Hold tight or flex

Posted in Brand on 29 February 2016 By Susannah Gerner, Client Director

Ours is a small world. Information accessible everywhere. We are all connected and influenced almost every minute of every day. Our increasingly digitised lifestyles have left us with a shorter attention span than that of the notoriously forgetful Goldfish (an average of 8 seconds if you are interested). Still paying attention?

Our brains are adapting, becoming better at multi-tasking, continuously filtering information for what is most relevant, most meaningful, most useful to us. That makes us an increasingly discerning and impatient audience, always on the look out for new stories, new experiences, new opportunities and new communities to connect with.

As a fundamental human (and somewhat generational) shift in how we consume and manage information, it could be commercially detrimental for business to ignore this change. Business must adopt a more flexible mindset when it comes to brand communication; one where brand management becomes brand leadership. Consistency becomes co-creation and shared ownership. Enforcement becomes empowerment. Rather than project a static representation, contemporary brands must use this new mindset to be fluid and responsive to change in their marketplace and in the preferences and needs of their audiences. But continuous adaptation and flexibility sounds expensive, right? It sounds challenging to manage and control…

It doesn’t have to be. To succeed and grow, tomorrow’s brands will become even more adaptive and reflective of the world in which they exist. Follow these principles and be one of them:

1. Love research. Love data

Successful brands want to know what we think. And for good reason. It helps them to match our expectations, deliver better experiences and respond to changing needs, environments and influences. Employ research (qualitative and quantitative) as a continuous process to gather insights that will help you keep adjusting and adapting communications and channels to stay relevant.

RBS are building a world-class data and analytics capability to continuously listen to what their customers want. This delivers the insights to inform constant and personal adjustment to the customer experience so that interactions with the bank always feel just right.

2. Strengthen your core

As is the case with physical exercise, if you want to be flexible, you need a strong core. The same goes for a healthy brand. Understand what sits at the heart of your brand, your purpose, and it will provide you with an oxymoronic platform for continuity and adaptability. Rather than constraining your brand, your purpose should be the springboard for ideas from across your organization - inspiring creative, compelling and diverse brand stories.

Patagonia rank as one of the world's most purpose-driven brands. They embody the idea of ‘profitably good - embracing profit and purpose to drive a better bottom line’. Its commitment to this cause has generated some counterintuitive initiatives; giving away R&D and IP to competitors and encouraging customers to repair their old clothing and buy less. It’s a much smarter strategy than you think. Following its ‘Worn Wear’ campaign on Black Friday, sales rose 42% (retail average for the same day 2.3%). Patagonia’s commitment to its purpose enables it to think creatively and act surprisingly, and keep its customers captivated and engaged.

3. Share the responsibility

To be flexible in your brand storytelling and communication cannot be the role of one individual. It’s the multiple interpretations and manifestations of the same idea that builds a rich and nuanced picture. Equip and empower employees, ambassadors, champions, customers, stakeholders and media to tell your brand story in their own words for a continuous and compelling communication landscape that reinforces your brand purpose.

KPMG wanted their employees to emotionally and personally connect with their new purpose statement - 'Inspire Confidence. Empower Change.’ Through an internal campaign and app, KPMG invited employees to submit their own personal stories of how their work is making a difference. They called it the '10,000 Stories Challenge'. What happened? Engagement far exceeded expectations. Over 42,000 stories were gathered of the real differences KPMG makes in the world, every day.

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