The common themes that emerged from 2020 are that strong brands will endure if they are nurtured, says a recently published Forrester report. However, these brands need to be comfortable with weak control, given that the age of hypermanaged branding is over. Strong brands will increasingly be built from the community up.

The report, titled “Brand Spotlight, 2020: Six Brands Shine in the Most Challenging of Years”, authored by principal analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee, identifies six brands that thrived despite adversity in 2020. They include both traditional commercial brands and non-traditional brands: TikTok, White Claw, Walmart, Lululemon, Black Lives Matter and women leaders of countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan and Finland.

TikTok and White Claw are brands at the forefront of culture. TikTok was recognised for its explosive growth and for creating a differentiated, relatable and authentic offering with the power to transform culture. White Claw, an alcoholic seltzer manufactured by Irish company Mark Anthony Brands International, makes the list for its ability to create a whole new category that was always in plain sight but eluded the big brands – and for breaking cultural boundaries and avoiding “legacy sexist tropes”.

Brands that have made smart investments include Walmart and Lulelemon. Walmart was recognised for mastering digital transformation and omnichannel, while at the same time reinventing the brand to position it to address the pandemic. Athletic apparel retailer Lululemon makes the list for reaffirming its commitment to brand experiences as the engine of growth for its community and for thinking beyond apparel and retail to involve itself with the community’s wellbeing.

Two unusual, but nonetheless remarkable, examples of nontraditional brands – both of which blazed the trail for social change – are women leaders and the Black Lives Matter movement, says the report. Women leaders who guided their nations through adversity and saved lives elevated their national brands, while the Black Lives Matter movement reshaped brand values and epitomised the virality of decentralised brand growth.

The lessons from these brands, says the report, is that strong brands make a significant and ongoing investment in customer engagement and loyalty which future-proof them against crises. As the power continues to shift from brands to consumers, brands can no longer employ “old-style command-and-control brand management”. Lastly, “accessible digital experiences fuel communities that create brand icons and category leaders”.

The big take-out:

Strong brands will flourish when they are nurtured but they need to be comfortable with yielding control to their communities and allowing the brand to be built from the community up, says a Forrester report.


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