Loops are the things that companies do over and over again. Business as usual. Business as boring. Every business has loops. Some are driven by fear, some by tradition, some by distraction, some by lack of awareness or industry convention. Loops affect how we think, how we work, how far we venture and how we seek to make change. In the process, they stifle creativity. The secret to breaking those loops, and achieving astonishing innovation, is unthinking.
Our gut instinct as marketers is to go with what is working, because everything in the corporate rewards system is geared towards that: lack of risk appetite; the quest for short term results; even performance incentives. The irony for brands of course is that the more you go with what works for others, the less likely those ideas are to work for you.
Brands come alive for people when they encapsulate ideas that consumers want to have in their lives. That’s partly what makes brands distinctive and desirable. So what do you do when your core idea is no longer as attractive as it used to be?
Everything your brand does happens within a context. You can’t ignore that, nor should you. But here’s the irony – if you allow that wider context to drive how you manage your brand, then you risk losing control because the course you are steering is no longer yours.
The rules for developing and managing brands are laid out in a range of principles and frameworks developed by extraordinary marketing minds. Time and time again, we’re told brands follow these rules to achieve success. But every so often, you encounter a highly successful brand that seems to defy the theory. And there are lessons for all of us in that success as well.
Twitter was built on 140 characters. Even though the limitation was serendipitous, it remains a defining characteristic of the brand in the minds of many. Concise thinking, hash-tagged to provide simple, global connection – there’s the Twitter value equation in a little under half the consigned quota. But the question Carl Miller asks is a good one. What happens when the idea that defined you starts to work to inhibit you?
Just as brands reflect the business they are part of, so they must systemically modify how they operate to reflect technological and systemic changes in the business.
“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.