Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing

Table of Contents

PART ONE: Past and Present

  • Chapter 1: Brands and Marketing in Crisis
  • Chapter 2: Looking Back at How Brands Got Here
  • Chapter 3: The Stages of Technology and How They Affect Brands
  • Chapter 4: Global Brands
  • Chapter 5: The Three Forces of the Shift Age


PART TWO: Current and Future Trends

  • Chapter 6: Key Trend – From Institutional to Individual
  • Chapter 7: Key Trend – Ascendency of Women
  • Chapter 8: Key Trend – Shift Age Generations
  • Chapter 9: Key Trend – The Screen Reality and the Rapidly Growing Neurosphere
  • Chapter 10: Key Trend – Memes to Movements, Information Flow Transforming into Social Change
  • Chapter 11: Key Trend – Big Data


PART THREE: The Future

  • Chapter 12: The BII: Brand Influence Index
  • Chapter 13: Social Media – Interim Step on the Road to All-to-All Communication
  • Chapter 14: Transactive Branding: Leveraging Collective Consciousness
  • Chapter 15: Mediating Psychological Tensions of the Shift Age
  • Chapter 16: Into the Future and What to Do


Chapter 1

Brands are rapidly shifting on two fronts:
  • Brand marketing is in a state of existential crisis. Everywhere, marketers are being impacted by a series of profound and rapid innovations that are transforming how they communicate with their customers.
  • Consumers are facing their own crisis as these same profound technological changes transform how they earn a living, communicate with the world, and even perceive reality.
These two epic waves of change are currently cresting, and they will leave in their wake a marketing landscape that is almost unrecognizable from the one we currently know.


The Crisis for Brand Marketers

Foresight doesn't have to expand far, in order to find supporting evidence that brand marketers are in a state of crisis. Historically, brands and the concept of branding have changed with technological advances. Today, as we progress further into the Shift Age, technology is moving along faster than ever, leaving businesses to wonder how their brand can remain relevant.


Brands are undergoing a fundamental dislocation, as the core drivers of branding during the 20th century—limited information about product quality/performance and control of messages about brands by corporate owners—are losing their potency. This transformation has caught marketers and brand managers between two that no longer works, and one emerging, where the rules and metrics for success seem, at times, to be unnerving and random. Here in the 21st century, the Information Age has ended while the Shift Age is emerging. NOW is an inflection point or time in history, when much of humanity will change how it lives, thinks, works, interacts, and behaves. David has written about the Shift Age in prior books and will summarize his ideas in Chapter 5. This new age has created “shifts” in almost all aspects of life and certainly in the area of brands and marketing. The pace and magnitude of change has only been accelerated by the recent transformational recession, which tore down century-old institutions and provided a market impulse for emerging industries, particularly in the area of technology and communication. While the Shift Age outlines major cultural shifts and historic themes, it also provides a framework for addressing immediate marketing and communication issues facing marketers today. This is more important than ever, as CMOs and others in the branding field grapple with this existential crisis. References to the critical brand situation abound. The book, The Brand Bubble: The Looming Crisis in Brand Value and How to Avoid It, for instance, is based on extensive research using Y&R’s Brand Asset Valuator. The authors, John Gerzema and Edward Lebar, conclude that, “The tried-and-true formulas to create sales and market share behind brands are becoming irrelevant and losing traction with consumers.”


One outcome of this dislocation is a major and unexpected shift in brand strength, where a weaker rival can overcome a formerly powerful brand. For example, note the dramatic and game-changing shift in status, popularity, and profitability between Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung. Ten to twenty years ago, it would have been hard to find an analyst who would predict that Microsoft would be facing a crisis, and that Apple would be a dominant consumer brand in the world. In fact, one of Apple’s products, the iPhone, at times, has been more profitable than the entire Microsoft Corporation. More recently, Apple’s hold on the mobile-device market has slipped as Samsung has risen from relative obscurity, within a crowded field of consumer electronics brands, to emerge as one of the new kings—at least for now.


While the market may be growing accustomed to such rapid shifts, these kinds of changes were not the norm prior to the Shift Age, where iconic brands would battle each other over years, decades, and even generations.


