Hi folks and welcome to another weekly blog by the Loft. It has been a busy week here, inside and out. With lots of networking this week but even more excitingly, lots of further evidence that the digital revolution is gaining momentum and the hope that proper design and branding shall become more important than ever before. There has never been a more appropriate time to engage in real design and we’ll explain why…
The Revolution is here, time to adapt…
Well actually it has been here for a quite a long time, ever since the inception of the ‘world wide web’ by British scientist Sir Tim” Berners-Lee in the early 1990’s. We have seen the way we live our lives transformed. Everything from the way we make our daily purchases, consume information, listen to music and more recently, in the way we engage with others. The internet has changed everything. It may not have changed us on its own, but its descendants – smart phones, e-mail, facebook, you-tube, twitter, amazon, Google etc almost certainly have. Suddenly we have access to an endless array of information and media. And we have never been more able to shape our own lives based on our own preferences, morals and beliefs. The 21st century citizen can watch their favourite music on youtube, learn about their favourite sportspeople on Wikipedia and talk to their best friends on the other side of the planet immediately. No barriers or restrictions. In the most part, we are the empowered generation. However, this has created other problems (or opportunities, depending on what kind of company you are?) As consumer behaviours have completely altered. The problem with having so much information at our fingertips is that we each have thousands more choices to make on a daily basis and less time to make them. We are much likely to stick with those that we trust, those with shared values and those that we resonate with.
And this is where the importance of brand-being comes in. What is brand-being? Well brand-being is what brand identity should be, but where it so regularly fails. Brands that have good marketing and communication to mask ordinary products/services have good brand identities but dont neccessarily stand for anything. Companies with great brand-beings inact their culture, their values and their raison d’etre at every opportunity. These companies actually stand for something, deep down to their core, they are about more than making money. Of course, every company wants to make money. But great companies, great brands do it in a way that inspires their customers, their staff, their suppliers. It comes down to the why, what and how. Companies may be great at finding out how to do things, and they all know what they do, but how many companies know why they do something? Right from those engaged at the top? And if those at the top dont know, how about those further down the line? Think of all the great companies, organisations and movements. They have a sense of purpose greater than making money. They all know WHY they get out of bed in the morning.
Why is this so important now? Well today’s empowered yet busy consumer is much more likely to make purchases based on emotions and beliefs over rational facts. They buy phones from Apple, a computer company WHY? Because they make objects that challenge the status quo. This would be as true of cars or washing machines as it would be phones. Would they buy a phone from DELL, also a computer company? Exactly, most people wouldn’t. DELL just does not have as strong a sense of purpose as Apple. The great brands also have people queuing up to work for them… Everybody from the person in the boardroom to the person that sweeps the floor knows, understands and, most importantly, contributes to the success of that company or movement. However, this means that everything that a company like Apple does, every product, every campaign, every presentation must be true to its values. Or it loses its sense of purpose, its strength of brand and its commanding position. But in the end, most consumers now have the luxury to buy almost solely based on emotions.
This is where brand-being comes in. it is no longer satisfactory to give your brand a sharp, insincere or snappy ad-campaign and force feed it to your consumers. Most of them just aren’t listening or are un-engaged. The attitude of today’s consumers is one of blind ignorance to hard selling, of which traditional TV/newspaper advertising is one form. Nobody wants to be force-fed anything anymore. How many people look at flyers, read e-newsletters or junk mail? However, if something is cool, interesting or remarkable, it can spread through social media channels in minutes and then onto mainstream forms of media. It was the impact of Susan Boyle on Youtube that made her a global star, not the initial TV appearance. This is how today’s marketing works, but the big proviso is that you better be doing something cool, interesting and inspiring in the first place. We have moved from a push system with people forcing information onto us into a fetch system where we engage with the things we like and interest us, fetching our information accordingly, but on our terms. In the end we shall do business with the brands that we believe share common values and beliefs.
Finally, authenticity has never been more important. The fact that Ferrari has been racing F1 cars for over 60 years, give them a certain validity and strength of brand, in selling road cars. People will pay a premium for buying into that history, which is absolutely priceless. For those that work for companies that don’t really stand for anything, it is time to be worried. There is nothing more dangerous than playing it safe. If Nokia, which was technically a great company in some ways, can find itself in trouble in today’s landscape, then any-one can. And ever more dangerous is those companies that are guilty of deceiving, masquerading and suppressing its customer base. Not mentioning any names… News International. The internet and social media in particular leave absolutely no hiding place.
Why is this good for design? Well generally, companies are more likely to willingly engage the skills of the impassioned few, the innovators and the creatives to try and stamp out some form of identity in today’s climate. This can only be good for design.
The majority of the information which formed this post came from some videos on the TED website. You can check out the full presentations below and I would sincerely recommend them as a useful guide in understanding today’s landscape.
On Thursday afternoon, after the obligatory and always-excellent Business Banter in the morning. It gave me great pleasure to jump on the train and make a rare visit to Edinburgh for the annual pitch 2011 at the beautiful Signet Library just off Parliament Square. It was an outstanding event with 5 young companies all pitching live to 3 investors for investment to grow their companies. Each gave very professional pitches that excellently showed off the strong enterprise culture we do have here in Scotland. Congratulations to Kibosh Limited who gave a fantastic presentation of their wonderful product. The emergency pipe repair. You can check them out on… http://www.kiboshpiperepair.com/fitting.php The event was wonderfully organised by Bristol company, Sift Media who did themselves proud and can also be found on twitter @siftmedia
One of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to finally see Jennifer Holloway of Spark Branding speak about personal branding. Of course, personal branding is every bit as important as company branding and it was great to see how many of the principles remain true for both. Indeed some of what we spoke about earlier about companies having values, cultures and ethics etc are every bit as important for personal brands as they are for companies. Indeed, in this the internet age, the old adage ‘people buy from people’ has never been more true and important. And like company branding, people are every bit as likely to buy into your values and beliefs as they are your skills and image. Jennifer gave a very engaging presentation with lots of audience interaction. On the basis of her presentation, we could not recommend Jennifer Holloway highly enough. You can find her on Twitter @SparkBranding
It was great to finally return to Thrive Networking this Wednesday morning. The event was expertly hosted by Ola Lopatowska and was held at the stunning Langley Suite at the beautiful Corinthian Club. The event itself was reasonably enjoyable and it was nice to meet so many new people. You can find Thrive Networking on Twitter @Thrive4Business
And the Corinthian club @CorinthianClub
And finally it is bizarre to see the centre of Glasgow being transformed into downtown Philadelphia for a film-set, but there you go. It’s great to have Brad Pitt here in the city in what I am sure will be a great film. Check out our old home, George House, transformed into the ‘United States Courthouse.’ Whatever next??
Have a great week folks…
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