50 Brand Management Trends Every Brand Manager & Marketer Should Know in 2018

By Angela Stringfellow - Last updated

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Branding is one of those dynamic and ever-changing fields. Far more than just the colors you use and the words you say, brand management is more complex than simply controlling your brand narrative.

Today, building your brand means understanding the full picture. Not only must you understand the big stuff – marketing trends and channels, for example – but you must also keep your eyes on the changing details: shifting tones, trending expectations, consumer statistics, and other external factors that influence and shape how you present and reform your brand, day by day and year by year.

From developing a powerful brand positioning statement to identifying (and leveraging) brand assetsensuring brand consistency, there’s a lot that goes into a brand management strategy. What’s more, as consumer behaviors and expectations change and other external factors influence brand perception, today’s brand managers always must be on their toes, ready to adapt to change and embrace trends. To help you do just that, we’ve compiled a list of 50 of the most prominent brand management trends influencing brand strategy today, including:

Keep reading to learn more about the trends shaping branding today and how you can leverage them to solidify your brand in the modern landscape.

Branding Trends Impacting Consumer Relationships

1. Get Personal
@SmartInsights

Get Personal

You may have noticed that brands are a lot less formal than they used to be. That’s because the public wants to relate to you; they want to feel they know you, before they can trust you. In other words, consumers want an authentic relationship and a personalized experience.

This is where that omnipresent buzzword – storytelling– really comes into play. As Smart Insights explains, storytelling is an essential element of brand management. Why? Because you don’t just sell a product or service; you sell an experience. Every social media post, every ad, every piece of collateral tells a story. So, as you get personal, personalize your brand message. Focus not only on your client and the stories they want to hear, but the brand personality you hope to project. Humanize your brand and your brand will be better for it.

2. Find Your Cause
@dbiweb

Find Your Cause

Brands have long put forth a neutral image: Offend no one and you’ll catch more fish. Well, that trend is changing. Today, an estimated 91% of Millennials report that they prefer brands that support a cause, according to Digital Branding Institute. (Hi, Nike.) Not only do social causes help create personal connections, but standing up for something you believe also helps demonstrate company values while simultaneously humanizing your brand.

3. Market with Purpose
@adage

Market with Purpose

In the same vein as finding your cause, brands should now look to connect with consumers on an emotional level. Known as purpose-driven marketing, successful brands now hone in on their target audience based on shared interests, needs, and passions, as AdAge explains. Partner with charities, give back to your community, work with nonprofits – embrace what you care about and, in the process, let your purpose flag fly.

4. Interact, Don’t Transact
@BrandingInsider

Interact, Don’t Transact

There are few things today’s consumers hate more than being seen as a transaction. Instead, digital branding has increasingly turned toward emotional interactions, rather than transactions, explains Branding Strategy Insider. In other words, treat your customers as people, not dollar signs.

5. Stay Relevant
@ProphetBrand

Stay Relevant

If you think the world is too big to support old-fashioned word-of-mouth, then you’d be wrong. Today, relevance means being talked about: As Prophet explains, if your branding is strong enough, your product good enough, your customer service excellent enough, then you stay relevant in consumer’s minds. They will talk about you to others. And then, you’ll sell your product via word-of-mouth.

6. Be Honest (aka Tell the Truth)
@Adweek

Be Honest

We have all heard the term “fake news” – over and over and over again, so much so that the phrase has become a permanent fixture on the political and cultural landscape. An unforeseen result: Consumers are now suspicious of everything and everyone they hear. They will assess your branding and marketing effort with critical, untrusting eyes.

Adweek reminds us that your brand must be fully committed to your promises. Be prepared to back them up. Do not use marketing jargon or fluffy language: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Embrace honesty. And, as already mentioned, always be authentic.

