Brand DNA: 4 principles to capture the future

Updated: Jan 20



Today’s younger and successful brands present themselves differently compared to what we’ve seen from traditional brands in the past several years. Many of these newer brands are performing exceptionally well in product classes where overall sales are declining such as handbags, luxury fashion, accessories, jewellery and lifestyle products. Where legacy brands find it challenging to adapt to what consumers want now, modern brands address those needs instinctively.


It’s in their DNA: the way the company was created, the way the business is set up and the way they interact with their customers.


Across brands like Warby Parker, Bonobos, La Ligne, and Stitch Fix we can see the 4 guiding principles they all have in common:

  • Born digital natives using outsiders to their advantage

  • Omnichannel for a single experience

  • Relationship with customers defines the company

  • Community builds a sense of belonging

Born digital natives using outsiders to their advantage

Today’s brands are born digital natives with a focus on the customer experience baked in. Usually that already becomes evident in the origin stories. It used to be common that companies had similar histories where someone with experience in a sector felt they knew how to build a better product and decided to start their own company rather than work for someone else. The origin stories told today are vastly different.


Founders are usually outsiders to their industry or business sector. This probably allows them to think differently and approach problems from a different angle. Just by being a consumer, individuals come across problems and challenges and in the process of finding a solution ended up creating a company. The engineered solution becomes the most important differentiating feature of their brand.


The advantage of being an outsider even translates to other roles across the business. Digital native brands aren’t looking for people with industry experience, they hire people who can deliver different ideas, adapt to change and are comfortable working across all channels wearing different hats throughout the day. This makes the next three principles effortless and natural.


Omnichannel for a single experience

Instead of having a suite of branded channels each performing at their own pace, successful brands describe themselves as omnichannel: a single experience across all channels, any hour of the day, anywhere.


Most new brands are usually born online, and as they grow they establish an omnichannel strategy with physical manifestations. It is critical for any brand to let their customers experience the products physically as much as digitally. Customers need to be able to touch and hold products to be won over, and many brands are combining shopping in-stores with the online world.


Even for brands that still primarily favour online channels, customers are often concentrated around physical store locations. It means that with the right strategy and balance, stores and online work together to reinforce each other and stimulate sales in either channels.


With vacant real estate spaces spread throughout cities, brands of the future are taking advantage to sweep up great deals and expand into the physical world – provided they have the capital to outfit the spaces and can afford to commit to long-term leases.


Otherwise, pop-ups and virtual pop-ups provide great in-betweens for brands willing to experiment with store concepts and locations but are not ready yet to fully commit to long-term rental agreements.


Relationship with customer defines the company

Everything that new brands do is completely customer centric. The selling and availability of products is tailored to serve the consumers’ timetables. Click-and-collect models are becoming increasingly popular as brands are playing into the way customers shop, preferring to browse from home and pick up the items when it suits them.


Some brands, like fashion label La Ligne, are taking it a step further and deliver new products on a weekly basis instead of seasonal, and adjust the offering based on feedback gathered directly from customers.


Brands of the future gather customer feedback and turn it into meaningful outcomes. Everyone in the company is responsible for following the brand’s social media accounts and responding to customer comments. Responsiveness to customers is everyone’s responsibility. Instead of relying on products alone to build up a brand image, the company defines itself by their relationship with customers and the experiences they deliver.


Community for a sense of belonging

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing demand for local companies or locally sourced products, especially among millennial customers. This can often be a challenge for companies when they begin to scale up to cast a wider global net, and the same is true for the successful brands of the future.


Global brands of the future see that the desire for being local is actually about customers wanting a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging can also be created by using the virtues of a community.


Building a sense of community around a brand allows a company to scale globally without having to invest in local production in too many places. The reason why this works is because we can easily communicate across distances and we don’t have to be geographically close to feel a sense of belonging.


The idea that you as a customer are part of something that includes like-minded people with similar values is powerful. It’s a top priority for brands that are building a global community.


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Brands of the future have a much different attitude about the most fundamental aspects of their business. But it’s not just the technological changes of today that makes them the way they are, it’s part of their DNA.


From constantly focusing on adjusting strategies, tinkering with products and gathering customer feedback to creating buzz with pop-ups, events and collaborations, it’s about the value system the brand conveys.


This doesn’t mean it’s hopeless for established brands. In fact, over the past few years brands like Burberry have shown that with the right strategy and mindset, legacy brands can transcend their own history to enrich the experience they offer and tap into the new millennial mindset successfully.

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