3 often overlooked but fundamental brand builders

What comes around… comes around again and again. I rarely post the typical business piece. And even less often a Top 3. But as the trend reports and forecasts for 2023 kept hitting my inbox in the past weeks like out of control snowballs, I felt compelled to take a hard, pragmatic look at the state of all things brand.

Let’s take a high-altitude look at what needs to happen now in order for all those shiny trends to work in the years to come. Hopefully they will help you take a critical look at where your brand is being a leader or just a struggling follower.


Understand your customer

Mindset over demographic

Values and mindset are fast becoming the primary factor in target group segmentation. Demographic factors like age, income and gender now support a deeper understanding of mindset and what drives groups of individuals to certain brands versus others.

Incorporating this values-driven segmentation approach into customer insighting is crucial for brands to better service their audiences and customers — and create long-term relevance.

Explore new territory

Niche out

Mainstream is dead. Long live manystream. This could be the decade’s motto when it comes to reaching audiences and those individuals that have the potential to become loyal customers.

The power of the niche lies in relationship and conversation. Much more intimate than large-scale communities, a niche brings together demographically different individuals who are connected by a particular interest, pov or mindset.

This is also a great way to practice exploring and experimenting within your organization or team. If there’s just one thing you invest in this year, then this: Get your people ready for fast, agile, messy experiments. It’s a modern and future brand survival factor: adapting to new things on the fly.

For brands, a niche can invigorate and open up new creative territory. It can also be a powerful listening instrument, when used correctly. Important is that the brand respect the integrity of the group: The brand’s role is that of contributor, not leader.

Build brand future

Evolution toward brand ecosystems

Picture the familiar brand model: At the center, the nucleus, sits the website and all other owned properties and channels. They radiate outward toward earned, shared brand channels and autonomous touchpoints. Brand reach is depicted as a molecule — and as such disconnected from other brands, industries or groups.

This decade sees an undeniable shift toward autonomous platforms and “neutral spaces” as the place where individuals seek out inspiration, real-world information and experience.

While platforms are here to stay, both digital and physical in a wider sense, and brands are faced with the challenge of reimagining what role owned properties like the website or store have in customers’ lives, the challenge also lies in shifting the entire brand perspective toward an ecosystem view.

What does this mean? First, the website is still an important anchor point and the only unfiltered brand compendium. But it is no longer the driving force of the customer relationship.

Taking an ecosystem perspective also means that there is no longer one single center of gravity, but many. Each customer group may see the center of its brand mini-verse somewhere else, i.e. gen Z see it on social while boomers stay loyal to the (desktop) website.

Second, brands need to adopt a collaborative, de-centric brand model. This will mean less control over channel, message and expression. But more possibility for creative innovation and uncovering white space opportunities.


These were just three pragmatic, fundamental pointers that every brand pro needs to figure out before launching into innovative new areas or trends. There are countless others to add to this list and I’ll continue to share them as they gain relevance throughout the year.

I hope you’ll continue this journey of exploration, learning and curiosity with me. There’s still so much to discover!

Have an inspiring start into 2023.