7. Be Optimistic
@Adweek

Be Optimistic

Now more than ever, no one likes a pessimist. In fact, Adweek points out that consumers now want optimism from their brands. They want fun and bold, colorful and playful. They want personality. And yes, they prefer the glass half-full, in everything from your logo, to your brand voice, to your every interaction.

8. Be Novel
@dana_fdn

Be Novel

The world loves novelty. In fact, humans need novelty, according to The Dana Foundation. New makes us feel good. Translating this to your branding, your brand needs new. You must innovate. Whether you’re offering a new perspective to your marketing or trying something completely different, the goal is to attract attention through newness.

9. Have a Conversation
@Adweek

Have a Conversation

Long gone are the days when most consumers would consume your marketing, then purchase without any further interaction, Adweek explains. Today, you cannot just speak; you must listen. You cannot just send out advertisements; you must receive questions. You cannot just sell; you must first serve. Instead of defining the customer journey, you are now called upon to create the experiences that empower customers to create their own journeys [to you].

10. Wear Your Conscience on Your Sleeve
@Forbes

Wear Your Conscience on Your Sleeve

 

While some trends on this list will come and go, some will ascend to permanent significance. Corporate conscience is one of the latter. This is about more than a cause or a purpose: It is about the core beliefs of your brand. It is about alleviating more than the individual’s problem, and moving on to your bigger goals – to the challenges and problems faced by society, and how your brand will make the change you wish to see in the world. In this Forbes article, contributor William Craig explains why brands with a social conscience are here to stay.

General Brand Marketing Trends

11. Forget Millennials; Focus on Generation Z
@RetailDive

Forget Millennials; Focus on Generation Z

Shocking but true: The oldest members of Generation Z are now in their twenties. Yes, their twenties. They are graduating college and joining the workforce. They are entering the economy. Their buying power is on the rise. Generation Z is your up-and-coming target market. Buckle up.

Both Millennials and Generation Z are tech savvy, but Generation Z treats technology as an extension of their own limbs. They are more willing to treat their smartphones and other technology as a purchase platform. In fact, Retail Dive points out that 29% of “older Gen Z” members (vs. just 12% of near-in-age “younger Millennials”) state that they consider word of “mouth,” aka social media to be the most influential form of marketing.

In other words, if you ignore Generation Z today you’ll be playing catch-up tomorrow.

12. Make Room for Real-World Experiences
@CreativeBloqMake Room for Real-World Experiences

The world lives online and in response, brands often opt for online content. Be different. Don’t discount the growing value of real-world experiences. Creative Bloq recommends infusing design thinking into your product development, your hospitality, your brand environments – into the physical spaces that help differentiate you from the next guy, even before you make a sale.

13. Put Mobile First
@go_media

Put Mobile First

Mobile hardly feels like a 2018 but trend, but we argue it is. Why? Because by now, your customers aren’t just mobile, they’re majority mobile, as Go Media reports. In other words, every email you send, every blog post you write, every video you send, every call-to-action you have – they’re most likely being consumed on mobile, often almost exclusively mobile. If those emails, posts, videos, and CTAs aren’t mobile friendly, then your brand isn’t either. Employ shorter subject lines, narrower CTA buttons, and more frequent paragraph returns.

14. Create Exceptional Content
@jboitnott

Create Exceptional Content

The time has passed on phoning in your content: Exceptional, educational, so-good-they’d-almost-pay-for-it content is the name of today’s game. Always put quality over quality – as John Boitnott explains in this Inc. article, it’s better to post valuable content less frequently, than low-value content more frequently – and focus on educating, interesting, and offering in-depth explorations of the topics that matter most to your target audience.

15. Connect Your Marketing Strategies
@NewBreedMktg

Connect Your Marketing Strategies

Today’s marketing is unified – discussed, brainstormed, perfected, and embraced by various representatives from throughout your company, according to New Breed Marketing. Note: We’re not talking about marketing implementation, but rather marketing development: every department has a unique understanding of consumer requirements and preferences, so every department’s suggestions should be considered when developing a new and, hopefully, successful marketing strategy. A digital marketing manager is often hired as a unifying, interdepartmental liaison.