The compression of innovative cycles suggests that the economy will be receiving disruptive shocks every few years, rather than every decade, as was the case during the Information Age. As a result, the economy will need to transition to a much faster succession of innovations. The shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age was roughly a generational shift, wherein many industrial workers never made the change and just left the labor market.


In the Shift Age, the concept of “planned obsolescence” will be replaced with “instant obsolescence.” Companies will simultaneously mature and then become obsolete. Instead of a rapid rise followed by a long profitable plateau and gradual plateau/decline (think Microsoft), companies will ascend and descend much more quickly as their business models become challenged by changing technology and consumer preferences and habits.


At the same time, chief marketing officers are also facing a crisis. As brand managers, they are watching as their most powerful tool— television—becomes weaker and weaker. As TV is eclipsed in importance, it’s still not clear how to most effectively use new media, such as social media and mobile, which tend to be more global and individual-focused. Until the industry gets a hold on what works, CMOs will continue losing the ability to control the conversation about their brand.


As it stands, there is a strong undercurrent of excitement and frustration among brand managers who are trying to deal with the disruptions taking place in brand communication. In recent high-level discussions between Leo J. Shapiro & Associates LLC and the CMOs of major companies, executives expressed the following:

  • “There is so much competition for customers’ attention…it’s very layered, very complex.”
  • “There is a kind of information overload out there. Which channel do you pick?”
  • “It’s a challenge. It’s like there are too many entry points… electronic media is so fragmented now with different touch points…It’s diluted.”
  • “… everywhere, media is totally in play.”
  • “How do we redeploy those monies [from traditional media], and how do you hope to get a guarantee of results?"
  • “In the digital world, we are constantly testing, what about the subject line, various rich media, banner ads…we keep testing very aggressively month-in, month-out, week-in, week-out, looking for alternatives to use.”

As much as CMOs are struggling with the dislocation created by rapid technological changes, that challenge is only going to grow in magnitude and complexity going forward. In 2012, the Fournaise Marketing Group conducted a study that paints a clear picture of how CEOs feel about CMOs: they do not trust them. In fact, of the 1,200 CEOs surveyed in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia, 80 percent said they do not trust—and are not impressed with—the work done by marketers. At the same time, 90 percent of CEOs do trust and value the work of CFOs and CIOs.


The study found that the difference in trust is entirely wrapped up in ROI. CEOs believe that CFOs and CIOs will ensure that every dollar spent has a positive, quantifiable impact, as opposed to marketers, where results are less measurable and often deemed less critical. In fact, 74 percent of CEOs said they want marketers to become 100 percent ROI-focused.


People trust doctors, surgeons, lawyers, pilots, or accountants, simply because they know these no-nonsense professionals are trained to focus on the right set of data to make the best decisions and achieve the best outcomes possible. CEOs trust CFOs and CIOs for the same reasons. It’s not a game of data, but rather a game of the ‘right & relevant’ data for the right purpose and the right decision- making, with no fluff around. Marketers will have to understand that they need to start ‘cutting the rubbish’ if they are to earn the trust of CEOs, and if they want to have a bigger impact in the boardroom. They will have to transform themselves into true business- driven ROI marketers or forever remain in what 65 percent of CEOs told us they call ‘Marketing La-la Land.”
—Jerome Fontaine, CEO & chief tracker of Fournaise


Until CMOs, CEOs, technology, and ROI align, the existential brand crisis will continue. It is important to take a look at the past in order to understand the present and predict the future.


The Crisis for Consumers

Consumers are also being buffeted by the same underlying technological forces that are transforming brand marketing, but in very different ways. The first manifestations of these changes have been a mixed bag for consumers. They have experienced more immediate entertainment and communication through smart phones and improved Internet services and wireless, but their privacy has been intruded, interruptions are constant, and it’s hard to find anyone these days who doesn’t feel rushed and, at times, overwhelmed.


