This is the third post in a series putting forward an alternative way of creating socially useful and economically sustainable brands.
Although I have a reasonably clear intention in writing this series, I haven’t decided how many instalments there are going to be. I haven’t even drawn up a shortlist of possible sections though some are starting to come to mind.
And after each of the first two entries, I’ve spent some of the next day worrying about what I left out, thinking of interesting exceptions and different interpretations. And one or two people have started adding comments and questions of their own. So I’m allowing my Beyond Lovemarks thinking to emerge.
Similarly, I’ve said before that I think it helps to think of brands as emergent. Not things that unfold according to the master plan, but that emerge as a result of all the encounters between people who belong, with varying degrees of enthusiasm or loathing, to the community around a brand.
That doesn’t mean, that there is no role at all for strategy and planning but to my mind it should shift attention towards responding rapidly to what’s going on at the chalkface (I hate that word “touchpoints”). Because your brand is not created in the boardroom or marketing department, it’s being created by us ordinary folks who stack your shelves or pick our cornflakes off them.
Marketing departments and agencies love talking about customers. But the nearest some come to them is through the one-way mirror of a viewing facility in Surbiton. Often through a drink-fuelled haze. (See The Flaws of Focus Groups)
I believe with passion that something marvellous takes place when people are truly present to each other, something that cannot possibly occur in mediated conversations. Something that cannot possibly be distilled into a report, or reproduced by a seven-stage process following a consultant’s flow chart.
It’s interesting that the CEO of Tesco (biggest UK supermarket) is known for frequently walking the floor of supermarkets, wherease the now-deposed CEO of Sainsbury (former top dog, now in long decline) was more associated with a box at the Royal Opera. I suspect that the Tesco guy was more present to his brand’s daily reinvention than his rival.
It’s alive, I tell you
Where I’m heading with this is: maybe we should think of brands as more like living systems not machines. This makes them harder to explain on paper and a lot more challenging and fun to play with.
I wonder also today as to who creates the brand in reality?
…Soon what a brand means and how the underlying product or service performs will not be as the owner says it is but as the public says it is.
What do branders and marketers do in response?
Which sums up what I’ve been saying so far and where I want to go next. I think in the next posts I’m going to talk about these responses: about the power of presence (really showing up to relationships); avoiding making dreams your master; having an attitude; balancing the known and the unknown; and pleasing yourself. You can be sure that collaboration and improvisation will be in the mix too.