The evolution of branding - what does the future look like?

The definition of ‘Brand’ is a hot topic, one that has been explained countless times by many professionals trying to get a holistic view of what branding actually is. We’ve all heard the term ‘your logo isn’t your brand’, but it’s important to understand what it actually means in the modern world of branding.

April 3, 2024

The evolution of branding - what does the future look like?

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook

The definition of ‘Brand’ is a hot topic, one that has been explained countless times by many professionals trying to get a holistic view of what branding actually is. We’ve all heard the term ‘your logo isn’t your brand’, but it’s important to understand what that actually means in the modern world of branding and what it looks like for the future.

In this blog post we will briefly discuss the history of branding, where it came from and how its role in business has shifted over time. Then we will look at 4 crucial pillars for ensuring brands are equipped for the future which are:

  • Authenticity and Transparency
  • Customer Experience and Engagement
  • Digital Presence and Content Strategy
  • Social Responsibility and Values

After we have looked deeper into these pillars, we will look at some current brands who have been ahead of the curve when it comes to future proofing their brand.

Branding - a brief history

The term branding actually dates back to ancient Egypt where people literally branded their cattle so they could identify livestock. It was simply a way to determine who owned what.

As trading evolved it became a more commercialised practice where businesses would stamp their box of goods that was ready for export. usually consisting of a family name and origin. This was the early stages of intangible ideas, such as quality, being attached to products through branding.

Over a few hundred years, the term ‘branding’ has again changed alongside social and technological advancements in business and communication. As humans evolved and the mass production of consumer goods accelerated along with the internet, brands needed to take on more responsibility to keep up a competitive advantage.

Businesses started to use their brand in a much more strategic way, realising that by attaching certain ideas to an icon can influence social status and even an extension of the consumer personality, making it a very powerful tool in the business and marketing departments.

Know what your brand means to your audience

Today, more than ever, people take a personal interest in brands. So when a brand behaves ‘off brand’ it can have massive effects on sales.

This was painfully demonstrated by Bud Light when they experienced a significant backlash in and brand damage in 2023 following its marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Case study - Bud Light

The partnership which was trying to send a message of inclusivity led to prolonged boycott and social media criticism amongst loyal Bud Light drinkers, which went viral after Kid Rock shooting up a table full of Bud Light with a machine gun. The Bud Light tribe were demonstrating a major misalignment with Bud Light's new marketing strategy.

Bud Light controversial marketing campaign

The fallout from the backlash resulted in store sales plummeting by 26.1% in the week ending July 15 2023 and 26.8% in the week ending July 22, compared to the previous year.

The situation highlights the crucial need to understand your audience and what your brand means to them. Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment of the campaign is besides the point, the point is that audience’s have never been in control of a company's profits as they are today.

The situation highlights the crucial need to understand your audience and what your brand means to them. Whether you agree or disagree with the morals of the Bud Light campaign is besides the point, the point is that audience’s today have a lot of control of a companies profits.

Bud Light's sales continued to decline even after offering a $15 rebate, with the brand losing its title as America's top-selling beer to Modelo in mid-June. The ongoing boycott has led to a reallocation of shelf space to other brands, further impacting sales. AB InBev is now facing layoffs and a potential legal action from Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, as the boycott affected Florida’s pension fund, which held approximately $50 million in AB InBev.

The failure to promptly and effectively address the controversy, coupled with an attempt to appease all sides, resulted in significant brand damage, highlighting the critical role of strategic brand management and the risks associated with misaligned marketing initiatives.

Understanding Branding: A Modern Perspective

Given the example above, it can start to feel like your brand is actually out of your hands, and completely controlled by your consumers, and that’s exactly how we need to approach it. No matter what you write down in a brand or business strategy, your brand reputation lives in the minds of the people. The best you can do as a business is influence that perception.

There are a few things to consider when developing your brand for the modern world, and they go well beyond what your logo looks like.

The Pillars of Modern Branding in 2024

As the world changes, there are four main pillars that brands need to pay special attention to as we navigate what’s next. Taking into consideration everything we have discussed above these will help businesses grow their perception in society.

Pillar # 1 - Authenticity and Transparency

Being genuine is going to be massively important in the next few years. And it stems from big social issues surrounding authenticity and transparency. With the internet being flooded with conspiracy theories, misinformation and scams, the general public are much more in tune with what’s legit and what’s not.

