Is branding getting harder? Every generation of marketers probably thinks it’s got the biggest challenges (just ask the perpetually scowling Don Draper of Mad Men fame).

But while I believe these are very exciting times for marketers, it does seem like we are in midst of some unique challenges that require not new thinking…but a more diligent adherence to the fundamentals that have always made brands strong.

I discussed this in more detail on a webinar in partnership with a Getty Images. This was an informative event with lots of insight from experts and contributions from webinar participants. I urge you to watch for further events like this to stay up to date on branding and marketing industry news.

You can catch the entire presentation HERE.

Below is a recap of what I see as the top challenges and some strategies to navigate through them (with or without the Don Draper martinis).

3 Top Branding Challenges 

#1 Cutting Through the Increasing Clutter
Advertising and messaging clutter is not a new issue, but it’s one that’s getting worse. Why is this? There has been a shift from mass media to a greater number of more targeted channels. However, since most consumers still view multiple channels, this means that they see more messages. The average HH has 300 channels vs. 61 in 2000. Also new technologies mean that consumers are exposed to messages on new devices- like smart phones and tablets. Lastly many retail stores, have decided that more merchandise means more chances to get consumers attention and share of wallet so they are increasing the number of in-store displays and have even raised shelf heights to cram in more

The irony that brands like Apple and Target, which have stuck to a more streamlined, visually curated and consistent presentation are outpacing their more “manic” competition.

What’s the implication for Brands? It seems that shouting louder is not the solution. Brands need to be smarter (consistent, choiceful and distinctive) about visual presentation –to both get noticed AND be remembered.

#2 Confidence Has Been Shaken And Consumers Are Taking Back the Brand
This has been a difficult few years for consumer confidence. The financial crisis and the misdeeds of a few high profile brands has led to a general decrease in consumer’s trust in big brands, big business and big government. At the same time, the growth of social media has meant that advice and opinions from friends and other consumers is easier than ever to access and user generated content is becoming the go to source for information in many categories. In fact, 51% of consumers rank user-generated content as the most trusted source of brand and product information (compared to only roughly 6% who say that ads are the most trusted source). Brands that have taken a more transparent and interactive approach and invited consumers in to the conversation seem to be making strides to re-gaining this trust and standing out. Doritos consumer generated ads for the 2012 Super Bowl were declared the “winner” both in terms of consumer buzz and creativity. The rapid rise of Pinterest, an online pin board, is effectively turning consumers in to magazine editors and taste-makers a la Anna Wintour overnight.

What’s the implication of this for visual branding? The important thing for marketers is to be part of the consumer conversation but still maintain a level of brand consistency and quality that helps re-build trust, navigate the sea of available information (both true and false) and facilitate choice.

#3 Brands Are Becoming More Local And More Global…At The Same Time
There has been a shift towards a grass roots movement where consumers are attempting to take control of their own destinies – occupying Wall Street and Main streets all over the country. There has been a shift to a desire for more local content and goods as it is often viewed as more authentic and relevant to consumers. AOL’s The Patch hyper local news sites tripled traffic in 2011, in an industry where traditional newspapers are continuing to decline. Business Week recently reported 130 cities now host “Buy Local” groups up from 41 in 2006. At the same time there is an increasing connection with other communities across the globe particularly among Millennial. Among this generation “We” as they are sometimes called, 54% of US Millennial believe they have more in common with young adults in other countries than older generations in the US. Just look at the meteoric global rise of One Direction a boy band that originated from the X Factor in the UK and through the power of social media has gained fans all over the world in record time. In fact One Direction became the first British group in history to debut at number one in the US.

What’s the implication of this for visual branding? Branders need to make sure that products feel both locally relevant and globally accessible. This means choosing imagery that feels personal but still maintains a consistent feel across territories. It also means having the right systems in place to be able to easily access the content both locally and globally, often with diverse and autonomous teams.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Is your brand facing and navigating these challenges?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


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