6 Insights That Could Impact Your Brand in 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, if you’re brand is still alive—congratulations you survived another challenging year. It’s safe to say that 2017 isn’t going to be any easier with persistent change at its core. But with change, or progress, our core brand values must remain firm and relevant. It’s important that we’re proactive in times of change and communicate our brand values before someone else replaces or steals our voice. This approach provides the necessary stability that people want and need. Here are six key insights to help ensure your brand succeeds in 2017:


Static websites, and bricks and mortar are dead

The traditional website will disappear much like brick and mortar retail outlets, unless they provide products conveniently where there customers are. The biggest advancement for the soft drink industry was the vending machine, which provided customers instant gratification of an ice cold Coke anywhere at any time. Amazon is obsessed with solving the pain between purchase and delivery with the goal of instant gratification.  3-D printing and drones will help solve some of the waiting time. Where possible, make the time between decision and gratification an exciting journey that the consumer feels in control of. This is the success of Uber.

Websites will fade into the background as solution sites, where Google will continue to grow in dominance, helping people find the best solution or hottest indulgence with total convenience. Consumers will expect greater product accuracy as personal data is shared. Your product should only appear if it fits the situation otherwise it becomes an annoyance. It is all about consumer gratification and control.


Secure a believable superstar spokesperson (notice I used the word believable and not credible)

The Trump-affect is real. Consumers will listen and follow celebrities before they’ll listen to a scientist or an expert. People respond to famous influences. If your brand is in crisis mode or needs to be heard consider a celebrity to get noticed. It isn’t about who is right, nor about the facts. Trust me; I didn’t think Trump had any change of becoming the next President of USA, but it shows what’s possible when a figurehead connects with an audience with a call to action.



Content is still king (including facts, truth, misinformation, lies, stolen data—it doesn’t matter)

Ensure your brand is consistently publishing your story in the digital world (news channels, blogs, social, etc.) proactively. Communicate your “why” and connect the dots so people understand your brand values.  Add value with content that makes people’s lives easier, more productive or more fulfilling. Don’t bore them with facts and figures.  Where possible, get other people to amplify your messages (this supports the previous point).

Be vigilant in listening to what others are saying about your brand. When necessary, defend your position or complement those who support your brand values. Be engaged in the conversation, even if it’s negative.


Your brand is as strong as your employees (attract and keep the best, and when necessary, mobilize the troops)

Attracting and recruiting talent is vital to any brand’s success—many companies fail to have a holistic approach to the entire employee lifecycle from attraction through onboarding and development. But from a communications perspective employees are the foot soldiers who can amplify the brand as ambassadors. Keep them informed and provide them with the tools to communicate the brand values to family and friends. Never underestimate this asset and build stronger ties with HR who can help in molding your army.


Think in hours and days (the five—10 year plan is too late)

A brand communications strategy should always be followed to ensure your narrative is told. But understand that conversation itself is fluid and your plan should allow adaptations. Think about where you might take advantage of key opportunities in 2017 or times when you’ll be on the defense. Continue to develop possible scenarios and determine various action plans. This makes the difference between an amateur athlete and an Olympian. Where possible, take the lead and play out your brand plan. But don’t forget to constantly listen to your customer and the market at large to ensure your brand hasn’t lost sight of its relevancy.


The printed word is losing power (audio, video and images rule)

Printed newspapers are disappearing fast are furiously as they struggle to manage their old-world structure and model. Consumers are looking for easily consumable information on the go. They want to be entertained, not just told. They want to multitask, not only read. If they can watch or listen to their solution or discover something significant within seconds, your brand will be rewarded. Understand the rules of a successful movie and your video will be Oscar material. The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” still remains relevant.

Happy New Year!

If you assume 2017 will be more complex and turbulent than 2016, you will be prepared to take advantage of all opportunities—good and bad. Above all else, ensure your brand remains one that YOU love, and course correct from there. Good luck and may your brand be prosperous in the New Year!




Digital Brands Vs. Traditional Brands – Why Goliath is losing the fight to Challengers

The leading institutional brands are big, cumbersome and steeped in tradition and process. Their brand voice has been carefully crafted over the years and only change in slight degrees not generally noticed by the general public. But this conservative approach is killing them. In less than a year, a new challenging brand can come on the digital scene and eat their lunch.


Mitch Duckler, Brand & Marketing Strategy Consultant and partner at FullSurge explains that “A combination of scalable technology with wide reach communication via social media is creating an era of challengers.” Not only are these new disrupt brands challenging the leading brands they are also changing entire industries.


