Branding Highlights 2023: Pride & Premium To Belief & Benevolence

Branding Highlights 2023: Pride & Premium To Belief & Benevolence

Ashish Mishra, CEO, Interbrand India & South Asia reflects on the biggest themes of 2023 and how he expects things to play out in 2024.

Team BrandSutraUpdated: Monday, January 01, 2024, 02:20 PM IST
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Ashish Mishra |

Pride and Prejudice 2.0 may be an apt phrase to describe the most dominant mood of 2023. Pride in one’s identity was aided in heavy and pervasive overdoses of cross-pollinating socio-political narratives. Prejudice or a sense of partisanship bolstered the former, partly as a natural human transgression, and partly as a clever ploy to hide some lingering deficiencies that may have questioned the fanatic renaissance of cultural pride in the first place.

Top narratives

The New India Story was the largest narrative dominating all political, business and social discourses. The decade belongs to India and overriding optimism fed by it characterised the visual and verbal feels across most brand expressions. The two biggest manifestations which were also the most visible branding highlights in India were G20 and ICC World Cup. Both of them are clear proofs of traditional Indian design motifs and icons celebrating abundance, maximal variety, resplendence and brighter outlooks.

The narrative of pride, joy, celebration, optimism, cultural richness, and grandeur ruled. There was a sense of vastness and plurality underlining everything. Expressed often with a neo-cultural aesthetic.

Dominant themes

This as a megatrend sat very well with the more specific dominant theme of premiumisation. Some of the leading brands who worked with us clearly sought sophistication in the graphics, colours, compositions, stylisation et al with an intent of moving up the value chain. Premiumisation could well be the biggest mega trend we are witnessing in our market and society, after urbanisation.

Simultaneously, the growing proliferation of less-than-perfect offerings, many from the start-up riders of the now-drying funding gravy train, created suspicion in the minds of people already wary of the establishment’s opportunism.

This allowed the few established smart brands to build ideological and values-alignments with their loyal bases and strengthen the brand connect beyond the physical offer.

This is where there may be a noble upside of the partisan pride taking on an ideological depth and evolving into a real belief system that’s more pure and less dependent on the prevalent comparative fashion of cultural superiority.

Inclusion

As we get more values-driven and accepting of our differences, we are likely to find appeal in inclusion, benevolence, and giving back. Thus evolving from the wannabe pride of possession.

It’s in that context that initiatives like Samrath from Hyundai (platform for para-athletes) are refreshing and tangible additions to the rhetorical goodness fluffed up by many brands in the last year or so.

This also creates a massive opportunity for brands and businesses to expand portfolios around new adjacencies and innovations, signalling an upgrade to fall in line with the premiumisation trend. Or simply to extend their belief systems and relationships for other jobs customers want to get done. This has already begun to demolish the concept of category, an erstwhile fundamental of brands and businesses. We refer to this broader emerging play as ‘Arenas’ where one will see categories within brands not the other way around. This is something we should expect to see a lot more in 2024 as it is at its heart a powerful way of creating new business value through brands.

What's up with Gen Z customers?

The new customers and GenZ getting to decision-making ages for many categories triggered yet another dimension to this larger trend of pride, abundance, premiumisation and Arenas. Most brands in 2023 were in a hurry to reinvent themselves to be relevant to the new young customer and their sensibilities. These were the two common points of all rebrand briefs – premiumise and connect to young.

All these drivers ended up creating a compelling reason for refresh and rebrand for the business world. It is the second coming of rebrands after the first wave of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The number of rebrands witnessed in the market was high and would only keep growing in the years to come. 

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