On top of that we are entering a world of Ai which is going to make it very difficult for people to distinguish reality. Even though Ai is not necessarily a bad thing to use for business, if you're not careful and genuine, people will smell a rat and unfortunately your brand will suffer.

Ai and the future of authenticity and transparency in branding

Recently, the backlash of this went viral after a business using Ai imagery to advertise their Willy Wonka experience only to fail miserably by not living up to the standard of the generated imagery used for advertising. Although this is not a big brand that will suffer, it’s moments like this that will make the general public very aware of deceitful behaviour within brand and marketing.

Glasgow Willy Wonka failed Ai marketing attempt

Pillar # 2 - Customer Experience and Engagement

Particular importance will be consistency of brand and experience from a customer's perspective. You can’t say one thing and have people experience it differently (see above!).

To achieve this, brands must always be taking a customer-centric approach to what they are providing as a service or product. Constant research into customer experience and perception is critical in understanding your business and brand from the outside looking in, rather than the inside looking out.

It is important to put your own views aside and listen to your customers so you can effectively adapt and shape your brand and business so it serves your market the best you can.

People will often refer to products or services because of the experience they had, not what the logo looks like. On the flip side, people will almost always warn everyone they can if that experience isn’t a good one. You have no ability to argue this or try and set it straight, once the fire starts it’s very hard to put out. Look back at the Bud Light example.

Pillar # 3 - Digital Presence and Content Strategy

This has been happening for a while now, and I don't think there are many businesses that don’t have some sort of digital presence.

But moving forward into the future of branding, businesses will need to adopt these platforms to influence their core difference and positioning. It’s different for every industry and brand but having a key communication strategy is vital to ensuring you aren’t wasting endless hours posting content that isn’t building your brand in the eyes of consumers.

Be really clear on what you want to be known for and plan around all the different ways you can communicate that to your audience. Know what platforms your core audience are on and focus your energy there rather than just trying to be on every single one.

Pillar # 4 - Social Responsibility and Values

To many consumers in today's world, not having brand values or information on your social responsibility is a red flag. The reason for this is because people are much more likely to choose a brand that displays the same world beliefs as they do rather than picking the cheapest option.

There’s two things going on in that decision making process:

  • Internal belief system - more and more people are aware of how they live and what they believe, whether it’s health and well-being or climate change society is now more than ever driven by internal values.
  • External reputation - often what we say, we don’t do and what we do we don’t say. This is purely down to the fact that we are always conscious of what other people think, even though we might have a set of ideal values we don’t always abide by them, interacting with brands that do helps us in this internal quest for living with purpose.

Future Branding in Action: Case Studies

Patagonia: A Case Study on Modern Branding Excellence

Patagonia, an American outdoor clothing company, has become synonymous with environmental activism and high-quality, durable products. Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia has consistently demonstrated how a brand can leverage the pillars of modern branding to achieve success while making a positive impact on the planet.

Patagonia - A masterclass in modern branding

Authenticity and Transparency - Patagonia's commitment to environmental sustainability and ethical manufacturing is not just a part of its marketing strategy; it's woven into the fabric of the company. From the very beginning, Patagonia has been transparent about its supply chain, openly sharing the origins of its materials and the environmental impact of its products. This transparency has built a strong, authentic brand that resonates with consumers who share similar values.

Customer Experience and Engagement - Patagonia has mastered the art of engaging with its customers beyond transactions. Through initiatives like the "Worn Wear" program, which encourages customers to repair their gear instead of buying new, Patagonia fosters a sense of community and loyalty. Additionally, its commitment to causes such as land preservation and fighting climate change has galvanised customers to take action alongside the brand, further deepening their connection.

Patagonia brand advertising

Digital Presence and Content Strategy - With a robust digital presence, Patagonia effectively uses its online platforms to educate, engage, and inspire its audience. The brand's content strategy focuses on storytelling, with compelling narratives about conservation efforts, adventure sports, and environmental activism. By providing valuable and inspiring content, Patagonia strengthens its brand identity and reinforces its position as a leader in environmental advocacy.

Patagonia has mastered the art of engaging with its customers beyond transactions. Through initiatives like the "Worn Wear" program, which encourages customers to repair their gear instead of buying new, Patagonia fosters a sense of community and loyalty.

Social Responsibility and Values - Perhaps the most defining pillar of Patagonia's branding is its unwavering commitment to social responsibility. The company has pledged 1% of its sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment and has been a vocal advocate for environmental and social justice issues. This commitment has not only set Patagonia apart from its competitors but has also established the brand as a genuine force for positive change.

