What did 2012 teach us about branding?

Facebook, Obama and Hurricane Sandy provide insight.

If 2012 is any indication, new products, local causes, and big data will all be important for brands in 2013. That’s according to Anne Bahr Thompson, founding partner of Onesixtyfourth.

Bahr Thompson looked to arguably the three biggest brand stories of the year: the transition of the Obama political brand, the missteps of the Facebook brand, and the creation of the Hurricane Sandy community-building brand to compile branding advice for the coming year.

“Facebook’s IPO raised significant questions about its willingness to engage with users as people rather than just consumers,” she says. “President Obama’s election victory was owed, in no small part, to the record number of Millennials who voted, reflecting their feeling that ‘real’ leadership was what was missing from government. And Hurricane Sandy, though technically not a brand, brought tens of thousands of volunteers — with particularly strong showings by Millennials — to personally engage in providing hands-on help to storm victims in New York and New Jersey."

Looking back on 2012, what lessons can marketers draw from arguably the three biggest brand stories of the year: the transition of the Obama political brand, the missteps of the Facebook brand, and the creation of the Hurricane Sandy community-building brand?

Looking at these and other key branding events of 2012, Bahr Thompson had these predictions about brands in 2013:

1.  Successful campaigns will be about enriching lives not aspiration. Brands will further emphasize basic values such as integrated service and product excellence, durability and reliability.

2.  Good brand citizenship will become an operating principle. Brands that integrate philanthropy, employee volunteering programs and best operational practice into a platform simultaneously based on and supporting brand values will stand apart.

3.  Good citizenship will be leveraged across the brand experience to cultivate deeper consumer loyalty. Companies will begin to widen their definition of good citizenship to include uplifting people’s daily lives and integrate meaningful initiatives into routine experiences of their products and services.

4.  Delivering locally will give brands global credibility. Leadership brands will address more local issues that are pertinent to their consumers' lives before they campaign on behalf of global challenges.

5.  Big data will enable individual freedom. Favorite brands will leverage big data to understand the lives of consumers and develop relationships and personalized experiences with individual people, allowing them to feel more freedom and less constrained rather than spied on.

6.  Digital platforms will enable brands to better integrate into people’s lives. Digital interaction, including social media and apps, will further evolve to enable brands, regardless of their category, to engage more in people’s daily lives while simultaneously allowing people to participate in development of the brand.

7.  New will continue to be the new normal. Because constant advancement is the norm, brand favorites will continue to innovate to remain relevant; and since people have deep loyalty with a highly selective few favorite brands, more new products will be launched under existing brands rather than new ones.

Onesixtyfourth is a trend-based, brand and communications strategy boutique that connects brand values with people’s values. The company specializes in insight, foresight, strategy and innovation and focuses on making it easier for brands to reach, communicate and interact with customers.

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