There’s an increasing temptation to see technology as the harbinger of hope and hazard. Every day, the trendy press and commentators on social media carry reports of the next “it” technology together with their recommendations on what every business needs to be doing to ride the wave. Many of these wunder-techs seem to live a few days longer than their press release in the collective conscious. Some though will indeed change the world we live in and how we interact. This report by McKinsey for example identifies 12 such technologies that the company says could have a potential economic impact of between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year by 2025.
There’s a temptation to believe that the sheer logic of a good decision will sway the crowd; that if you make a good case and present it in an inspiring way, you’ve done everything you need to for that idea to gain instant uptake in an organisational culture. I’ve yet to see that happen successfully. I’ve seen it tried often – “now take that idea and apply it to what you do” – but never in ways that live up to expectations.
If brands face a continual need to renew their value externally in order to sustain their margins, are cultures also subject to similar downward pressures? Is it in the nature of cultures, I wonder, to commoditise in terms of their meaning internally unless they are actively prevented from doing so?
I’m intrigued by the number of people who insist they don’t believe in marketing, that no-one takes any notice of it and that they don’t have time to engage with brands. Until … they have something they want to tell the world. Then, suddenly, marketing – specifically their marketing – is interesting, exciting and something they know will work once they reach people. “Everyone will want to hear.”
Chris Anderson once observed that every abundance creates a new scarcity – and vice versa. So if digital is the abundance, what’s the new scarcity? I think it’s analogue – and by that I mean the things that are hard to reproduce and share quickly.
This article from some time back by Jagdish Sheth and Rajendra Sisodia sheds fascinating light on the business case not just for expanding brands but also shrinking them as well. According to the authors’ “Rule of Three”, the quest for scale is quite literally a race first for dominance and then for survival. But if you can’t win, don’t try.
Talk by Starbucks this week of “next steps” following a Comedy Central prank that parodied their name raises the question of what should brands do when the borax is poked?
“I think we can safely assume …” Actually, I doubt it. You can conveniently assume. You can quickly assume. You can naively assume. But I can’t think of any brand that can safely assume. Because to safely assume how you will continue to compete, you must depend on what you’ve known, or feel you’ve known, for so long.
Marketers face this dilemma every day. They must push some boundaries past the point of pain in order to get the jump and be competitive. At the same time, they must clearly stay within constraints such as ethics and regulatory requirements in order to retain integrity, reputation and a clean record.
In the search for more income, many brands seem keen to broaden their mandate or redefine the sector they see themselves as now being part of. But the hunt for diversified income streams comes with its own list of dangers and the most obvious caution is this: don’t lose the plot. Don’t spread your brand so wide, generalise your position so much or shift your emphasis so far from where you’ve been that you lose credibility, authority or distinction in the minds of your customers.