Many of us are change makers in one form or another, even if we don’t identify ourselves as such right away. But it’s one thing to advocate for change and quite another to bring that change successfully through to realisation. In complex organisational structures with multiple stakeholders, the make or break, it seems, is socialisation.
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.
We hear a lot about how fast and how much the world is moving. But when companies pursue innovative ideas to cater to what they think is consumers’ fascination with the new and shiny, reactions can be mixed. The trap for marketers in this is that there are different types of “newness”: from the ‘new’ people queue for, talk about, and go mad on social networks over to the ‘new’ that bewilders, confuses, worries, or even confronts.
The concept of failing fast is one we associate readily with start-ups. But if successful brands need to constantly evolve to stay successful, and presumably not every evolutionary move will be a success, how should top companies plan for when things don’t go to plan?
Every brand decision is a negotiation between what has worked to date and what is required to succeed going forward.
Differentiation is acknowledged by most as the goal that every marketer should be seeking. But the enthusiasm for the pursuit masks a common misunderstanding – in the context of brand strategy, different and difference are not one and the same.
The hardest thing you can do as an owner I believe is to insist on building a powerfully simple brand. It’s hard because single-mindedness is difficult in a world where the consideration set is huge and where others will quickly seek to engage you in a relentlessly upgraded features war.
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?
It’s tempting to believe that every brand must be vastly different and that every opportunity to push the boundaries should be taken if the brand is to win. But is there a case for normality that we’re missing here? Should, as Jay Bauer has suggested, brands stop trying to be amazing and just get on with being useful?
Short answer – yes it is, but not in the way it was. I haven’t met a brand manager yet who didn’t tell me that they had a differentiated product. I’m not surprised. It’s part of the job description of any brand owner to be marketing something that is disruptive, market-changing, blue-ocean, category-killing … 15 years on from when I first suggested “parity is the real pariah”, every brand’s still talking up difference – but consumers are increasingly hard pressed to see any.