Katherine Monk
Family Brand DNA
5 mins

Branding has been around for thousands of years, starting with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans of ancient civilisations – when farmers branded cattle to stand out against the competition, potters stamped their wares to show their quality, and Ancient Egyptian scribes marked objects to ensure authenticity. European craftsmen and the merchants and traders of the middle ages used symbols and signatures to distinguish their goods from others, building trust and cementing their reputation.

Everything went up a gear during the industrial revolution when mass production meant brands had to work harder to differentiate themselves, and advertising became a crucial way to reach broader audiences. Then, decades later, Tim Berners-Lee invented something that would change it all! The internet has given brands a whole new way to reach audiences – through websites, emails and e-commerce. And social media platforms provide even more opportunities for brands to interact, engage and build a community with their audience.

Over this potted history, you can see how brands have had to adapt – they’ve had to evolve from being product-centric (with a focus on ownership and ensuring a legacy) to consumer-centric (prioritising audience needs, preferences and experiences).

In the modern world, brands still have a tough job – not only in meeting the ever changing needs and expectations of consumers (and thus remaining relevant for them), but also in cutting through a jam-packed and competitive landscape. 

This challenge becomes particularly interesting and complex when addressing the family audience. Here, brands must connect with different generations – kids and parents – both with differing wants and needs. As we all know, Bluey’s DNA has been designed to connect with the whole family, and Cocomelon has really differentiated, owning nursery songs and a happy childhood. KI has been fortunate to have helped shape and define the Brand DNAs for both global brands.

But what does a Brand DNA for a family brand look like?

Much like human DNA – the blueprint for who we are and what makes us unique – a Brand DNA defines a brand’s unique identity and how it needs to communicate (connect) with its audience. A Brand DNA for family brands should not only use market knowledge and general audience insight but it will also need to be rooted in developmental insights for children.

We always look through the lens of the audience in whatever we do, and through the breadth of our work, we have a good measure of the current family brand landscape. Without meaning to be too cheesy (!) this knowledge is part of our very own special KI DNA. Over the past twenty years we have developed a range of tools, such as 4ft Thinking and Parentsight, that help us do this. 

This means we can really focus our attention on the brand, make sure we define its DNA and formulate recommendations. To use a DNA metaphor, we bring every complex strand together, in a beautifully simple way.

The future of branding will be heavily influenced by Gen Z, because they are our future families. This is a cohort of young people (born between 1997 and 2012) whose needs are very different from the generations that came before them. They are the true digital natives who value authenticity, social responsibility, personalisation and inclusivity. So the ability of a brand to understand this influential generation, stay connected to it, and remain relevant to it, especially as they become parents themselves, is paramount.

I’ve worked at KI for over 10 years and have been lucky enough to see many brands brought to life through our Brand DNA work. I can’t wait to see what Brand DNAs of the future look like! 

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