We have shown that embracing Brand Impermanence could have huge benefits to both brands and agencies but the ultimate challenge lies with clients themselves.
How can they organize themselves in a way that delivers strong distinctive brands and shareholder returns while remaining in the “now” of relevant and effective brand communications?
The long term success of the brand is spelt out in the mission statements and corporate goals set at the board’s AGM but are rarely delivered.
Below is a graph that shows the impact and relevancy of brand communications over a given period of time. It is based on Gartner’s hype cycle and is a representation of the ever changing relationship between brands and their audiences.
I’ve taken May 2010 as reference point and plotted some current brand campaigns.
The majority of campaigns will never reach “the peak of inflated” impact. Most will fall in the trough of disillusionment or if they’ve done their homework at least the slope of enlightenment.
This is because our brands and campaigns are built on retrospective ideas, replication, outdated information and long forgotten strategies. There are obviously limits to the speed at which content can be produced but how can clients organize themselves to deliver more effective communications with maximum relevancy?
We will now look at clients’ structure, measurement techniques and accountability in order to create a road map to foster Brand Impermanence into their cultures.
Structure – The long and the short of it
Firstly, they can learn from other industries. The McLaren F1 team based in Woking, have developed a unique practice of teamwork that helps them challenge for the F1 championship year on year.
They have two performance engineering teams that work in the high tech Surrey factory side by side. One team focuses on building next years’ car and looks at long term technology development, rule changes, course outlays etc. The other team is focused on the day to day task of getting the car prepared for the next race in under 2 weeks time.
This is a fascinating approach as it allows close collaboration and sharing of ideas between two parallel teams in order to both “react and create” while keeping a long term strategy in sight.
This could work in client marketing departments. Too often clients are accused of focusing on the minutia of detail and the stress of their next deadline to present their boss with a justification of budget spends.
“Big picture” thinking and strategy is often crammed into a pre determined planning period, however in the new approach there is a constant osmosis transfer of ideas between teams. This allows brands to develop in the “now” and the future. Below is a representation of how this might work.
This structure would allow the head of marketing (or relevant position) to get a clear picture of Brand Impermanence. It means, for example, that upcoming trends can be built into briefs on current activity, always keeping thinking fresh and ahead of the competition.
Measurement – Getting real
I believe the work practices of most clients are a cumbersome product of a “solid” brand past which must be replaced with a more responsive and reactive “liquid” brand measurement.
The techniques that have helped champion our industry have attempted to use the past as a guide to the future direction of brands. The processes, and outputs, from brand tracking to econometrics, have taken us this far – but where do we go next?
The digital age has created opportunities for real-time measurement that I believe will not only give us a better understanding of brands and behaviour – it will be the driving force for a paradigm shift of ideas and effective brand communications.
Clients can no longer respond to trends in an attempt to stimulate demand. They need to be able to flow with the data and adapt to the needs of it’s audiences before they realise there is a need to be met.
By harnessing and liberating networks of live information clients can start to meet the challenges of our impulsive, instant and ever changing world and cast aside the shackles of ineffective measurement that has restricted our progression to date.
It won’t be about trying to predict individual behaviour based on a multitude of historical data sources. It will be about monitoring behaviour and reacting to change as quickly as possible.
“Consumers are now feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak”
There are 4 billion mobile phones in the world and data traffic will double every year until 2013. By 2014 the aim is for “cloud” technology to service the majority of people’s data, it’s vital that brand custodians reflect and embrace this brave new world.
Here are 5 ideas for more effective real time measurement
Data dashboards are not new to marketers. However, the retrieval and collection of data to a single source for visualization is essential to maintain Brand Impermanence. Current metrics that are tracked include awareness and brand health measures, media output, sales, web visits, downloads etc.
Clients must broaden the scope of their information. By linking with buzz monitoring companies such as Whitevector or Twitter they can track real time conversations that impact on brand equity. By fusing live search technologies such as Scoopler, Picfrog or socialseek a snap shot of brand health can be constantly viewed.
Add in a layer of macro trend monitoring by feeding in data from sources such as trendwatching, Enders Analysis or nvision and you start having the ability to react and create with your brand. Below is an example of how the dashboard might look based on a real time search around the Nike brand.
