Humans are curious beings, and everyone is attracted to the latest and greatest; an up-to-date brand delivers a product and experience that makes buyers feel they are getting their money’s worth and showcases excitement and innovation in their brand presence. Up-to-date brands are leaders in their category. They show up culturally and contextually–they understand what’s happening and their audience. They aren’t sitting back and missing the latest trend. For example, if the market talks about gluten-free, they show up, have an opinion, and provide options.
This is part 4 in the BERA Attribute series; read part 1 on How to create a brand that resonates with today’s consumers and feels authentic and real here.
Creating fanfare about product updates and prioritizing new features and functionality is a great way to engage consumers and develop a sense of excitement. Brands committed to innovation will always have something to share and an audience flocking to their doors, ready for the unveiling. Apple and Tesla accomplish this consistently and are true industry disruptors.
Brands that are up to date are the coolest kids on the marketing block. They relate to customers deeply, understand their challenges, and solve them in new and exciting ways. They aren’t afraid to evolve, meet the latest trends, and are willing to try something new.
Please keep reading to learn how you can leverage this emotional attribute in your marketing efforts to steal some of their star power for yourself.
How to create a brand that feels up to date
An up-to-date brand is wholly present in the moment and considered to have the latest information or the newest innovation. They stay on top of trends and culture and might even go so far as to influence social adoption of specific trends, philosophies, technologies, behaviors, and more. And they communicate these through their messaging consistently, be it podcasts, newsletters, social media, and other modem mediums.
People are naturally curious and are constantly looking for the inside scoop on the latest and greatest products, services, technologies, and branding campaigns. Up-to-date products and services deliver a buying experience that makes consumers feel like they are part of something exciting and new. They can walk away from their purchase feeling like they got their money’s worth and are a part of something fresh and exclusive.
Remember when Steve Jobs broke social expectations and took the stage without a suit? It gained traction quickly, and everyone followed suit, sporting blue jeans and turtlenecks. Ok, so the iPhone, historically, was more significant than what he was wearing, but the fact remains, how you do the small things is how you do everything in an up-to-date brand.
Cultural relevance is enormous in marketing and branding. You can have the most effective emotional cues, polished content, and an authentic branding approach, but if your message or values feel dated, it will all be for naught. This is critical with up-to-date brands; get it right, and you can shoot to the stratosphere and become the number 1 in your industry (or create a whole new industry in the process) or fail.
In the early 1990s, IBM failed to adjust to the personal computer revolution and thus began its downfall. The company revised its focus back on hardware instead of software solutions. After several transitions, IBM is one of the most potent names in enterprise software. They turned their luck around with new management. An ending that most companies don’t see.
Windows Explorer joined the 27 Club and finally closed its virtual doors after it fell out of the times. Its inability to keep up-to-date meant functionality was lacking, and other internet browsers took their market share. Similarly, Blockbuster failed to remain relevant and was eaten up by companies engaged in the latest streaming technology. Now, its predecessor, Netflix, is under attack, with rapidly declining subscribers hitting the news and newer, more relevant companies taking the lion’s share.
Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about creating a brand that feels up-to-date, fresh, and culturally relevant.
What does it mean for a brand to be up to date?
Up-to-date brands are immersed in the present moment. They’re constantly looking for the newest innovations, technologies, cultural movements, social causes, and trends. To be a leader in the industry, you show up culturally, technologically, and contextually, demonstrating a deep understanding of what customers want and the climate they’re living in. To be up to date as a brand is to take a proactive approach in aligning yourself with the most culturally and technologically relevant trends.
Being up to date also means adapting to changes outside your control. We saw entire industries transform their platforms and business models through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those COVID-related industry changes are here to stay. The companies that will come out of the pandemic most successful will likely be the ones that can adapt to the growing changes and demands of a post-COVID market.
Take grocery stores as an example. Home delivery and pick-up have transformed the grocery experience, and customers responded favorably to these new ways of shopping. While more people were staying home, grocery stores were thriving, so these recent changes are here to stay.
Fitness equipment and other industries adapted to an at-home audience with their new gym tech; Peloton and others leveraged online streaming to create an at-home experience that users love and transformed thousands of years of “We’ve done it this way” into something new and exciting. So don’t think you can’t reinvent the wheel; Peloton sure did.
By adjusting their business models, these companies could stay up-to-date and show cultural relevance.
Examples of brands that keep up to date
Here are some of our favorite recent examples of marketing trends for up-to-date brands.
Sometimes relevancy comes to you–Lysol in the COVID-19 pandemic:
Some companies, like Lysol, simply fit into social and cultural changes. Between February 5th and 25th, 2020 (the advent of the pandemic), purchase intent among Lysol consumers doubled. So naturally, consumers wanted cleaners and disinfectant products to keep their cars, belongings, and bodies safe. Lysol was positioned for growth because its products were relevant to the needs of the pandemic, but it also took a proactive approach. It made claims about the efficacy of its products against the virus, created informational resources quoting CDC recommendations, and positioned its product to fit the demands of the moment.
