Follow The Culture: How Brands Can Escape 'Blandification'


Last month, IPG agency FutureBrand released “The FutureBrand Consumer Index,” its inaugural report examining consumer perceptions of 100 top brands  across attributes including mission, innovation, indispensability, consistency, and personality -- with Gerber, Tide, and Gatorade taking the top three spots.

The report -- which found Dr Pepper ranked 41st, placing two spots ahead of Pepsi -- happened to arrive on the heels of news that Dr Pepper had eclipsed Pepsi to become the second-best selling soda in the U.S.

Marketing Daily caught up with FutureBrand head of strategy Lynne Field to discuss the findings.

This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.

Marketing Daily:What were the most surprising or otherwise noteworthy findings of the report?



Lynne Field: We found that, despite relentless efforts, most brands are falling short on relevance, missing key growth opportunities. We see this as the “blandification” of consumer brands.

Notably, the research also uncovered that corporate/B2B brands are scoring better in relevance than consumer brands. When we compared the results from the Consumer Index with the FutureBrand Index, which tracks corporate/B2B brands, we found that those B2B brands are not only maintaining, but also growing their relevance.

Marketing Daily:What do the trends identified in the study suggest about building and maintaining successful brands?

Field: We found that consumer brands broadly behave similarly, leading us to conclude that traditional marketing approaches, paired with formulaic thinking, are increasingly ineffective when it comes to differentiating a brand.

In a world where self-care and personal fulfillment are deemed increasingly vital, we found that successful brands are creating more meaningful ties with consumers by speaking to those personal needs.

Marketing Daily:How do findings from this report help explain how Dr Pepper has been able to eclipse Pepsi? How can the brand continue to build on its success going forward?

Field: Consumers see Dr Pepper as a consistent, credible brand with a promising future, known for providing pleasurable experiences.  The brand has focused on its unique taste, helping its score in Individuality. The brand self-identifies as “inspired by fans” and markets itself as a brand for people who are unique and different.

The brand also stays relevant through [scoring high] on Innovation by being highly responsive to cultural trends. For example, Dr Pepper answered the TikTok “dirty soda” trend with its Dr. Pepper Creamy Coconut soda, inspired by consumers who were mixing Dr Pepper with lime juice and coconut-flavored creamer.

Going forward, Dr Pepper should focus on shoring up its weaknesses, while also leaning into its strengths. You cannot forget about the power of Gen Z and the rising Gen Alpha. Doubling down on those generations and finding unique opportunities to experientially exemplify its brand purpose to connect with them could help Dr Pepper further chip away at Coke and Pepsi’s market share – especially as emerging beverage brands such as Olipop are coming in to compete in the category.

Marketing Daily:What makes more dominant brands in their categories stand out?

Field: The top-performing brands in each category share two similarities that have likely propelled them to the top: they create engaging experiences that embed them into culture, and they address tangible, personal consumer needs in support of a bigger purpose.

Hidden Valley Ranch has managed to both evoke feelings of nostalgia and become part of the cultural zeitgeist. It continues to surprise and delight consumers by embracing “drop culture” through collaborative releases like its ranch-scented lip balm with Burt’s Bees, or partnership with Truff Hot Sauce to create a high-end truffle-infused condiment.

Doritos remains a steadfast presence driven by its brand purpose to redefine culture and support those who are boldly themselves. The brand is all about flavor, boldness, and adventure, which comes to life through activations ranging from its brand partnerships to its attention-grabbing Super Bowl commercials.

Gatorade has continued to cement its position as a hydration brand (and not just a brand for professional athletes) by delivering key innovations that support consumers’ individual needs, through flavor and format advancements like Gatorade Water and the Smart Gx Bottle.

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