Why Flexible Branding Is the Future of Marketing
Brand standardization — a strategy that once dominated marketing departments around the world — is losing favor as companies strive to both customize and localize their brands to better fit the needs of a wide range of consumers.
Up until fairly recently, the prevailing sales and marketing strategies of most multinational chains encouraged standardization in almost all areas of operation. From store layouts to marketing tactics to the merchandise itself, big players like Walmart, McDonald's and Best Buy once aimed to make their processes as uniform as possible, even down to the supply chain.
Brand standardization might be more convenient and cost-efficient for companies in the long-term, but it’s never truly catered to a diverse consumer base. And in fact, there’s never been a one-size-fits-all consumer. Back in the 1970s, the demographic survey company Claritas (since bought by Nielsen) identified 40 different lifestyle segments — corresponding to ethnicity, age, wealth, urbanization, housing styles and family structures — within the U.S. population alone. And today, that number has ballooned to 66.
Brand Flexibility and Customer-Centricity Matters Offline
If that wasn’t enough of a diversity of opinion, geography also plays a massive role in influencing consumer preferences.
To this end, many major retail chains have adopted brand flexibility, implementing a localized and customized approach to staffing, marketing, pricing and customer service. This attention to the varying needs and desires of disparate populations pays off.
To use one particularly illustrative example, Walmart found that labeling pesticides as “ant and roach killer” sold well in the southern United States, but that northerners didn’t like the word “roach.” After labeling the pesticide as “ant killer” up north, sales in the region skyrocketed.
Brand Flexibility and Customer-Centricity Matters Online
With the Internet serving as the proverbial world in the palm of marketers’ hands, companies can target niche audiences across a whole host of demographics and regions.
For example, if you access some sites site from, say, Massachusetts, the text will be in English, but if you access the site from Tanzania, the site’s text will be in Swahili.
This customization not only renders the experience of visiting the site more personal, but also conveys a sense of locality. Though the brand may be multinational, this ability to customize confers a sense of immediacy and proximal closeness that, in turn, can foster brand loyalty.
What the Future Holds
For online shoppers, customization matters. A 2015 joint study produced by Magnetic and Retail TouchPoints revealed that more than 50 percent of Internet users preferred websites that catered to their interests, age, location and taste. Further to that point, a Common Sense Advisory report found that 72 percent of global consumers prefer to use their native language while shopping online, while 55 percent would only consider buying from e-commerce marketers who provide product descriptions in their own language.
As more and more businesses ditch the “one-size-fits-all” model, brand flexibility has found a foothold in the ever-changing marketing landscape.