Trial and error is critical–Duolingo’s incredible TikTok success:
Duolingo went from 100,000 TikTok followers in fall 2021 to over four million fans today. After a year of trying to crack the TikTok market, Duolingo was able to go viral and maintain a considerable following by featuring its mascot in a series of short, frivolous videos. Sometimes the mascot dances. Sometimes it’s ironically presented as dangerous or foreboding. But, in all of its videos, the mascot is funny, silly, and downright absurd. The campaign worked because it appealed to younger generations who don’t want to be sold a product; they want to be a part of an experience. Some might claim that TikTok got lucky, but I think they understood the power of experiential marketing and tried something new that caught fire with younger consumers.
SpaceX leads the tech race and spurs competitors into action:
Elon Musk is no stranger to pioneering the latest technology; from Paypal to Tesla, he has built a personal brand on being up-to-date and culturally relevant. In his newest company, SpaceX, we see the space race spurred into action with the likes of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, who launched Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, to space. Not bad for a stagnant industry that hasn’t seen any significant action since the 60s.
Why is it Important for brands to be up to date?
Culturally relevant brands and up-to-date with the various social, technological, and cultural trends become valuable problem solvers and pioneers in their industry. They can devise solutions to new problems and realize change before it happens. Moreover, they provide solutions in near real time, making them feel dependable in the face of adversity.
Consumers rely on these brands to solve their unique problems and have the social insight to understand the changes surrounding them. As a result, these brands can engender trust by being the go-to choice for customers, consistently providing valuable solutions to the unique issues of the moment.
Up-to-date-branding will allow you to:
Build trust and loyalty with customers.
Increase sales and profit by maintaining your position as a high-value brand within your respective industry.
Revamp your social values and beliefs to drive product/service development.
Become more attuned to what’s culturally relevant and benefit from those insights.
Relate to the 47 percent of consumers who believe involvement in a current social cause is essential for brands.
And, as mentioned earlier, brands who fail to stay up-to-date risk losing their consumer base to other industries.
How to be up to date as a brand
Up-to-date brands realize change before it happens and is poised and ready to meet the ever-evolving needs. As a result, consumers depend on them to solve their problems and rely on them to deliver the latest and greatest products.
These brands engender trust by being the go-to brand consumers can rely on; trust and reliability build greater loyalty–that loyalty drives demand and a higher willingness to pay for a product, which drives tangible impact, both short- and long-term for the business.
The below best practices are concrete strategies you can apply today to be more up-to-date and culturally relevant as a brand.
Create specialized, targeted, and specific content.
Commit to innovation in every aspect of your brand, including product development, services, and marketing campaigns.
Listen to what consumers want using Predictive Brand Technology and make the appropriate changes based on that feedback.
Take advantage of surveys to identify trends directly from customers; BERA provides ongoing market feedback on 4000 of the world’s most influential brands, measuring more than 100 metrics on 200+ categories.
Hire a diverse team that crosses cultural bridges and opens you up to perspectives/backgrounds otherwise unavailable to you.
Pay attention to what’s happening. Follow the news, pop culture trends, and technological innovations to stay on top of current events.
Be open to change.
Embrace the shift to a digital landscape.
Stay on top of technological innovations to see how those technologies might fit into your business model.
When looking at KPIs, engagement is your friend. Ditch the vanity metrics and favor building community and conversation around thought leadership content and messaging. For example, BERA tracks the opportunities for brands to pull levers among the 5Ps (promotion, place, price, people, and product). Product, more specifically Product Innovation, is an area where BERA delivers actionable insights for brands. Being up-to-date naturally lends itself well to becoming a thought leader. Do you follow the trend, or are you the trend?
It’s not uncommon to see CMOs owning their brand on their Linkedin and using it as a catalyst to share updates in near real-time. However, now is the time to think outside the box and do things refreshingly differently. Humanize your social experience and connect with people in genuine ways; choose vocabulary and messaging that reflects your personality, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and share your opinions and feelings on passionate topics – and do so consistently to drive impact.
Internally, be the voice of change for your brand. For example, is your website out of date? Do your brand guidelines and messaging reflect the consumers of today? If not, change them.
Can you measure how current a brand feels?
What if you could measure how current and up-to-date your brand is? Now you can; your BERA Score is your brand’s single most important number. It doesn’t just evaluate how well or successful your brand is; it can predict where it is headed, allowing you to make the appropriate changes relevant to maximizing your brand presence.
Just imagine, if you knew the future, wouldn’t that be a lot easier to decide what steps to take today, and in doing so, wouldn’t you appear more up-to-date and culturally relevant? I think so too. Yes, change can be scary, but change is also a playground of possibilities. You can emerge as a thought leader and own your industry by demonstrating your authority and the many ways you are pioneering innovation and creativity.
As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Tech companies can learn from the success of the industries listed above by understanding people’s pain points and coming up with innovative ways to address them.
Being perceived as up to date is just one of the 42 emotional attributes of a brand’s positioning that BERA tracks and factors into your brand’s BERA Score. Save this 1-pager to activate an up-to-date brand.
About the Author
Clurra Goodwin, Sr. Director of Content Marketing at BERA
Clurra Goodwin is a marketing leader with over 12 years of experience developing messaging architecture, brand guidelines, and thought-leadership materials to define world-class content, webinars, and events that drive demand through meaningful conversation. She has led content marketing and demand gen teams at AI and SaaS companies including AlphaSense, Vendavo, and Mitratech.