As these technologies mature, they will have a more profound impact on how consumers live and work. Three key forces emerge from the new world of Big Data. One is the rise of always-on, always-connected devices tied to people’s location and activities. The second is the emergence of the Internet of Things, and the third is the rise of more sophisticated and capable forms of artificial intelligence to synthesize and make sense of that data. These three developments are unleashing a level of artificial intelligence that is quickly rivaling human intelligence, and will soon surpass it in many respects.


Human beings like to think of ourselves as unique—it’s part of our nature. Nevertheless, this sense of uniqueness has been slowly eroding. Certainly, the shift from Ptolemy’s human/earth-centric universe to the helio-centric solar system of Copernicus dealt a blow to our notion of us as the center of creation. And, for hundreds of years, we have told ourselves that the ability to make tools is what has made humans unique—until Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees also possess this skill. Recently, movements have even been mounted to grant a degree of “personhood” to dolphins, whales, and elephants, because they are all intelligent mammals that use language, problem-solve, and have complex social orders—just like people.


On the technological front, humans have been eclipsed by machines in virtually all aspects of production that involve repetitive motion. The brain is the final frontier of human uniqueness, but numerous brain-interface technologies are now being developed, and it is already possible to control a computer with one’s thoughts, alone. Former all-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings spoke for many when, after being defeated by IBM’s Watson computer, quipped, “I for one welcome our robot overlords.” Indeed, human intelligence and machine intelligence are merging—but it won’t be a joke for long.


Beyond the psychological stress of this shift toward the increased mechanization of society and the displacement of lower-wage workers is the advancing elimination of many ‘good jobs’ that now require college or advanced education and pay middle- and upper-middle-class wages. The squeeze of these twin forces will create a massive need for goods and services that will help people adjust, either to help them ride the wave of change to a brighter future, or help them cope with the loss of identity, income, and status.


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"There are many books on how to build brands in the 20th century.

This is the first to show what it will take to build successful brands in the 21st century."

Philip Kotler
S. C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Named one of the top 5 marketing books published in 2014!

The new book on the future of brands that marketing professionals are talking about

A powerful and persuasive look at how cultural change, accelerating technological advancement, Big Data and the Internet of Things will affect brands and marketing in the years ahead.

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Read what people are saying

“There are many books on how to build brands in the 20th century. This is the first to show what it will take to build successful brands in the 21st century.”

Philip Kotler

S. C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

“I loved “Brand Shift”! It provides an insightful look into the future of how brands will be marketed. Houle and Shapiro address the trends and challenges marketing professionals will face in the future and offer clear concepts and strategies to ensure that CMOs can succeed in the years ahead. I finally have a clearer view of where to go!”

Ann Rhoades

President People Ink, Founding Executive Jet Blue and Former Executive, Southwest Airlines

“By offering a thorough understanding of the history of brands and how technology, artificial intelligence, and Big Data will influence marketing trends, Houle and Shapiro deliver a compelling strategy for navigating the inevitable global shifts already challenging marketing professionals.”

Scott Meadow

Professor of Entrepreneurship at University of Chicago Booth School of Business

“I’ve known David Houle since he was part of our team at MTV as we re-invented how brands connected to consumers in that era. Today, as media continues to evolve and brands are seeking to effectively connect with consumers wherever they are, on multiple platforms and devices, Houle and his co-author Shapiro are helping marketers understand how to make those connections now.”

Robert Pittman

Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel Communications

“Successful marketers embrace change as an opportunity to build stronger brands. "Brand Shift" provides a fascinating look at future social and technological changes that will create disruptive and powerful brand marketing opportunities. A must read for those responsible for future brand marketing.”

Mark Hansen

Former CEO PetSmart/President Sam's Club

Brand Shift is for anyone and everyone who has anything to do with surviving and thriving is today’s turbulent, mobile, digital, instantaneous, real time, ‘Big Data' brand environment.”

John W. Lee II

Founder/Former CEO, Learning Curve International

“In a time when some argue that brands matter less, I’m the firmest believer that people need to connect with strong brands more than ever. This is a fascinating portrayal of how social and technological changes in the Shift Age will transform the future of brand marketing.”