16. Always Consider the Context
@TheReference

Always Consider the Context

Branding today is more scattered than ever: You’re online. You’re on social. You’re in the real world. You may still be in print, too. All these presences must be seamlessly collected, so their applications, consumption, and experiences are easily understood by consumers. This is known as context marketing – as The Reference explains, the ability to deliver the right experience, to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right place.

17. Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice
@CMIContent

Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

There are few things worse for your brand than inconsistent brand voice – a tone that sputters, diverges, and confuses on its meandering path from website to advertising to social to email. The Content Marketing Institute suggests taking the time to create brand voice guidelines to keep your company consistent across everything from your overall tone (are you casual? hip? buttoned-up?) to your word choice, grammar, and punctuation (will you or won’t you embrace the Oxford comma?).

18. Embrace Technology
@Capterra

Embrace Technology

Your workforce has probably gone global, which means you probably have at least a few remote professionals on the payroll. There’s no better way to bridge the gap – to ensure consistent branding, from voice to color choice – than to utilize a dynamic content management platform (like those reviewed by Capterra) to centralize your digital collateral, marketing, and branding messages.

19. Stay on Top of Customer Expectations
@Qualtrics

Inform Yourself

Branding decisions do not exist in a vacuum: Before you make any choice, it is important to understand both internal (company-focused) and external (customer-centered) factors, including current technologies, customer expectations (as Qualtrics points out), and branding trends. Keep yourself informed of the entire branding landscape, and you’ll be able to make more informed decisions.

20. Believe There Are No Limits
@brandless

Believe There Are No Limits

Throw the rule book out the window; today, everything is negotiable. Take Brandless.com, an entire company founded on the premise of no branding and no limits. Everything’s under $3 and there’s not a brand label in sight. Indeed, you can now create, market, and profit off a brand that’s not a brand. In other words, when it comes to branding, don’t be afraid to create your own box.

21. Let the Creative Inspiration Roll In
@Forbes

Let the Creative Inspiration Roll In

It’s easy to get so caught up in your day-to-day, that you don’t leave any room for creativity. But creativity is exactly what your brand needs. If you want to stand out from the crowd – from your competition, specifically – then you need to make space for creativity, research current trends, embrace new ideas, and innovate new brand strategies. In this article, the Forbes Coaches Council shares 13 creative branding tactics that can help you stand out from the crowd.

22. Stop the Stereotypes
@MarketingWeekEd

Stop the Stereotypes

Terrible but true: According to Marketing Week, a recent global analysis shows that “50% of ads showed a negative or “not progressive” stereotype of women and less than 1% showed funny women.” Gender stereotypes, racial stereotypes – any stereotypes are officially out the door in 2018. Be different: Defy stereotypes when you promote your brand. Embrace diversity. Be inclusive. Represent all your customers.

23. Develop Micro-Content for Micro-Search
@ThinkwithGoogle

Develop Micro-Content for Micro-Search

Micro-search, also called on-demand or personal search, is growing, according to Think with Google: Customers want to search hyper-specific questions for real-time, equally specific answers. And, while they are most likely not searching for in-depth answers – after all, they’re searching almost exclusively on mobile – they do want an instant and satisfying reaction from your brand. Get ahead of the trend by delivering fast, hyper-relevant answers via your FAQ, social, blog, and other content.

Branding Trends in Social Media

24. Interlace Your Social Media
@SproutSocial

Interlace Your Social Media

Social media is out there and it’s not going away, but that doesn’t mean you have to be everywhere, at once. Instead, select the right networks and then connect your branding story: Your social presence should be clearly connected and undeniably you. Invest your time, efforts, and human resources only where you can and will excel. In this post, Sprout Social offers valuable social media branding strategies for every business.

