While working in brand strategy, I've helped create several brand stories that when implemented, help companies and organizations to clarify why they matter and why customers, investors and employees should care. Below are my analyses of branding trends and how businesses can learn from them.
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From Libations to Cancellation: How 818 Tequila Lived Up to its Legacy
Spanning 1995’s OJ Simpson trial to last month’s Balenciaga “Gift Collection” campaign, the Kardashian-Jenner family has been continuously involved in the most high-profile public controversies of the past few decades. These scandals range from copyright lawsuits to cheating scandals to accusations that multiple sisters have committed cultural appropriation—including Kendall Jenner in relation to her company 818 Tequila. Despite this, the Kardashian-Jenner businesses are collectively worth $5.33 billion.
The Kardashian-Jenners have successfully established their collective brand as one that hinges on scandal as a way to drive awareness. This narrative has remained consistent throughout the past 27 years, which is why their behavior, no matter how questionable, is exactly what consumers have come to expect. The Kardashian-Jenners and their 26 business ventures are effectively untouchable—because as long as a brand’s story is aligned with customers’ expectations, it can survive any crisis.
The Timeless Tale of Authenticity
Whether selling software or sandals, long-established brands are at a loss for how to create meaningful relationships with Gen Z consumers. How do brands engage the generation that is attached to their communication devices, yet refuses to speak to another person on the phone? What do they talk about with those who are on track to become the best-educated generation yet, even while mentally checking out from their jobs? Despite these paradoxes, Gen Z’s desires are straightforward. There’s no need to revamp products or design budget-busting social media campaigns. The only thing legacy brands have to change is how they tell their brand story to this new market of consumers.
Does Your Organization's Story Precede its Reputation?
What made you pledge four years of your life to a college? Maybe you were intrigued by its academic prowess, or perhaps you were hoping to join Greek Life. It’s possible that your parents only gave you until the end of the week to decide, because if you don’t make a choice now, everyone at the reunion this weekend will try to influence your decision, and you know how pushy your family can be.
What makes it even harder to choose is the fact that most colleges use generic language to promote their institutions, resulting in a brand story that is not aligned with students’ real-life experiences. College and university positioning plays a big role in this crucial decision with which many young people are faced. It seems in everyone’s best interests to accurately portray the institution, rather than using boilerplate messaging to attract students that may end up transferring once they discover the truth—but institutions are desperate to drive enrollment at any cost, even if it impacts retention down the line. Ultimately, organizations struggle when their story is inconsistent with customer experience.