Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

A Crisis of 'Brandbiguity'

Leading culture (or failing to do so) has a direct impact on buyer decision-making, spending-power and loyalty, writes Devries Global's Gemma Chaldecott

Today’s 24/7 content cycle has changed the marketing landscape entirely. With constant news, Tweets, posts, updates, likes and shares, brands are left scrambling to keep up. All of this content can feel overwhelming, especially for brands that want to stay relevant in a world of perpetual change. Unfortunately, companies that have led and influenced culture for generations are now too busy and too distracted. As a consequence, these brands start to chase culture, seeing more content and more output as the answer to a lack of attention.

Brands are, essentially, facing an identity crisis. They jump on popular culture 'trends' that bear no relevance to their brand values in a bid to stay 'in the feed'. How many times have you woken up after a pop culture moment to scroll down your Insta feed to the same image and message repeated over and over again? Although I’m a big Spice Girls fan, I for one am not looking forward to their reunion simply for the identi-posts about girl power.  

At Devries, we call this crisis 'Brandbiguity'.

It’s where everything looks the same – a lack of brand distinction. Why? Because to stand among is safer than standing out. Brands have forgotten how to connect with their audiences with meaning and relevance. And this connection is crucial to brands eradicating 'Brandbiguity'. We know this because we asked 2,000 UK consumers their views on today’s marketing efforts and the majority agreed that 'no brands connect with me on a cultural level through marketing'. That’s right. No. Brands.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

By looking at modern cultural values and tying these to beliefs and behaviours, brands can create content that is culturally relevant and true to their own unique identity.

A cultural approach requires more than a trend briefing or consumer segmentation study. These typically lead to endless duplication, as brands reach the same conclusions, turn to the same creative approaches and churn out the same visual content – over and over and over again. It’s the furnace in the machine that’s fuelling this era of Brandbiguity.

Rather, brands must fully immerse themselves in the people, technology and platforms that are defining culture. Doing so helps identify the trends, principles, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that make up our shared cultural values.  

So, who does this well? 

Nike is the de facto brand that isn’t afraid to stand for what it believes in culture. It dares to let women 'Dream Crazier' and reaps the benefits with loyal advocates and a tangible effect on the bottom line. From my own experience, I’ve seen Benefit Cosmetics become the UK’s #1 make-up brand without any above the line investment. All activity was driven by the firm belief that ‘Laughter Is the Best Cosmetic’ and brought to life to an ever growing legion of 'Benebabes' – whether that was a World Cup Pub for women or a branded boat on the Thames.  

Brands need to be aware that, as culture changes, new norms and modes of purchasing are socially accepted. The more comfortable people become with contactless payment, the more how they buy is going to change. This evolution comes with a demand: brands need to show up in the ways consumers are expecting. 

When exploring the impact of Brandbiguity on shoppers’ decision-making, 82.7% of Generation Z (16-24 year olds) said they would: 'Choose to buy with a brand', 'Spend more money with a brand', or 'Continue going to that brand' simply because that brand 'connects with me on a cultural level'. 

What this demonstrates is a crisis of expectation: consumers clearly want brands to connect with them, but these demands are not being met. 

The evidence, then, is explicit – leading culture (or failing to do so) has a direct impact on buyer decision-making, spending-power and loyalty.

To find out more about a culture-first approach, download the Devries Global report “A Crisis of Brandbiguity: Why Chasing Culture Doesn’t Work” here

Gemma Chaldecott is deputy MD UK at Devries Global