Brand building in the churn and chaos of new world: Shubhranshu Singh

Guest Column: Singh takes us through the changes that the business of brand has gone through in the new era

e4m by Shubhranshu Singh
Published: Jun 13, 2018 8:54 AM  | 4 min read

“Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”-- the more it changes, the more it's the same thing. This is one of French novelist Alphonse Karr’s often quoted epigrams. But is it true for brand building?

It is good to provoke the debate.

Is it right to be starry eyed about the profound change of the new age upon us or is it merely the old making place for the new? What fundamental change, if at all, has occurred? Has pace been confused for alteration? Has the opening up of engagement and information to all made branded businesses grow faster? How will the size of data stack influence the role a brand community plays in the market? Who will factor in ephemeral reputations? Campaigns are forever lost and crushed in the stampede of the many. So on and so forth run the questions and contradictions.

Now What?
It is true that the emergence of this era of brand building is more chaotic and accelerated than ever before. It is beyond doubt that the modality of consumption has changed. The old school brand building had a gatekeeper mentality. Brand capital was to be acquired and hoarded. The world was insular, closed and tightly networked within silos. Media platforms provided guaranteed access to audiences that brand budgets could buy. Attention was available on a rate card.

Today, brand building is fluid. It flows broadly as a current across the consumer community. Any reservoir building means stagnation. Consumption is distributive, open, horizontal and community-based. The model of brands being consumed passively is antiquated. Brand capital is about owning ideas. Value chain can be asset light and dependent on peer-to-peer delivery, for e.g. Airbnb and Wikipedia. Low resource is not a constraint for a brand and brand idea to flourish.

Community and sharing are the new ‘electrons in motion’ to brand charge. Communities are the means by which the involvement of the core and new adherent can be attempted at the same time.

Well managed communities can contribute to product development, content creation and engagement and collaborative problem solving. Democracy has arrived into brand building. Technology underpins this phenomenon. All brands are ‘of the consumers, for the consumers’ and a few are ‘by the consumers’ as well. Brand interactions are informal, unmediated and co-creative. The process is like a country fair not a disciplined meeting or tutorial.
Brand building protocols that nurtured exclusivity, authority, resource concentration and rigid institutionalism have changed or amended in favour of participation, crowd thinking, transparency, shorter term ‘opt in’ affiliation and diffused power.

‘Bastion thinking’ has turned to ‘town square thinking’. The brand heralds have retired and crowd chorus has taken over. The scope of business, its spread, resource allocation and operating environment are all getting impacted. The reputational and business risks to brands are more potent now because risk scenarios are more probable. Business disasters occur and spread more rapidly. Their reach and recall can be crippling in adverse times.

This change in business of brands is harder to measure. In some cases like Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google, the case seems untrue, thanks to business concentration. But this is no evidence that business hasn’t devolved upon the many rather than the few. As affluent populations rise, consumption is a subscription not a transaction. A relationship where hundreds of millions are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

To Recap
• Build town squares not fortresses – engagement is more important than authority
• Get engaged with the community. Brand building is about votes in favour
• Prioritization is critical. Do lesser, bigger things
• A model may need tweaking to do the job. Remember, #1 company Amazon is not a novel idea
• Stay paranoid about losing the community connect and therefore stay with the times
• You have to contend with stakeholder baggage – internal and external.

Those who imbibe the new era brand building will be the ones to survive and then thrive. Therefore, to that extent, those who stretch, excel. And yes, to that extent, the more things change the more they remain the same.

Shubhranshu Singh is a marketing leader who writes on brands and brand building

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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