Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Halfway to the future

I love looking at my collection of business books from yesteryear, especially those that have the word 'future' in the title. One such is The Future of Brands, edited by Rita Clifton and Esther Maughan, which was published in 2000 to celebrate Interbrand's 25th anniversary. It's a book that was maybe ahead of its time, as it was a collaborative, co-operative effort. Rather than the Interbrand staff pontificating about their view, the editors questioned 25 different people on their 'vision of brands in 25 years' time.'

The 25 people represented some major brands of the time, including Starbucks, BMW, P&G, Samsung, The Body Shop and Reebok. In addition, other personalities a little further away from marketing and branding were included, such as Spike Lee, Paul Smith and one Sepp Blatter.

How well has it held up? This book was conceived and written in the last century, pre 9-11, pre Web 2.0 and in the days when the Interbrand Brand Value Table was topped by Coca Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE and Ford. Google and amazon were nowhere to be seen and Facebook hadn't been invented.

The answer is, unsurprisingly well. The brands people felt would remain classics and be successful in the future - meaning in 2025 - included Coca Cola, Disney, Ben & Jerry's, BMW, CNN and Adidas. OK, there was rather a lot of mention of Gillette, Yahoo! and Kodak, too - with maybe the strangest anomaly for a 21st century reader being the 15-year-old surfer raving about the brand Kodak - but by and large, over halfway to the future, those predictions are holding up.

What was maybe more difficult was to predict which successful brands of the late 20th century would not fare so well. The obvious answer of Marlboro has been proved right, but it was interesting to see several commentators wondering how McDonalds, Microsoft or Aldi/Lidl might fare. Looking at McDonalds' latest business results, it looks as if they certainly aren't going to go out without a fight. And those German discounters are definitely going from strength to strength.

Ten observations on Brand Futures are listed at the end of the book:

A brand with no clear vision has no clear future
Values-led marketing will create stronger brand relationships
Brand relationships are created for people, by people
The next journey for many companies is inside
It will be increasingly important to understand what makes a brand valuable
Stakeholder brands for a stakeholder society
Individual brands for an individual society 
Simplicity, simplicity
If you don't plan the future you want, you get the one that shows up
Brands have the power to change people's lives - and to change the world

Have these passed the test of time?


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