Brands as systems

Kris Hoet
3 min readMar 6, 2023


I have a question for you.

As a traditionally schooled marketer I stumbled into the opportunities the internet had to offer back in the late 90s, by sheer curiosity. And later on, while agency side, I learned about the true value of ideas, the power of creativity and the importance of brand building. All while trying to understand how new technologies are changing behaviors, imposing new challenges as well as creating new opportunities in making unique connections with consumers. It’s also how I got to my question.

With brands increasingly spending money on digital technology, platforms to support their marketing activities (up to 25–30% depending on the source) as well as digital enablement in commerce or more immersive consumer experiences it’s worth thinking about how we use all that. While we try so hard to differentiate in our storytelling, activations, employer branding etc. we seem to hold no such expectations for how we support all this with technology. As a matter of fact the way most brands use technology is as vanilla as can be. And that makes no sense to me.

First of all, why not try and differentiate with the largest budget allocation in the overall marketing & consumer experience budget mix? Why make an ad that is truly on brand to then send consumers to your e-shop that could just as easy have been your competitors e-shop if it weren’t for the color and logo? Why develop a seamless end to end consumer experience… that is the same as the one of your competitor?

And that’s not even the biggest opportunity you're missing. By just functionally deploying technology we also ignore what is probably the most interesting opportunity, something out of the playbook of all big technology companies (which also not surprisingly top Interbrand’s Most Valuable Brands list). And that is to use technology to turn the brand into a value-based ecosystem. The brand ecosystem is not just an integrated network nor just the sum of its so called owned & earned media channels; it is a living system that functions by the interaction of each of the system’s elements.

Thinking of brands as true ecosystems makes you think more about what the value creating operational model is of the brand towards consumers. How you can be valuable towards your core audience in a sustainable way, something that will create a different kind of connection between consumers and the brand. A system connection, one that offers enough value for people not to want to lose it. It requires a shift in thinking for the brand to develop a value based ecosystem, but when it does and when it is able to grow this it’ll become more valuable for its consumers.

And such a connection that isn’t just valuable for the consumer, this way of thinking is really good for business as well. A survey done a few years ago showed that Kindle owners spend on average almost double the amount of money on Amazon compared to non-Kindle owners, across more categories (so not just because of the books). John Donahue of Nike recently stated that consumer that connect with Nike across 2 or more of its platforms (think SNKRS, Nike Running, Nike Training, …) have a LTV that is 4 times higher than consumer that only connect with one of its platforms.

So how are you using marketing & consumer experience technology to help build your brand and not just as functional tools? Are you differentiating at all in how you deploy these technologies? And have you thought about how your brand could become a truly value-based ecosystem? It’s really something to think about to make your brand more future-proof.