2019 Marketing Alert: Brands Still Matter!

Are legacy brands on the brink of extinction?


From Sears, to Campbell’s, to Macy’s, to Applebee’s, or even Harley Davidson, more legacy brands, once leaders in their categories, are on the ropes with consumers.

Meanwhile, private label CPG products are growing at 3X the national brands.  And Amazon keeps plowing ahead, now with over 300+ of their own private label brands at last count. Then there are upstarts like the Brandless – essentially a line of generic CPG products – that recently raised $240 million from investors to take on Amazon – because their results show that younger consumers would rather pay less for an unbranded, yet seemingly, high-quality product, than pay more for a well-known brand name.

What’s going on here? 

Are brands losing their cache with consumers? Are we going to see more of the big legacy brands hit the skids?

Well, for one, private label products have gotten a whole lot better. And retailers are marketing them more like the national brands with better package design and marketing – at margins that the legacy brands simply can’t compete with.

And, consumers in general, are increasingly interested in exploring niche products, new tastes, and new experiences.  In survey after survey, Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly skeptical of nuanced product claims and anything smacking of big corporate marketing.  Media tonnage doesn’t guarantee success – in fact, in many cases it can hurt.

“A lot of consumers see big, giant companies as providers of highly processed and preserved foods,” said Pinar Hosafci, a food industry analyst for market researcher Euromonitor International Plc in London, in a recent Bloomberg article.”

So, do brands still matter?

We think so (naturally). In fact, we would argue that brands are even more relevant today than ever before.

Why?  Because in a world of virtually unlimited choices and information, brands still do the job of simplifying consumer choice, rationally and emotionally.  Brands give consumers a shorthand way to synthesize all the information, impressions, stories, and experiences that a brand sends out to the world.  Brands make them feel good about their purchase decisions. And at a fundamental level, consumers still need that help.

But, clearly the game is being played differently.  The consumer decision process is more holistic.  For Millennials, it’s not just the product you sell, but what you stand for, the social impact of your company, how you innovate, the relevant experiences your brand delivers in their world, and the ways your brand engages, which, thanks to technology, is increasingly more personal.  And everything your brand does has to be driven from an authentic place deep inside your brand’s DNA.  Because consumers today can smell a poser from a mile away.

“E-commerce is like the Wild West, and digital native brands are the bandits prowling the highways. But scale and share of voice are going to be a critical advantage as the channel matures. Legacy brands can afford to rewrite their rulebooks, as long as they have the will and the leadership to do it,” according to Danny Silverman, Chief Marketing Officer at Clavis Insight.

In 2018, DDW had the distinct pleasure of helping brands of all shapes, sizes and categories remain relevant and distinctive.

Some of the highlights:

  • We helped Kingsford Charcoal refresh its packaging just in time for the brand to celebrate its 100-year anniversary;
  • We completed a two-year assignment to redesign the entire global packaging system for Energizer batteries (well over 450 SKUs!):
  • We helped Starbucks refresh the packaging system for one of their major tea brands, which they subsequently sold to Unilever – now one of our most exciting clients;
  • We completed a brand refresh and website redesign for Layla Sleep, a direct-to-consumer mattress brand, who is about to give Casper a run for its money;
  • We also had the pleasure of working with several Bay Area start-ups including one in the sports therapy category, and several in the newly legalized cannabis category.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What they all had in common and needed (and what we delivered in spades) is fresh, creative design grounded in a deep, authentic brand story.  It’s a deceptively simple formula. But after 25 years, and literally thousands of projects, we continue to believe it’s the path to brand success in 2019 and beyond.

We are very excited about the future of brands and what’s ahead in 2019.

From all of us at DDW, we wish you a very merry holiday season and a happy new year!

About DDW 
DDW is a San Francisco-based brand design firm with 20+ years experience helping clients create deep brand stories and fresh brand design. Clients include Amazon, Anheuser-Busch, Alcatel, Big Heart Pet Brands, Campbell’s, Energizer. Meyer Corporation, Sprint, Seattle’s Best Coffee, The Non-GMO Project, and several other undisclosed assignments.
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