Tom Trenta

Chief Strategist, Egg Strategy

“The future of brands and branding is here - IF you read this book. Houle and Shapiro’s ability to articulate future trends is invaluable to anyone that is in the business of managing a brand. Brand storytelling is going through significant changes and the Brand Shift is the roadmap. Read it. Now.”

Dave Kustin

Founder, Content Bacon

“David Houle could probably pick all the winners at the race track. I’d like to take him to Las Vegas but meantime I’ll read “Brand Shift”, written with Owen Shapiro, to find out how to take advantage of the next hot trends in marketing.”

Bob Sirott

WGN Chicago Broadcast Personality

“Bravo! This book is not only essential for all levels of marketing employees and students, it’s a ‘must’ read for all business professionals. The future, which is now defined as tomorrow, requires significant changes in marketing/branding to remain competitive. This insightful guide to the future is an excellent tool, so well written and organized that the concepts are easily grasped.”

Richard J. Kaplan

VP Marketing,
Former President, Chief Brand Officer
Tervis Tumbler Co

“It’s easy to be aware that branding is changing, but exceptionally difficult to know where it’s going. This book clearly demonstrates that Owen and David’s understanding of the future of branding is unmatched in their industry.”

Seth Kravitz

CEO of Technori / Former CEO of

“A fascinating and thought provoking portrayal of how social and technological changes in the Shift Age will transform the future of brand marketing.”

Sam Guren

(30+ years as professional principle investor in venture capital/private equity)

David Houle

David Houle is a futurist, thinker, and speaker. Houle spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment. He worked at NBC, CBS, and was part of the senior executive team that created and launched MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, and CNN Headline News.

Houle has won a number of awards. He won two Emmys, the prestigious George Foster Peabody award, and the Heartland award for “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.” He was also nominated for an Academy Award.

He is the Futurist in Residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design.

He has delivered some 600 speeches on six continents and twelve countries. He is often called “the CEOs’ Futurist” having spoken to or advised 2,500+ CEOs and business owners in the past seven years.

This is his sixth book.

Owen Shapiro

Owen Shapiro has always been fascinated with how people 'make up their minds' which has lead him to pursue a diverse range of research and discovery projects both in academics and in business.

Owen is a market researcher, strategist, and speaker. Owen spent more than 30 years in customer insights and market strategy. He has a careerlong interest in helping launch innovative start-up companies—several which have become well-known brands—including: Staples, PetSmart, Sports Authority, Ulta, and Five Below—and some that are just starting their journeys.

Owen is a guest presenter at the University of Chicago, where he received his MA and MBA—drawing on his combination of real-world experience with clients, his training in social science theory, and his grounding in research methods.

Please take a look at the Table of Contents and read Chapter 1

A powerful and persuasive look at how cultural change, accelerating technological advancement, Big Data and the Internet of Things will affect brands and marketing in the years ahead.

Read Sample Chapter

Houle + Shapiro Interview

WSRQ Talk Radio

OCTOBER, 07, 2014
This podcast consists of David and Owen discussing their new book and views of the future of brands and marketing.

David + Owen Interview

WGN Talk Radio

OCTOBER, 21, 2014
Both David and Owen go over key points in BrandShift and discuss the next steps in marketing and brands.

Future of Brands and Marketing: The Golden Age

Amazon's Bestselling Author on the Future of Brands and Marketing

Brand Shift #2

Shapiro Radio Interview

WWVR Morning show

OCTOBER, 16, 2014
This podcast consists Owen Shapiro discussing social media, brands, marketing, and BrandShift.

Owen Talks About BrandShift

CJOB Nighthawk Show

OCTOBER, 07, 2014
This podcast consists Owen Shapiro discussing social media, brands, marketing, and BrandShift.

Owen Shapiro Interview

WMT Radio Interview

OCTOBER, 07, 2014
This podcast consists of David and Owen discussing their new book and views of the future of brands and marketing.

Owen Shapiro Interview

WTMJ Derrell Connor Show

OCTOBER, 19, 2014
This podcast consists of David and Owen discussing their new book and views of the future of brands and marketing.

Please feel free to contact either David or Owen for anything, including presentations, book signings or advisory work.