Brand Reincarnation

Report from the Futurist


Johan Kramer, 34, cofounder and creative director of the KesselsKramer advertising agency, in Amsterdam, where he and his colleagues have launched an experimental brand called “do.” KesselsKramer recently published “do Future,” a book about the future of branding and advertising (do Publishing, 1998).



“Building brands used to be about creating messages that would endure for decades. Those days are over. Shorter product life cycles, a dynamic media landscape, and restless consumers mean that brands can become irrelevant within a few years, or even within a few months. Companies have to keep reinventing and revitalizing the messages behind their brands — not killing them but reincarnating them.”

So What?

“Brand loyalty will diminish as the defining metric of success. Marketing strategies will become more varied. Some brands will be so strong that they will exist independently of specific products and services. Other brands will make a splash and then disappear. And a new kind of ‘generic’ brand will emerge: not bland, low-priced generics but anonymous, unmarked — yet highly stylized — products that are meant to take on the identity of the person who buys them. People will brand their own clothes, their own shoes, and so on.”

Futurology Decoder Key

“I think of brands the way I think of people: They’re dynamic, with changing moods and changing points of view. Brand management is less a matter of guarding a brand’s integrity than one of facilitating its evolution.

“Brands also have to become more transparent — about their shortcomings and about their virtues. It’s a great way to get through to jaded teenagers. We did a humorous campaign for Hans Brinker, a budget hotel, that was very open about all the things that the hotel didn’t have. The more honest we were about the place, the happier customers were once they got there.”

Cathy Olofson ( is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Contact Johan Kramer by email (, visit KesselsKramer on the Web (, or check out the “do” Web site (