Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Remember the movie Waterworld with Kevin Costner? The story is about a world that doesn’t have land anymore and people are forced to live on water. Some build floating cities on the water, others roam the open seas with their boats and the “bad guys” have the big tanker with all the remaining oil left on earth.
Well, in some ways, it looks like what is happening with brands today. We look for brand territories and positioning to own, in order to secure our differentiation. But the world has flooded with accessible information, making it more “fluid” than ever before, and still we try to cling on to our old-school thinking. We try to secure our place, thinking in terms of land and come up with solutions like putting an anchor to our boat, so that it will stay in the same place, afraid to move away from our old real estate. Some of the big brands, have “big boats and firepower” that allow them to feel safe, almost like they are still on land. Others are fighting a difficult battle on smaller boats, with forces beyond their control and ability.
And then there are those who have managed to build hot-air balloons and roam the sky. They have accepted that the only way to thrive is to exploit the forces of nature, go with the flow and if the balloon is solid, it will fly safely. Up there they can see the world more clearly, they can identify the right place to be today, and they are comfortable to change their course as the winds change.
The question is what makes a balloon a better option and how can we be comfortable with it?
How can you create a brand that will be flexible enough to withstand the fast and unpredictable forces of change, while remaining relevant and distinct for your audience?
The truth is that we live in a very fluid world and although the basic principles of marketing have not changed, we need to rethink how we build our brands and how we can “fullproof” them for what we don’t know and cannot control!
1. Be what you say you are
It is no longer enough to communicate a brand image through carefully planned communication efforts, simply because we do not control the boarders of information. We need to go a step further and become what we communicate to be.
2. Build your system & start trusting it
Our job as marketers has not only become radically more complex, but everything we do needs to happen very fast! Decisions can no longer wait for monthly, or even weekly meetings and innovation is not only about creativity, it is about process & timing as well.
If your internal and external partners are not capable of running their part with a high degree of autonomy, you will never be able to catch up to the markets. And soon enough, you will be left very much behind!
In essence, we need to build a system that will enable the organization to run smoothly eliminating bottlenecks and delays.
3. Find an existence that can transform.
Lego, Netflix and Apple are just some of the brands that have managed to transform through time in various expressions, and always be relevant. They were never anchored in a specific territory to occupy, rather they were the ones to bring change around a specific reason for being, that allowed them the flexibility to identify and move towards the true opportunities.
I used to manage a traditional coffee brand and our biggest challenge was to find a distinct positioning that would differentiate us from the competition and help us build our image and, of course, sales. Well, this never happened because we could never let go of the real estate we thought we have built in the last 85 years (even if the brand market share declined from more than 60% to almost 12%, from only one competitor). A real estate, that no longer belonged to us, because “traditional” was a territory already occupied. And if this was not enough, this real estate was starting to flood because coffee had moved on to bigger and greater things.
We were unable to understand that we needed to build wings for our brand, not a house.
For thousands of years we have worked hard as a species to counter the forces and structures of nature. To keep warm when it was cold, to secure our food & water, to have a roof over our heads, and in so doing, we have started to disregard the power of what is bigger than us. We have forgotten to wire our brains in such a way that we can deal with forces when we are without our “armor” or our “comforts”.
The digital world has pushed us back to the stone age in terms of our ability to deal with the unknown and now we need to re-build our way of being.