25. Trust in Influencer Marketing
@leveragemktg
Trust in Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is nothing new but it is increasingly promising: An incredible 49% of consumers rely on influencer recommendations before making a purchase, according to Leverage Marketing. What’s more, an estimated 67% of your competitors are using influencer marketing to carve out their competitive edge. Don’t get left behind.

26. Embrace an Authentic Audience
@AgilityPRS

Embrace an Authentic Audience

In addition to influencer marketing – sponsored advertising through influencers – you can also build an authentic audience through influencer relationships. In other words, if you can genuinely impress an influencer, then you open your brand up to the third-person effect: the belief that certain third parties are impartial judges and therefore offer authentic and reliable recommendations, as Agility PR Solutions explains.

27. Focus on Facebook Mobile
@contently

Focus on Facebook Mobile

It may be surprising to hear, but Facebook is one of the last remaining social media sites that wasn’t originally designed to be used on mobile. And, while that may seem like nothing more than a Trivial Pursuit tidbit, what it really means is that you have an opportunity: Facebook is going fully mobile and it’s estimated that by 2020, 59% of Facebook users will access the site only through mobile, Contently reports. Ready yourself now.

28. Brand with Video. Lots of Video!
@WordStream

Brand with Video. Lots of Video!

Video marketing has long been on the rise – and it just keeps rising! We’re talking Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and the ever-present, ever-popular YouTube, all of which offer exceptional opportunities to connect instantly with customers and grow your brand through the Internet’s most popular medium. (Did you know? 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week, according to WordStream.)

Don’t restrict video to how-tos and tutorials; be sure to post inspirational content, uplifting shorts, and other feel-good video that incites interest, provides value, and represents share-worthy content.

29. Open Your Ears to Social Listening
@TrackMaven

Open Your Ears to Social Listening

As Track Maven explains, social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations with a specific goal in mind. Instead of monitoring for chatter about your brand, today’s trend is to monitor for questions related to, but not directed at your brand: Where can I buy _____? Can anyone recommend a _____? Does anyone know _____? Then, answer them.

30. Keep Your Eye on Twitter
@Recode

Keep Your Eye on Twitter

Once a darling of social media, Twitter failed to see any significant growth in 2017. (By comparison, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others did grow.) In fact, Twitter hasn’t grown in years. As such, the platform has shifted its focus from growth to value: “Don’t invest in Twitter for the massive audience it will one day have. Invest in Twitter because of what it can make from the smaller audience it already has,” says Kurt Wagner in this article for Recode.

31. Embrace Disruption
@BrandingInsider

Embrace Disruption

So many catch phrases, so little time. Welcome to disruption marketing, an ever-changing strategy that stands at the crossroads of your brand and your customers. Today, it is not your brand alone that controls your content, media, conversations, and decision-making journeys; today, brands must collaborate with consumers. Herein lies the definition of disruptive marketing: Your brand must overthrow old paradigms to embrace new consumer preferences, in order to stay relevant in today’s market, Branding Strategy Insider explains.

32. Keep Tight Control on Social Media
@brianmfreeman

Keep Tight Control on Social Med

Brand managers know that social media is a walk in the park – a mythical park, where the landscape is ever-changing, monsters can jump out from behind bushes, and even the nicer sections have their fair share of trolls. Indeed, social media is ever-changing, making it easy for brands to lose control after updated algorithms or third-party disruptions. (Think: Twitter’s shift from chronological feed to an algorithm-driven feed.) Keep abreast of upcoming social changes, suggests Brian Freeman in this article at Brand Quarterly, and you’ll have a better chance of controlling your brand narrative.

33. Invest in Native Ads
@Sharethrough

Invest in Native Ads

Today, traditional display ads (ex. banner ads) have low click-through rates. Native ads, on the other hand, can prove much more effective with today’s consumer – to the tune of a 9% more brand favorability and an 18% higher purchase intent, over traditional display ads, Sharethrough reports. That’s because native ads – promoted stories, recommended content, and similar ads – are seen as “native” to their environment, while banner ads can be “intrusive.” Go native.