Brands like Uber, Airbnb, Dollar Shave Club, The Huffington Post and Netflix are changing the way we think about taxis, hotels, shavers, news and television. Adam Morgan author of Eating the Big Fish says the new generation challenger brands believe consumers have new motivations and culture, new habits and new sensibilities that these brands can focus on much easier and quickly than the established brands. They truly think outside the box and demonstrate there is a better way. As Morgan says it’s “about a state of mind, not a state of market. A state of mind committed to perpetually overthrowing the order of the category in an unreasonably short space of time, for a maximum return on energy and investment.”


So what are these digital David’s doing to catch the attention of consumers? Gillette and the Dollar Shave Club are two great examples. Gillette has been around for over a 100 years and enjoys a near-monopoly on razors. The last major product launch was the Fusion razor in 2006. Most recently they introduced the Flexball technology on the razor handle. For such a simple product it is the most expensive purchase outside of drugs in the drugstore. Razors are so expensive that the store needs to place them under locked up display or under security surveillance with an alarm system every time you take out a razor cartridge to reduce shoplifting. The reality is that you’re the one being robbed with such a functional tool to perform an unpleasant, daily task.


Along came the Dollar Shave Club who hit the internet in 2012 with its irreverent block-buster video that has almost 20 million views to announce that their “Blades Are F***ing Great”. Their attitude and approach has hit an emotional insight with many hairy men. The price point is attractive and the convenience and novelty of receiving your shaving kit every month including the member’s magazine called Bathroom Minutes is smart. Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015 that Dollar Shave Club is valued at $615 million and sales were $65 million in 2014. Michael Dubin, founder and CEO says they have “2 million members that get a shipment every month or every other month.” Not bad for an online brand that has only been around for three years! I am sorry to say Gillette Fusion is clearly not the best a man can get.



It’s less about big traditional brands becoming complacent or bigger is better. New and innovative digital brands are breaking consumer and marketing paradigm everyday with new business models that bypass the traditional marketing barriers of better distribution, better channels, better people, better suppliers, better network, better capital resources and better customer loyalty. The new digital challenger is faster, brighter and more passionate and the digital environment can make them a star over-night before Goliath has even had his Muesli, MultiVitamins and Boost energy drink.


Here are some offensive or defensive strategies that you can establish with your brand in a state of war:


Differentiate Throughout the Brand Experience
Build a stronger relationship with your customers beyond the product’s performance. Some brands are using gamification, unique social context, branded playgrounds and playful content to help standout and maintain relevance. Disney is a pro as it concerns enhancing the customer experience, through technology they give their guests the ability to customize their theme park experience with MyMagic+ and the MyDisneyExpereince.com to ensure guests have the most magical experience on earth.


Embrace Digital Technology
This is critical. Utilize digital technology to extend your brand beyond the traditional bricks and mortar or enhance the traditional experience. Implement superior e-commerce, introduce automation, connect through social media and integrate with leading app providers. Get smarter, faster with big data by mining and reacting to customer insights, and offer opportunities in a dynamic market situation. Nike has done a great job working with partners by introducing new apps and tools to help their customers enhance their brand experience.


Being a Challenger is a State of Mind
You don’t have to be an underdog to be passionate about providing the customer with the best product or brand experience. Always aiming higher should be part of the brand’s DNA. Some of the biggest brands today have instilled the David-like attitude in their brand DNA like Virgin brands, Zappos and Amazon.


Reshape the Consumer Paradigm
Challenger brands need to be innovating with every aspect of their brand. They need to be agile, focused on the customer value proposition, and constantly taking risks to make the customer experience better. Adam Morgan says it’s about challenging the appropriateness of the established brand of today and their relevance for the world of tomorrow. New times call for new brands and services. Apple changes the way customers interacted with music and now the change is to music streaming to brands like Songza, a free music streaming (unlike Pandora where you pay for a subscription) with playlists based on time of day, mood or activity. This was the brainchild of 23-year-old Aza Raskin. Launched in Canada in 2014 they acquired 1-million Canadian users in less than 70 days. The same model is happening in books with start-ups like Oyster books similar to the traditional subscription libraries.


Be Bold and Caring
I am not talking about in-your-face screaming bold but relevant, youthful and caring. It’s about moving towards making customers understanding that you have their best interest covered in an authentic manner. Today, consumers, especially Millennials, want a relationship with brands they like, and want to share these brands with their friends. In the digital world you need eye-balls to view your web content. You need to create brand content (images, blog, video) people want to share. Red Bull is a master when it comes to content generation and now uses it as another revenue stream.


Be Prepared to Fight
Today, every brand needs to be focused on what matters for their customers. If that means becoming more digital because that’s how your consumers are using technology, you need to be better than anyone else.


Re-framing your brand into a challenger brand doesn’t guarantee success but it will prepare you for the future. I look forward to new digital brands who will challenge the banking industry, change how we buy and sell real estate and force shopping malls to refine their purpose.


Everyone loves a hero. And everyone wants David to win.