If we are to believe the mythical anticipation books and films of the last century, brands have a much brighter future than men.
In the famous Minority Report movie, they offer guided, immersive, real-time experiences to passers-by who are no longer at all anonymous. In 2054, these are two emblematic brands that invite themselves on the path of John Anderton: Guinness and American Express, two brands that we can easily imagine active in few decades. In Blade Runner this time, brands preempt public space with grandeur and optimism in a world where men wander hopelessly in relentless rain. A PanAm hostess invites you to escape without an airplane, a sign of the future swing of tourism into a 100% neuronal experience. The brands are becoming excuses to the imaginative future building projections of the writers.
All these representations from the imagination of Philip K. Dick illustrate the fact that brands are the image of the society described in them: in a predictive world, they offer predictive experiences. Whether young or old, yesterday or tomorrow, brands are still deeply rooted in the present and in people’s lives. Is this the sign of an eternity?
I had the pleasure the have a talk lately about post-COVID attitudes to brand (using a methodology from Neon42 https://neon42.com) and I named it ‘Sleeping Beauties — post COVID brand strategies’. I think I wanted to make a point — maybe — that brands can never really die. Brands have a power forbidden to humans: immortality. Many old, forgotten or backward-looking brands have thus resuscitated.
You have so many examples of brands that came back from the past. I’m not even sure that we can make a clear list that would satisfy everybody — because those brands will touch people differently or would have mutated to fit better the times — they would feel different for what they’ve been famous for, sometimes a century ago. After having known dark hours in our cupboards, Champions is becoming again a must-have in your streetwear style. After being the cool guys in town with their hoodie, they quickly became synonymous with bad taste and poor budget. So, they did the only thing they could do: be cool again by hanging out with the cool kids. In 2010, they partnered up with Supreme (a growing brand attracting all the hype) to collaborate on some products — which were successful. And those partnerships led us to some worldwide influencers like Kanye West and other fashion icons.
Being part of the cultural heritage, having succeeded in creating strong and lasting popular imagery often with the help of talented advertisers. And have achieved major economic success thanks to an iconic product or service. This branded “mythology” is a risk insurance against oblivion. Whoever wants to resurrect or survive. For this, the brand must have a “plasticity”: the power to stay up to date while preserving the authenticity of its capital. A constituent element of past communication, founding myth, world view or unique product mix … capital is not everything. In addition, essential exogenous elements are added: the adequacy of the brand’s “purpose” with the current society, the ability of its owners to maintain and grow this capital, but also the temporal, industrial and financial resources available — the brand is a spendthrift.
That’s why, in Neon42, we created a specific methodology that we named James Bond tool — one of the brands around that never got old. It’s really about identifying the core assets and values of the brand and make the exercise to filter them through the nowadays context and understanding. Have a look there for more explanation.
The brand’s spirit remains, its body evolves. Let’s not go too far: let’s say, in 2026. The currency has completed its digital transformation, Visa is still a strong brand. Instead of cards that have now disappeared, Visa is buried in our smartphone or directly inserted in a nanochip in our body. No more physical existence, therefore, only a logo guarantee and pledge of quality. Looking back this time, Google is announcing that it is embarking on the autonomous car: a 100% physical product from our old industry. Is it credible? Yes. Because Google’s value proposition lies in its ability to build intelligence from data. What matters is not the “car” object but the ability to design a future model of autonomy. This demonstrates the strength of a brand capable of opening up several different markets.
But the role of innovation is really key in making brands lasting for good. Innovation refers to the introduction into the market of a new or significantly improved product or process compared to those previously developed. So to be clear, it’s a bout product innovations (goods or services) and process (including organizational and marketing innovations). And if you think deeply about the latest, then, you understand that brands are here to stay, in a way or form or another. Keep moving. And being well alive.