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A modern approach to brand building

Ross Timms, Director of Strategy and Transformation at Rufus Leonard, explores how to take a modern approach in order to build a successful brand and deliver returns, with less.

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While marketing budgets have increased this year – climbing to 9.5% of total company revenue in 2022, up from 6.4% in 2021 – they still lag behind pre-pandemic spending levels. What's needed is a modern approach to brand strategy and brand design, delivering returns with less. At its core, this approach is about tapping into the wealth of information already owned by your brand, more efficiently and to greater impact.

Empathetic experiences

Covid-19 accelerated digital customer behaviours and amplified the importance of empathetic experiences. Post-pandemic behaviours explicitly show the need for a clear, personal and responsive relationship with the brands they use. Providing a brilliant opportunity for your brand to deliver genuine value to customers and boost its reputation simultaneously. To do this successfully, you need to listen to and learn from your customers behaviours, in real-time.

According to 2022 trend forecasting, 82% of marketers plan to increase their use of first-party data. Taking a progressive and modern approach to using your business’ data will enable you to create genuinely customer centred products and services that are responsive to changing behaviours and emerging needs. Delivering value to your customers in this way should be at the heart of your sustainable growth plan as it also encourages long-term loyalty. To do this, it’s important to tackle the disparity between your processes, people and platforms.

The tension in brand building

In his 2020 CX report, John Meada explained the tension at the heart of brand building today by highlighting the difference of pace between improving marketing (fast) and improving products and services (slow). Modern brand building manages and utilises this tension; unearthing ideas and efficiencies to improve both parts of your business, more quickly. For example, understanding the data created by customers as they use your products and services will help you understand how to exceed people’s expectations and what your point of difference is against your competition. Whilst listening to your marketing data will ensure your products and services respond to people’s needs and motivations.

Unearthing powerful stories

For the CMO whose budget is cut, pooling data from across marketing and the experience will provide a wealth of usable data without spending your limited budget on research to understand what people think and feel about your brand. This will enable you to embrace data-driven empathy. This creates trust as you respond to your prospects’ and customers’ behaviours to build one-to-one, on-demand relationships with them. Embracing empathy in this way will also empower you to unlock powerful stories that amplify the best of your brand experience; an invaluable tool that can help you strengthen your reputation and build your brand.

For example, product and service usage will help the CMO to unearth the ‘raw’ stories that highlight where the brand’s reputation is strong which should direct where to emphasise marketing story telling. The stories unearthed from usage data can also be repurposed to create powerful content. A simple example of this in action is Spotify’s ‘Wrapped’ campaign; usage data over the decade provided limitless fuel for bold and nostalgic marketing stories while highlighting substantial growth in its podcast product.

Aligning at speed

Addressing your platforms to achieve a modern brand building approach often, in fact, means addressing any disparity and misalignment across your teams. While Covid-19 has proven to be a catalyst of digital transformation, it has also made it apparent that we don’t have a technology problem. It is possible for all brands to identify and buy the relevant technology needed. What modern brand building recognises is the speed which progressive brands ensure their technology (and teams) are all pointing in the same direction and working with, rather than against each other. After all, for most brands digital transformation is driven by their customers moving faster than they are able to. If your organisation isn’t aligned, it will create a data challenge that makes it increasingly difficult to embrace data-driven empathy. It creates a data challenge for the data you have, the data you use, and what you learn from it.

As a UX agency, to help our clients overcome this challenge to build their brands in a modern way, we created the Experience Value Engine, a tool that reveals the connections across your organisation’s brand experience ecosystem. You can use it to align as an organisation, understand your data capability across your business, and cohesively define how your business creates value for your customers and prospects. Importantly, it practically identifies where to start your modern brand building and what to do to make the biggest impact, quickly.  A central tool like the Experience Value Engine will help you build alignment across your organisation and establish shared ambitions, aligned objectives and trust to truly leverage data as a strategic asset. Get in touch to find out more.


  • Establish shared ambitions and aligned objectives across your organisation, using a central tool to galvanise your teams

  • Connect and align data across marketing and experience to unlock opportunity to deliver value

  • Unearth raw stories from usage data to inform marketing and celebrate your point of difference

  • Inform product and service development with marketing insight to keep needs and motivations central

  • Think and act in real-time, guided by your visionary strategy

  • Embrace data-driven empathy to improve trust and loyalty

  • Finally, recognise that brand is the combination of the promise communicated through your marketing and delivered through the experience. 

Our Director of Strategy and Transformation, Ross, specialises in experience and innovation, using core design thinking principles in everything he does. Ross is the co-creator of the Rufus Brand Experience Index and well known around the agency for his savvy dress sense.

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Ross TimmsDirector of Strategy and Transformation

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