie-less branding strategy

Source: Medium

In 2022, we’ll see a move away from cookies and toward privacy-centric advertising. This means that brands will need to get more creative with their marketing strategies.

One way to do this is by focusing on first-party data. First-party data is data that you collect yourself, such as through email sign-ups or customer surveys. This data is more reliable than third-party data, which is collected by cookies and other tracking methods.

Another way to get around the cookie issue is by working with micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are influencers with a smaller, but more engaged, following. They’re often considered more trustworthy than traditional celebrities, and their endorsement can go a long way.

Finally, consider using dark social. Dark social is social media activity that takes place outside of the platform, such as when someone copies and pastes a link into a chat window. It’s called “dark” because it’s difficult to track.

A successful example of this is when Red Bull placed QR codes on the back of their product. When scanned, the QR code would take you to a landing page with exclusive content. This was a way to get around the algorithm and reach their target audience directly.

Consumers will hold you accountable for environmental impact but eco-branding is not the solution:

Eco-friendly or sustainable branding is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s a must. A study by Cone Communications found that 87% of consumers would purchase a product because of its environmental or social attributes.

However, eco-branding isn’t always the solution. In some cases, it can do more harm than good. For example, when Unilever tried to eco-brand its laundry detergent, the results were disastrous.

The company’s “Eco-Active” range was launched in 2010 with the promise of being “tough on stains while being gentle on the environment.” The problem was that the eco-friendly ingredients didn’t work as well as the traditional ones, and consumers quickly lost faith in the product. As a result, Unilever had to pull the range from shelves and issue a public apology.

To avoid making the same mistake, businesses need to make sure they are using sustainable practices throughout their supply chain. They should also be transparent about their eco-branding efforts and be clear about what the label means.

Eco-branding can be a great way to connect with consumers and build trust. But it’s important to do it right. By being transparent and using sustainable practices, businesses can create a label that consumers can trust.

A successful example of this is Patagonia. The company is very upfront about its sustainable practices, including the use of recycled materials and Fair Trade-certified factories. As a result, Patagonia has built a strong eco-brand that consumers can trust.

Staying ahead of branding trends

  • The right market research:

As with any business decision, it’s important to do your research before you make any changes to your branding strategy. Review your target market, competitors, and industry trends to ensure that your brand is positioned properly. With cookies and hyper-personalization being the new norm, you need to understand what your customers care about. This includes everything from the colors you pick to the way you write your content.

  • Use technology to develop a proactive and reactive brand strategy:

There are a number of ways to use technology to improve your branding strategy.

First, take advantage of data and analytics tools to understand how customers interact with your brand. This includes things like social media listening, web analytics, and customer surveys. Use this data to develop a deeper understanding of your customers and what they want from your brand.

Next, use technology to create a more engaging and interactive brand experience. This can be done through things like social media, website design, and mobile apps.

Finally, use technology to automate and streamline your branding process. This includes things like social media management, email marketing, and lead generation. By automating your process, you can free up time to focus on other aspects of your business.

  • Understand that it is always a balance between long-term branding strengthening and sales and ROI-driven implementation.

Medium and long-term branding will always require more time, effort and money than short-term gains from pure sales activation but the returns are also much higher.

A brand is not built in a day, but with the right planning and execution, it can be a powerful asset for your business.

When it comes to branding your business in 2022, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Keep your branding consistent across all channels
  • Invest in content marketing to build trust and credibility
  • Use social media to connect with your audience
  • Focus on creating a memorable customer experience
  • Invest in brand awareness campaigns

Conclusion:

The future of branding is in some ways defined by the generation that we are welcoming. The way they interact with brands will be very different to how we are used to. They will not stand for anything less than complete transparency and will quickly see through any marketing ploy. This is the challenge for businesses in the coming years; to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with the ever-changing landscape, whilst still delivering an authentic and memorable customer experience.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to be investing in brand awareness campaigns that are able to reach consumers on a variety of different channels

Pixel Street is a branding company that believes that a successful brand awareness campaign in 2022 will need to focus on the following key areas:

  • Relevancy
  • Personalization
  • Authenticity
  • Timing
  • Multi-channel approach

Our team focuses on these points to strengthen your brand and allow it work in tandem with your marketing efforts. Contact us for more info on the same.

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Khurshid Alam
Founder

Khurshid Alam is the founder of Pixel Street, a web design company. He aspires to solve business problems by communicating effectively digitally. In his leisure, he reads, writes, and occasionally plays a game of table tennis.