Across the globe, 2019 witnessed many interesting feats in the branding world, like the controversial rebrands of Zara and Slack, an all-out marketing retaliation from an “under siege” Huawei, and some unexpected outcomes at Tesla — with the Cybertruck reaching over 250,000 pre-orders despite no actual marketing efforts. Episodes like these are great teachers for designers, marketers, and strategists, mainly because they follow no trend or forecast. The lessons they teach are not tactical, but evergreeen strategy basics such as relevancy, positioning, differentiation, experience, and focus. It sounds cliche, but it isn’t. Mastering the basics is essential for building strong brands or gaining that competitive advantage.

We have put together this curated collection of the best, most insightful articles of 2019, that focus on mastering branding as a strategic business tool. This selection will help you sharpen your skills and start the next year with a more strategic approach to your business efforts.

1. Moving from Brand Positioning to Brands Taking a Position

Giuseppe Leone, Brand Analyst at Giorgio Armani

“Brand activism is an increasingly popular corporate practice in which companies voluntarily take a stance on what they think is “good” for society and then make corresponding public statements and, occasionally, adapt their operations in ways that support their chosen social causes.”

2. What Ryanair Can Teach Us About Brand Love

Chris Bartley, Managing Director and Chief Innovation Officer at Havas Life Medicom

“Most customer satisfaction poles rank Ryanair as one of Europe’s worst airlines. It’s had years of bad press about its attitude towards staff and customers. And, of the almost 5,000 Trust Pilot customer reviews, Ryanair scores just 1 out of 5 stars. Given that, it’s no wonder that it was recently voted Britain’s 4th most hated brand.”

3. The Top Three Reasons Brands Fail to Stay Relevant – and in Business

Allen Adamson, Co-Founder of Metaforce and Adjunct Professor, New York University Stern School of Business

“It’s become an almost daily occurrence. Yet another headline highlighting the challenge of what was once a phenomenally successful brand or organization struggling to stay ahead of accelerating changes in the marketplace. Its waning relevance to consumers, a significant contributing factor to its travails.”

4. Creativity for Brands and Lions – The Roundtable #37

Featuring six of the jurors of the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity

We believe that creativity is a state of mind in which one is able to harness all available knowns and unknowns in order to successfully materialize an idea – and it goes far beyond what we call The Creative Industry. Having decided to dive deeper into this matter, we turned to some of the jurors of the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and asked them about creativity, brands, and Lions:

5. Why Focus Is Essential for Effective Branding and Marketing

Andrew Witkin, Founder of StickerYou

“In an era when consumers are flooded with myriad brand messages every day, brand loyalty is a business owner’s greatest weapon. Consumers want brands that speak to their needs specifically and consistently. With the introduction of social media and improved e-commerce platforms, these savvy shoppers have more opportunities to compare brands and choose what best suits them than ever before.”

6. The C-Suite: Interview with Leesa Wytock, Group Director of Experience at Siegel+Gale

Sidney Evans, Founder of Brand Vision Global

“Leesa Wytock is what you might call an experienced leader of experience. Across various roles and industries, she’s managed to build a view on branding in a way that tugs at the roots (and heartstrings) of solid, strategic positioning. Her recommendations are evergreen, applying to both old- and new-age creatives, marketers, innovators, and business leaders.”

7. Brainy Design: How the Unconscious Mind Responds to Product Packaging

Michael Duffy, Global Creative Director at Equator Design

“The mind works in complex ways when we encounter a new product. How would you describe great packaging design? Eye-catching. Impressive. Dramatic. But what about ‘has a positive impact on the unconscious mind’?”