Forget Disruption. Here’s How To Build An Enduring Brand Strategy.

by Alex Moulton on 12/17/2019 | 4 Minute Read

Every brand wants to have staying power—but every new brand also wants to hit the ground running, and fast. Because we live in a culture of infinite scrolling and instant gratification, lots of companies feel the need to focus their business strategies on breaking the mold right out the gate. As Silicon Valley pundits have long chanted, “disrupt or die.”

But let’s face it, we also live in a culture of finite attention. People have only so much time in the day, and only need so much stuff in their lives. With so many brands making so much noise, it can be hard to break through and establish a meaningful presence in the market. 

I’m here to argue that branding for differentiation or hype is one of the most significant factors standing in the way of long-term, successful branding today. The truth is, to build strong, lasting, engaging relationships with consumers, brands need to do more of the right thing—and less of everything else.

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Forget Disruption

If you’re aiming for an enduring brand strategy, the best thing you can do is to forget disruption. In the long-term, it’s a wasteful strategy emphasizing instant gratification over trust, loyalty, and cross-generational appeal.

If you're thinking of a disruptive design strategy, remember, just because something looks cool now doesn’t mean it will in five years. Having to rebrand from ground zero every time trends change is not only expensive and time-consuming, but it holds your company back from real progress and meaningful engagement.

Why not aim for simplicity and flexibility when developing your brand’s visual identity? Then craft a complementary strategy that is nimble enough to evolve with the times. To do that, you have to build your brand with meaning.

Find Meaning

Instead of endlessly disrupting, the most successful brands today use purpose as a through-line to focus on how they want to use their energy and influence. Instead of thinking about what other people are doing, they focus on themselves, resulting in a more authentic, engaging, and compelling “cool factor” overall.

Take companies like Airbnb, Nike, and Apple. Each has a clear but simple brand essence and purpose that permeates through everything they do; help create a world where you can belong anywhere. Inspire the athlete in everyone. Challenge the status quo.

In other words, all three champion a deeper meaning than selling something or “standing out.” Once you’ve defined your brand essence, you too can effectively, and economically, align it across your business, amplifying your message to the right consumers. Doing so helps brands cut waste, evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their practices, and tie every action, internally and externally, back into their core brand essence.

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Focus Your Content

When it comes to communicating that brand essence, one of the most substantial challenges that companies face today is harnessing the multi-platform power of today’s always-on digital, social, and video channels.

It used to be that the more content you made, the more engagement you got, particularly online. But that’s not true anymore. As former tech darlings like Ello and Yik Yak can attest, even if a product is lucky enough to break through and “go viral,” it’s hard to keep that up over time without a sustainable strategy or meaning attached. Your audience doesn’t want to feel like a void you’re shouting anonymously into for the sake of attention. They want to feel known, seen, and invested in.

This means cutting through the noise, creating less content, but something that had lasting value. It also means cutting back your messaging strategy by narrowing your reach to focus on high-value audiences. At every turn, enduring brands make investments for the long term—in communications, in staff, in products, in partnerships—over choosing to cast a wide net for a quick win.  

Dieter Rams famously said, “Less, but better.” I love that idea. At Trollbäck+Company, we have a philosophy: discard everything that means nothing. 

This, of course, requires us to return consistently to the meaning that we infused into our brand essence to keep us on track, keep us more sustainable, and keep us pursuing more effective, efficient long-term brand strategies with every company and every industry we work in.

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Forge Trust

In the long-run, brands become more powerful, more meaningful, more viable, as they earn our trust.

They do this by consistently adding value to our lives. Why are people willing to pay more for the name brand even when they know it’s the same as the generic? It’s because they believe that the name brand has more value because it has successfully communicated that value through a sustained relationship with their audience. In other words, it has created a level of trust that people can’t get from a generic product.

You build this trust over years of consistent communication, but it begins with a strategy for long-term success. One that eschews a preoccupation with disruption and meaningless noise, and focuses instead on creating the kinds of content, products, and relationships that matter.

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