34. Publish on Social Media (Literally)
@LinkedIn

Publish on Social Media (Literally)

We know – you’re already active on social media. That’s not what we mean, though. Following in the footsteps of LinkedIn and Facebook’s Instant Articles, be prepared for some social media to shift from posting platforms to self-contained publishing platforms (especially for B2B businesses). Don’t let the trend get away from you: Jump aboard before you’re the last one and laying catch-up. Check out this tutorial for an overview of publishing on LinkedIn.

35. Brand Your Community
@elegantthemes

Brand Your Community

Online branded communities are a major trend in branding – and for good reason. Not only does your community provide a platform to discuss your brand and products, but it gives you a place to talk consumer needs, your product, and their intersection, far outside the traditional sales environment. It’s a different dynamic and one that your customers readily embrace. In this article, Elegant Themes offers valuable tips and best practices for effective community management.

36. Get Creative with Customer Loyalty
@MarketingDonut

Get Creative with Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is no longer a 1 + 1 = 2 kind of equation. In today’s environment, you need to get a little creative with the customer experience to cultivate exceptional customer loyalty. The end goal: Differentiate yourself (and your customer experience) from your competitors, whether it’s with a motivational motto, emotional connections, company events, or other stand-out actions to stoke loyalty. Get more tips on building customer loyalty in this article from Marketing Donut.

Trends in Branding Automation

37. Promote for Immersive Interactions
@uxplanet

Promote for Immersive Interactions

Both Millennials and Generation Z – major markets, as already discussed – are very tech savvy. To compete for their market, UX Planet says you must adapt to and adopt immersive technology: chatbots, for immediate and targeted interactions; social proof, to boost confidence and demonstrate real-time purchase activity; live chat, so you can offer person-to-person help, as consumers browse your site; and others.

38. Embrace Chatbots
@TheMissionHQ

Embrace Chatbots

We know – it seems like the advice regarding chatbots is contradictory: embrace them but don’t use them, because consumers want a personal experience – right? Right. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use chatbots; you just shouldn’t overuse chatbots. In fact, chatbots do what humans can’t: they answer every, single consumer immediately, providing immediate interactions and relevant messaging in a world that demands instant gratification. Larry Kim shares 11 intriguing examples of how companies are putting chatbots to use in this article at The Mission on Medium.

39. Put the Brakes on Automation
@BrennerMichael

Put the Brakes on Automation

It’s true – since the dawn of automation a few years ago, we’ve been caught up in a storm of chatbots, drip campaigns, lead-generating algorithms, and other automated processes. Automation is still excellent marketing but you must personalize your automation: designate a very specific audience for your email campaigns or use chatbots to direct users to real humans. Personalization comes first, automation second. In this article from Marketing Insider Group, Michael Brenner shares 35 marketing automation tools that can help you personalize the customer journey.

Branding Design Trends

40. Invest in Responsive Logos
@a_dozen_eggs

Invest in Responsive Logos

Responsive logos have been around for at least a decade and today, they’re industry standard. So, why is this a branding trend for 2018? Because now, with mobile as the go-to medium for most consumers, responsive logos have taken on new meaning: Today, brands are simplifying their logo design specifically for mobile. Today, logos are designed for mobile first, and then responsively adapted to desktop and other displays. Get the scoop on responsive logos in this article from A Dozen Eggs.

41. Go for Gradients (aka Color Transitions)
@AWWARDS 

Go for Gradients (aka Color Transitions)

If you’re a modern, trend-forward brand, then you need to look the part. Flat design has been trendy for more than a decade, but what’s old is now new again: gradients – now called “color transitions” – are back, mostly as eye-catching enhancements and complements to flat design. The new term: semi-flat design, or flat 2.0. Check out this article from Awwwards for insights on trendy gradients in web design.

