Opinion

Three ways to make your brand futureproof

25 March, 2019 Share socially

"Brand is the engine of a business, if it loses brilliance for whatever reason, it may affect the performance of an entire organisation." In this interview with Economy Magazine Francesco Buschi, Strategy Director FutureBrand Milan, drew on the findings from the FutureBrand Index to explain what 3 things brands need to do to prepare themselves for the future.

1. Never get old

Let’s start with the companies falling in the ranking because each drop can teach us something. Facebook has plummeted 37 positions this year, and it’s not solely because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but rather because of the ageing of this particular social medium and the migration of younger people towards Instagram and other newer platforms. Strangely, the brand that has fallen the furthest (by 51 positions) in the FutureBrand ranking is LVMH, “The fall of a traditional luxury brand is the result of a wider rethinking of luxury itself,” says Buschi. “Young people don’t associate luxury with status and exclusivity anymore, they are more interested in craftsmanship, originality and rarity. Luxury brands have gone through a wide stretching of their core essence, and have therefore lost part of their uniqueness. They have become more trivial and less special, this is the main reason for their fall in the global ranking. The real battle is between luxury and lifestyle, people choose which side they want to be: if you wear Nike, you would never wear Adidas, and vice versa.” 

2. Innovate wisely

“Luxury brands should change their approach towards younger generations who look for an experience and not for a product,” says Buschi. “They need to understand what they want to do: if they want to stay with their traditional clientele, or if they are ready to evolve and try new ways of connecting with people, like Gucci is successfully doing today.” Hyper-customization seems to be the answer when it comes to the product and to the related experience: “For instance, in the fitting room you should be able to select your favourite music while you try on your clothes”.

Innovation, however, can turn out to be a double-edged sword because it gets old very quickly and consumers come to feel easily disappointed by it. “The 2016 Index was dominated by established tech brands such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. When your appeal as a brand relies mainly on innovation you are forced to constantly implement new technology to remain on the front foot and that’s a risk as it is incredibly difficult to continuously grow your service”. In 2016, the most futureproof brand was Apple, but today it has dropped to 4th in the ranking. Although it’s not a dramatic fall, Apple’s decline shows that there is a desire for something new and to escape the brand’s hegemony. Indeed, the same happened to Microsoft, in 2016 it was 2nd in the Index and it has now dropped 10 places. This is a cautionary tale for Netflix as it has entered the 2018 Index at number 15 but whether it has the staying power remains to be seen. 

The Walt Disney Company came out at the top of the ranking as the most futureproof global company, taking the title from Apple. But the bigger surprise was the debut of Chinese brand Kweichow Moutai in 2nd position. Many people haven’t heard of the giant State controlled player in the spirits industry which is woven into the Chinese heritage but Kweichow Moutai is also rapidly becoming successful in the rest of the world with aged bottles reaching €3.500 for a half litre. “Moutai stands for China and is now conquering the US as well. The Chinese are now rich but they haven’t westernized: they are rediscovering their origins and smart brands are adapting their strategies and interpreting local traditions instead of trying to apply Western ones. This is also what two Chinese financial brands Pingan and China Life are doing: they both have a global stature, but their approach is personal and focused on the client”.

3. Be true to your brand 

Buschi explains “Brands need to be consistent with their values, they should avoid too much diversification or homogenising their stories, business models and brand models in the attempt to please everybody. They should work to establish an exclusive relationship with their consumers. This may sound not the ultimate approach, but it is more likely to grant a brand a long life as the Chinese brands in the FutureBrand Index prove”.

This article is extracted from an interview by Marina Marinetti originally published in Economy magazine.