I’m done with Venn diagrams and concentric circles. The brand model of tomorrow is un-sketchable. It’s more dynamic and beautiful than that.
Current brand communications models, such as 360, are perfectly shaped, “point in time” approaches. They exist because they’re easier for marketers and agencies to manage. The ‘script’ is sold through at the annual sales meeting, and any deviation from it over the next year will be punished.
But as we all know, the world is now infinitely messier for marketers. The social media revolution hasn’t just changed what’s possible, but also what’s necessary. The elements of time, and the effects of customer interaction, are now essential dimensions.
It’s time to give more serious thought to brands as members of society. People, if you like. With life narratives. With strengths and weaknesses. Messy, messy, messy.
Let’s imagine a brand, and the way it interacts with it’s flesh and blood citizens, as if it were attending a very large party. Here are some variations on the theme:
Scenario One (AKA The Ol’ Superbowl Blowout Trick):
Brand creates what it hopes to be the finest one-liner of all time. Come party time, Brand strides in, climbs upon a table, and at the top of its lungs, delivers its piece. Then Brand leaves, hoping and praying that the entire room is talking about how Brand is such a clever, likable character.
Scenario Two (Communication As It Is Generally Done):
Brand creates a script of one-liners, each sentence building upon the foundation of the previous one. Brand spends the entire evening at the party, mingling with guests, reciting its script, regardless of what else is being said. Because Brand is concentrating so hard on the prepared words, Brand isn’t really listening, so it leaves the party at the end of the night… yes, hoping and praying.
Scenario Three (The Future):
Brand works hard on understanding its fellow party-goers, and itself. Brand has a clear picture of what it would like people to know about it. Brand has a few supporting stories tucked away, at the ready. Brand arrives at the party and then… goes with the flow. Brand mingles, listens, talks, listens some more, adjusts. Brand knows all night how it’s doing because it’s engaged. There’s true conversation. The feedback Brand receives and gives is in the moment and therefore always relevant.
If you believe in Scenario Three, as we do, but also live in the world of Business Reality, as we also do, then how can you make it happen?
Perhaps the most pragmatic course for now is a hybrid approach.
Plan your communications calendar just as you’ve always done, but carve off a portion for more responsive “in the moment” actions. (And given the pace of communications development inside larger advertising agencies, “moment” is a loose term.)
The right solution is likely small, focused, and experienced. Some agile creative people, state-of-the-art research, and emerging media expertise would also help.
Is it a dedicated swat team within your existing agency?
Do you reach out to companies who specialize, and I mean specialize to the exclusion of all else, in a particular audience segment?
Do you enlist a smaller creative agency (hint, hint) to work along side your other partners?
Whatever you do, recognize that going with the flow doesn’t mean accepting lower-quality, off-the-cuff solutions. The most winning presence in the marketplace today is surprising, true, witty, human AND perfectly present.
Quality is still quality, but timeliness and the back-and-forth have raised the bar.
The brands that master this new social playing field are set for out-sized gains over the next decade. The good news is, your brand has already been invited.
[image by eyespive]
Dion Hughes is founder and creative director of Persuasion Arts & Sciences, and author of the blog Persuasionism. His company has created ideas for the likes of Apple, Beam, Disney, Saatchi, Strawberryfrog, and Toyota.