42. Go Bold. Literally.
@99designs

Go Bold. Literally.

When it comes to color choice, today’s brands know it’s time to go vibrant. Be daring. Look to strong, primary colors, neutral metallics, color overlays, saturated images, and even bold typography to draw the eye and differentiate your brand. Get more insider info on the most dazzling color trends of 2018 from 99 Designs.

43. But Also, Stay Minimal
@CreativeMarket

But Also, Stay Minimal

Bold choices and pops of color may be de rigueur, but brands still favor the overall minimalist design trend. Employ plenty of whitespace. Simplify your logo. Pare down copy. Focus on imagery. Go on, fully embrace minimalism. Check out this article from Creative Market to find out why less is more.

44. Stay Simple
@Amazon

Stay Simple

Following the minimalist trend, today’s branding design is resoundingly simple. Instead of adding to your design, subtract to add value. For example, in the busy consumer culture of today, Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging promises easy-open packages, recyclable packaging, and other simplicity to take the clutter out of purchases.

45. Learn from the Color of the Year
@Pantone

Learn from the Color of the Year

Every year, Pantone chooses the Color of the Year – the hue that represents the cultural climate of the following year. In 2018, that color is Ultra Violet (18-3838), a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade [that] communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.” As for its implications on branding, “enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of countercultureunconventionality, and artistic brilliance.”

Internal Brand Management Trends

46. Collaborate Internally
@BeSmarp

Collaborate Internally

It sounds very 2015 but it’s 2018 and it’s finally time for serious, next-level internal collaboration, says Smarp. The key takeaway here is that your brand management department is not an island and so, your branding message needs to infuse every level, nook, and cranny of your company. Every arm of your organization must present the same public face – the same branding message. And that message must be always consistent, no matter its point of origin.

47. Be Authentic
Be Authentic

We touched on this above, but this is definitely the time to ensure brand authenticity. In fact, a recent study shows that, “brand authenticity positively affects brand relationship quality, which in turn positively influences consumers’ behavioral intentions,” according to the paper, authored by Kristine Fritz. Not only can authenticity help differentiate your brand, but it showcases your company’s values and message.

It all goes back to personalization: In order to be authentic, you must first personalize your interactions with each individual customer. Then, show them you’re about more than sales and the bottom line. Add the human element and your corporation will thrive for it.

48. Instill Confidence
@customerthink

Instill Confidence

Consumers want to know they can trust your brand. Yes, social media, ratings, reviews, and other user-generated confidence will influence consumer confidence. But, it’s more than that:  Everything you do – from design, to your privacy policy (in plain language), to your user experience – says something about how trustworthy you are (or deserve to be). Trust is not the default anymore, not even (and perhaps, especially not) for large companies. View your every activity and interaction through the lens of a distrustful public. Check out this article from Customer Think for valuable tips on building confidence in your brand.

49. Watch Your Competitors
@marketing91

Watch Your Competitors

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – right? Right, unless you’re the one being imitated; then, it’s just irritating. Or is it? In today’s global market, if you start a trend, your competitors are likely to follow. Try not to think of this as irritating: think of it as a push toward better branding and further innovation. Get the inside scoop on brand competition in this article from Marketing91.

50. Stop Saying “I’m Sorry”
@FastCompany

 Stop Saying “I’m Sorry”

The old trope is dead: It is no longer easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. Listen to your customers. Honor their concerns. Be prompt in your responses to problems and other issues. Do everything possible to avoid the need for a public apology, suggests Fast Company, as it can be a branding and public relations nightmare.

What other brand management trends will you adopt for 2018 and beyond? The world’s biggest and most influential brands a digital asset management solution like MerlinOne to improve workflow management and put the most up-to-date, effective brand assets at their team’s fingertips – all while ensuring brand consistency. Schedule a demo today to learn how the DAM solution trusted by the world’s most iconic brands can help you solidify and centralize your brand management strategy.

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