Brands: The New Icons of Culture

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Brands are everywhere in today’s media landscape, but a brand that rises up to claim the title of “icon” is a rarer sight and a prized achievement that many companies strive for.

During “Brands: The New Icons of Culture,” four panelists discussed strategies that companies can use to make the jump from a lovable brand popular within a subculture to an icon that reaches across demographics and fosters brand loyalty among its consumers.

Sadie Daryan, Senior Social Media Manager at eBay, said that eBay’s success in remaining relevant and widely used in today’s marketplace is largely due to its scalability strategy: never shying away from its original identity even as it continues to grow. Daryan said that when eBay began 22 years ago, it laid into the specialty of being a place where people can come as both a buyer and a seller. Now, 22 years later, it remains just that, but has layered on relevant technologies, such as a Facebook Messenger shopping assistant, to appeal to younger and more diverse demographics.

Even as eBay continues to modernize and incorporate new services into its platform, it remains authentic to what it set out to be 22 years ago.

Authenticity is a word that Declan Bond Schweitzer, Brand Strategist at Headspace, also emphasized when it comes to brands looking to grow into icons.

Headspace, a digital service that provides its users with guided mediation and mindfulness sessions, sells meditation as a secular value, something that is applicable to anyone and everyone. In pursuit of reaching a broad market, Schweitzer said that Headspace sought to bake authenticity and credibility into its core. Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace, spent time in Tibet studying the art and tradition of mediation in order to provide users with the best, most effective techniques. Headspace also has a science team dedicated to researching the benefits of mediation on the body. Both of these things signal to consumers of all demographics that Headspace is a genuine and authentic service striving to improve the lives of all its users.

Melanie Shreffer, Senior Insights Director at Cassandra, discussed a few of the challenges brands face in pursuit of becoming icons, specifically savvy millennials who are highly aware and sensitive to marketing message. Because millennials are a generation that grew up constantly surrounded by ads, Shreffer said that this generation takes issue with being viewed as just a target. They desire to be shown that they matter as consumers.

This desire by millennials, who remain one of the most influential demographics, has inspired a shift among major companies to start rewarding their frequent or returning consumers rather than primarily emphasizing first-time consumers. Through various incentives, such as eBay hosting workshops in Las Vegas where sellers can learn tools to build their businesses, these companies can show their customers they are valued while simultaneously building brand loyalty.

Amanda Fraga, Vice President of Strategy, Insights Media and Sponsorship at Live Nation, discussed how her company is making an effort to celebrate frequent users of the ticketing site through partnerships and presales for people’s favorite artists. Live Nation is also rethinking what it means to be “live,” offering live streaming of various concerts so that consumers can experience music events even if they can’t be there physically.

According to the four panelists, the brands that will be most successful in the future, the ones that will make the leap from just another brand to an icon, will be the brands that genuinely seek to better the lives of their customers. Each of these panelists’ company is leading the way in making that happen.

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