The Global Rise of Brand-Agnosticism
Before the digital era, when distribution was limited and messaging had far more barriers to cross to be received, establishing brand loyalty was a critical part of remaining successful. Baby boomers today still retain loyal ties to brands and behaviours from their respective pasts. However, given the rise of alternatives and the explosion in the digital era of content, which has saturated the available attention capacity of consumers today, those now native to the environment – from progressive older consumers to digital-raised Gen Z – have multiple options which are evolving rapidly to compete with every development.
This has resulted in a surge of digital services to replace everything from traditional pay-TV to record sales, but has also resulted in equally high levels of audience churn and overlap.
How do digital-native behaviours impact brands?
The implications of rampant brand agnosticism are incredibly broad. With millions of possibilities (stream Ninja on Twitch? Catch the gang for a quick campaign? Watch an episode of Friends? Binge Vine compilations on YouTube? Listen to this album on Spotify? Trawl Reddit for funny r/answers threads?) to be enjoyed with absolutely no behavioural distinction between them from the comfort of anywhere with a phone in hand, there becomes no need for distinction from the consumers’ perspective.
Consumers no longer have any brand loyalty to services; they instead have appreciation for creators themselves, who produce the content which through its intrinsic and personal value provides the only distinguishing case for choice. Monetising fandom has started to become more viable than monetising consumption, all the way from music artists to games designers. Arguably, sport has the best existing loyalty structure still in play – but even this is being undermined by the digital consumers’ unwillingness to care overly much whether they’re watching an e-sports tournament or the EFL championships, so long as they have a social group with which to cheer and have a sense of team affinity.
Brand agnosticism goes much further than making it difficult for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to keep their audiences distinct and respectively loyal. It is a digital-era trend which has broken down all meaningful barriers between content propositions, because the legitimate behavioural ties no longer substantively exist. In a market of plenty, consumers are becoming ever-more cynical in choosing what, when and for how long they adopt those limited options which they have the time and native inclination for.
Now that everyone with a social media profile has their own personal brand, it is a trying time for businesses which are good only at being brands. More than ever, they need to distinguish themselves not by how many consumers they can sway into their influential fold but how well they actually stand out on the only aspects that truly matter anymore: how competitive their prices are, how good the quality of their content is, how well-tailored their services are for the people who use them, and what they demonstrate with their internal practices in today’s hyper-vigilant, meticulously personal-branded digital social sphere.
After all, in a market where everyone is special…no one is.