As brands seek to stay in touch with consumers, some are saying the future of brands depends on them looking less manufactured. That feels like an overstatement.
Every marketer is haunted by fear of missing out. As trends are identified and balloon, the decision to ignore or capitalise becomes more urgent. How do you decide what to pay attention to and what do you let pass you by?
There’s a tendency to see disruption and innovation as huge moments of significance that shake the status quo to its core. Ultimately though neither is about that at all. It’s often about having the courage, vision and confidence to (gently) do big things. And to do them when and where they were least expected.
There’s crises and dangers everywhere we look. From ISIS to mass shootings, pandemics to weather events, Greek debt to commodity slumps, the actions and repercussions stream onto media in a seemingly endless scroll. In that sense the world we live in has changed little from when I was a child.
In a market filled with possibilities, there is power and focus in constraint. I pressed this point home recently in a discussion on why brands can’t just continue to add to their visual language. The argument I was getting – we need an extended palette to show the diversity of what we do and to prevent our brand looking monochromatic. My view – that adding layer upon layer of visual language to a brand doesn’t free up anything. On the contrary, it adds complexity that make no sense to buyers and that end up looking confused in the shopping aisle.
Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, recently suggested that products are becoming increasingly addictive. Three macro-trends are driving that, he told me, and together they are lifting the addictive potential of all sorts of products and services: Companies are now able to collect more data about user behaviours; Interactive technology is more accessible; and The transfer of data is happening faster than ever before.
Nir Eyal spent years in the video gaming and advertising industries. I first became aware of his work through his articles (his work can be found in Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic and TechCrunch) and his blog. In the book “Hooked” he promulgates a process that he says successful brands can embed in their products and communication approaches to subtly encourage shifts in customer behaviour.
Last week at The Un-Conference in Miami, The Blake Project’s Chief Storyteller Dr Gerrard Gibbons shared this wonderful insight: “Every day, brands make bets on human behaviour”. He’s absolutely right – but it’s a confronting thought because, at first airing, it puts so much of what marketers do at risk and beyond our control.
In a great post Stephen Dubner once wondered aloud why stock markets rise and fall. His point – that every day, observers look to ascribe a cause to what happened over the small window of time that is a trading day. As Dubner points out, newspapers (and the media generally) look to pin a cause on what they’re seeing which may in fact bear little resemblance to the actual forces at play.
No matter how successful your brand is now, it will probably die. That’s the forecast from Jim Collins in this insightful article about life and death on the Fortune 500. In it he points out that over 2000 companies have appeared on the list since its inception in 1955. But of the 500 that appeared on that first list, only 71 are still going at the time he is writing (2008). That’s an 86% disappearance rate.