Beyond the Screen: How Technology is Changing Branding (Again)

So you’ve got a brand.

If your company has done its due diligence, you’ve probably spent many valuable hours crafting your brand message, establishing your vision, mission, values, and personality. You probably have brand guidelines that detail what type of visuals and language to use and where to them. You have been going to market with a clear, unified understanding of what your brand represents in the eyes and hearts of your audience. Great. Good job.

Don’t look now, but technology is starting to change everything.

Traditionally, marketing teams had few elements to think about when defining and disseminating their brand. If you had a logo, a tagline, and a mission statement (and maybe a cute jingle or mascot) you were in good shape. Things started to change in the years following August 6, 1991, the day that Tim Berners-Lee published the first website.

During the early years of the internet — the “first wave” — brands suddenly had a new touchpoint to consider, the website, and a new question to ask: What role does our brand play online? But internet adoption was slow, especially for brands, and the challenge was relatively simple.

Branding online became more complex during the “second wave” of the internet, which introduced an added a layer of connectivity to the web’s infrastructure, including the introduction of social media and targeted advertising. Now companies could interact with their audience with newfound directness. As a result, new guidelines and messaging strategies were created to adapt a brand’s voice to a more conversational era.

Technology is once again creating new challenges and opportunities for brands. We are now entering the “third wave” of the internet, which introduces immersive technologies like virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, wearable devices, and conversational interfaces like voice-controlled speakers and chat bots.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be made without a screen.

Long restricted to the confines of the screen, the coming iteration of the internet will be ambient and omnipresent, enabling customers to evoke a brand or product with a spoken word or gesture. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be made without a screen. Immersive technologies will define the next 10 years of marketing. The time to start planning for this future is now.

Branding for the third wave.

At its core, a brand is the ideals and emotions a company evokes in customers. When using innovative technology, a brand’s vision, mission, and personality should remain intact. Having a consistent brand strategy is as important as ever. What changes is the delivery.

To prepare for what’s next, the question brands should start asking now is: How can we utilize technology to make communication with customers more natural? Just as social media made brands more personal, the third wave of the internet will widen the gap between brands who tell stories and build community and brands who merely push products.

The market for AR/VR is expected to surpass $100 billion by 2021, which will signal a paradigm shift for how people consume media.

Here are three ways to adapt your brand to the next generation:

1) Define your brand voice (literally)

Customer service is no longer the only way for brands to speak with audiences. Voice technology and smart speakers allow customers to converse with brands from the comfort of their homes. Amazon Alexa is adding 5,000 new third-party voice skills every 100 days, many of which come from brands. Taking advantage of platforms like Alexa and Google Home is a great way for brands to test the waters of voice before they can’t afford not to.

2) Tap into the network effect

The ubiquity of technology has democratized influence. Now everybody has a platform, even your customers. It’s been reported that 84% of millennials don’t trust advertising, but they do trust each other. This is why brands like Bumble are leveraging micro-influencers to reach eyeballs that would otherwise ignore them. The decentralized strategy of marketing through real people allows brand to humanize their message and earn trust. Consider who shares your brand values and start planning guidelines for when your customers are doing the talking.

3) Start building experiences

The websites of the future won’t be on screens. They will be accessed on surfaces, virtual reality headsets, or even glasses and contact lenses. This will allow brands to think beyond traditional UX and start building immersive — perhaps full sensory — environments. The market for AR/VR is expected to surpass $100 billion by 2021, which will signal a paradigm shift for how people consume media. Brands will inevitably find their place. How would your brand look and feel if customers could step inside and look around?

We’re currently in the experimentation phase of a new era. The sooner brands get past the awkward beginner stage, the sooner they’ll be ready for showtime when innovative technology is the new normal.

James McCrae

James McCrae

Director of Brand Strategy at Blue Fountain Media
James McCrae is a New York City based author and Director of Advisory at Blue Fountain Media.
James McCrae

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