Now that the dust is settling and Xmas ads are already being fast-forwarded on our catch-up TV viewings, the usual air of optimism promises an even better year ahead. However, as I sit here in the last week of January, this new year somehow feels different. Welcome to 2020!
For so many people, new decades really mean something and for many, this is merely a psychological excuse to starting a fresh. It got me thinking, every single one of us has a decade that we remember most fondly, whether that be the decade we went from adolescents to adults, or perhaps more ‘grown-up’ references, i.e. marriage, kids or traveling. Every decade means something to someone, but what we will say and remember about the last 10 years.
With the financial fall-out of the banking crisis, the impossibly slow recovery of our economy, and then the ‘B’ word to occupy our every thought, the 2010 – 2019 years (or the teenies as they are called), will likely be remembered as the decade to forget, but it might well prove to be the most influential 10 years of our lives.
Now let me be clear, I’m no economist, nor a political commentator, but I am a curious voyeur of people values and social engagement. So, you’re probably asking, “what has this got to do with brand?” Well the answer is, “absolutely everything..!”
It’s hard to imagine 10 years of uncertainty, but this is exactly what has just happened. In most cases, references to uncertainty have a negative connotation (and for many this may be true), but uncertainty also encourages change and has the ability to provoke a reaction. I mean, if no-one does anything, nothing happens, and that’s why the last 10 years have seen a monumental transformation in growth strategies for businesses. To coin a phrase; ”evolve or face extinction”, this is immediately true when you look at the unforgiving retail sector and the many brands that have fallen by the wayside. Equally, many commercial enterprises have sat on their laurels and faced the wrath of declining clients and limited revenue growth. Conversely, some organisations have blossomed and found their own way through the wilderness, and this is where ‘Brand Engagement’ makes its grand appearance! Those consumer brands that have thrived, have embraced change by placing their values and product offering at the heart of the people that connect with it.
The truth is, the B2B sector can learn a great deal from the B2C landscape, and it can be quite obvious which commercial organisations have adopted the notion of “everyone we touch is our customer”. No longer is brand an outward facing entity, in fact, the very best companies place brand at the centre of their employee value proposition. Companies that spend time on their internal and external brand are more likely to break the ‘mediocrity mould’ and make their own way through planet uncertainty.
Of course, the digital landscape has a part to play in the good, the bad and the ugly over the last 10 years, but no one can deny its huge significance in helping business and people move forward – this is especially true in the B2C industry. However, the over-reliance of digital has changed how brands and people engage with each other, and for many B2B organisations, digital has wrongly been seen as the silver bullet to business success. Yes, digital enables mass reach and of course automation (which naturally brings efficiencies of time and resource), but it’s also bred a lazy approach to brand advocacy with B2B businesses opting to ‘make noise’ without purpose.
True brand provenance comes from developing a carefully crafted brand story. Through the eyes of all that connect with the brand, we must understand what a brand feels like, what it looks like, what it sounds like, and how it behaves. For all the reasons mentioned above, this was lost over the last decade. We forgot what was important, because we were too busy being uncertain.
So, what exactly is my moral to this article. Well mostly it’s an acceptance that the last decade will, in time, be seen as the game-changing decade. We may not see it now, but whilst the ripples of procrastination continue to filter outwards, the undercurrent of change has created a groundswell of ownership and accountability that most businesses and brands will wear proudly as their badge of honour. Like the caterpillar and the butterfly, growth comes from necessary evolution and the ability to engage with our surroundings. In business, data and automation will continue to prove their enormous value, but the real currency is people and our ability to belong, and be connected to something well structured. Knowing what our brands and businesses stand for is half the battle, and here at Brand Elect we are delighted to be leading the crusade for change, and the forming of well-rounded business strategies that stand the test of time for the next 10 years.
Here’s to the change makers – be.brave
Founder & CEO – Brand Elect