Back in the “Mad Men” era of brand management, it was far simpler for brands to be distinctive and to be indispensable in customers’ eyes. For starters, there were fewer competitors, brands, and product or service offerings in most categories and industries. For that matter, there were even fewer categories and industries. To no one’s surprise, in a world with fewer alternatives, it was significantly easier for any brand to be distinctive from all others.
Today’s information-rich, socially exhaustive environment has changed consumers’ approach to decision-making. Consumers do not simply expect better customer experiences—they feel that they’re entitled to them. Brands have almost universally accepted that digital is reshaping consumer behavior and shopping habits, yet many are still unable to reshape with them. Part of the problem may be that marketing leaders fail to understand just how profoundly digital technologies are influencing consumer expectations.
Back in the early days of brand management, there were fewer brands, competitors, and product or service offerings in most categories and industries. Not surprisingly, in a world with fewer alternatives, it was far easier for any single brand to position itself as distinctive from all others. Marketers and brand strategists simply conducted market research and determined how they wanted to be perceived in the minds of consumers. They then created 30-second ads and reached audiences on one of only three broadcast networks.