Patagonia - Expressing values

Patagonia's success story is a testament to the power of modern branding. By staying true to its core values, engaging with its customers on a deeper level, and leveraging digital platforms to amplify its message, Patagonia has built a brand that is respected, trusted, and admired worldwide. In an era where consumers are increasingly looking to support brands that reflect their own values and beliefs, Patagonia stands out as a shining example of what it means to be a brand in today's world.

Liquid Death: Unconventional Branding For The Future

Liquid Death is a company that has taken the beverage industry by storm with its canned mountain water. Founded with the mission to bring death to plastic bottles, Liquid Death has utilised unconventional marketing tactics and a unique brand voice to stand out in a crowded market. This case study examines how Liquid Death has leveraged the pillars of modern branding to carve a niche for itself and captivate a broad audience.

Liquid Death - Brand over product

Authenticity and Transparency - Liquid Death's authenticity shines through its commitment to environmental sustainability. By packaging water in infinitely recyclable aluminium cans, the brand not only offers a product that appeals to eco-conscious consumers but also transparently communicates its environmental impact. This transparency about its mission and practices has helped build trust and loyalty among its customer base.

Customer Experience and Engagement - Liquid Death has cultivated a unique customer experience through its bold and humorous branding. The brand's tagline, "Murder Your Thirst," and it's heavy metal-inspired aesthetic differentiate it from traditional water brands. By engaging customers with its irreverent humour and community-driven content, Liquid Death has fostered a sense of belonging among its fans, turning customers into brand ambassadors.

Liquid Death - Marketing example

Digital Presence and Content Strategy - Liquid Death's digital presence is as unconventional as its branding. The company leverages social media to share content that ranges from comedic sketches to environmental activism, all while maintaining its distinctive brand voice. Through effective content strategy, Liquid Death has managed to keep its audience entertained, informed, and engaged, driving brand awareness and online conversations.

Social Responsibility and Values - At its core, Liquid Death is driven by a commitment to social responsibility. The brand's pledge to "kill plastic pollution" is not just a marketing slogan but a genuine business goal. Liquid Death contributes 10% of its profits from merchandise sales to non-profits like 5 Gyres, which fights against plastic pollution. This dedication to environmental causes resonates with consumers who value brands that take a stand on social issues.

Conclusion - Liquid Death has demonstrated that with a clear mission, a unique brand voice, and a commitment to social responsibility, it is possible to disrupt traditional markets. By staying true to its values and engaging with customers in innovative ways, Liquid Death has not only created a product but a lifestyle brand that appeals to a wide range of consumers. In the process, Liquid Death has shown that modern branding is about more than just selling a product; it's about creating a movement and making a positive impact on the world.

Challenges and Opportunities in Modern Branding

One of the biggest challenges we see in modern branding is budgets, resources and taking the right steps in the right order to ensure you are creating a rock solid brand platform for business.

As the playing field gets wider and wider it drains more resource as you try to be present and keep consistency across all platforms and media placements. Brands often make it harder than it needs to be.

Our advice is to simplify the message. Don’t pick the top five things you want to be known for, pick one. Simplifying your message means you can be consistent across platforms without confusing people.

If your core message can’t be clearly communicated by yelling it out of a car window to a pedestrian, you are trying to say too much.

Strategies for Effective Branding

There are lots of different strategies out there, and not many brands can adopt them. And they shouldn’t. Brands need to create a strategy that works for them in terms of business size, location, budgets and anything else that affects the resources you can put into your brand.

At a very base level every brand should have a solid understanding of their:

  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Audience
  • Tone of voice
  • Visual brand
  • Messaging framework
  • Marketing strategy

This will make sure you are on the right track to building a brand that will last into the future.


In today's rapidly changing world, embracing the evolving nature of branding is essential for businesses aiming to thrive. Modern branding is not just about creating a memorable logo or catchy tagline; it's about building a meaningful connection with your audience, contributing positively to society, and making a genuine impact on the world.

Businesses are encouraged to view their branding efforts as an opportunity to express their core values, engage with their customers on a deeper level, and drive positive change. By focusing on authenticity, customer experience, digital engagement, social responsibility, and continuous innovation, brands can create lasting relationships with their customers and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Remember, your brand is a powerful tool for making a difference. Consider the broader impact of your brand on customers and society, and let your branding efforts reflect the change you wish to see in the world. In doing so, you'll not only build a successful brand but also contribute to a better future for all.

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