Neo Geo targeting
Steve Jobs has predicted that in the near future “we will architect cities around technology”. People have embraced the everyday mediation of digital life. Devices on our clothes, our buildings, vehicles, mobile phones all transmit extraordinary volumes of data. Without intrusion or exploitation clients must partner with these technology companies to deliver geo targeted communications
Clients reacting to GPS data sent from mobile phones to let them know where hotspots of their audience are found is happening. It doesn’t take a Minority Report leap to sync this data with digital billboards and update with relevant brand messages or promotional offers.
To measure this will require collaboration through various parties and there are obviously privacy and civil liberty issues. However, if brands are to forge closer bonds with their audiences they must adapt to consumers’ transient lives and be ready to deliver in the opportune moment of need.
Work is already under way between Sky and NDS to deliver direct “smart TV” advertising straight into people’s homes based on their viewing behaviour. This is set to be fused with your web browsing history and even potential storecard and e-mail data should the likes of Dunnhumby get on board.
Clients will be the winners should these relationships flourish and data become available (at a price).
The implications of this highly targeted and personalised approach to advertising are huge. Measurement techniques concerned with exposure, awareness or preference of large audiences are just not relevant. Behaviour is the driver of the interaction with the brand. By monitoring purchasing decisions and ad engagement in a continuous loop, you brand is always able to react and deliver.
Power of numbers
More and more clients are moving from attempting to predict brand behaviour to listening and reacting to their consumers. Successful examples include P&G vocalpoint and Lego. Influential online panels that generate continuous feedback on products prior and post launch to deliver updated real time measurement for brands.
If the right questions are asked, the people managed correctly and brave decisions made, these audience panels can fuel measurement techniques and be integrated into other sources to create a flexible and reactive feedback.
Accountability – Outputs and outcomes
The squeeze on ROI continues but the ability to achieve the targeted goals are hampered by budget limitations, process and routine. In an impermanent world clients need more scope to succeed.
If targets are to be met does it really matter how you get there? Clients must loosen control on the safety nets and protocol surrounding creative development and communication placement. Agree remuneration on pre-defined outcomes and monitor. Allow for flexibility and build in the impact of variables that are out of your control.
Start communicating by testing and learning. Amazon is a great example of a company that is set up to test and learn through recommendation. The misses are far outweighed by the hit of the perfect match to one of their customers.
Achieve results by meeting challenges on a daily and weekly basis. Abolish budget setting. If it can work for UBS wealth management it can work for brand communications.
Allowing staff to set their own holidays and free up time for brand thinking in the context of the present would all help to deliver. People are not interacting with brands in a linear and monologue way neither should clients.
Clients should adopt tools and techniques that encourage collaboration and innovation, process and routine have no place in an impermanent work environment.
I believe the time is right for us to embrace Impermanence in our brands, clients and agencies. The search for brand Nirvana is over.
Impermanence has always existed in our brand communications but the instantaneous flows of information made possible by the digital age now demand its inclusion.
Our industry relies on the success of unforeseen leaps in creativity and ideas by a handful of campaigns defined by their inspiration and impact.
These brand communications are too rare but we can make them more frequent by reacting and creating new content and contexts for them to thrive.
The building of fixed brands is no longer a viable option within the networked communities and conversations that are transient and “always on”. We must understand the power of now in a continual series of relevant touchpoints.
I’ve shown that by embracing what we don’t know and responding with innovative and instant solutions can lead to a future of more effective communications.
Brand Impermanence is a mindset, a framework and perhaps a different philosophy for brands, agencies and clients. I would urge you to consider it when you next sit down to draw out the year plans, comms strategy or creative briefs that will shape future advertising campaigns in the age of uncertainty.
About the author
GregFuller is a comms planner working for Starcom MediaVest, a global media agency (although the concept of a pure media agency is long gone). I’ve worked in communications planning for 8 years across a range of clients including the likes of American Express, COI, Royal Mail, Associated Newspapers and most importantly Jobsite! Having recently completed the IPA excellence diploma here are some thoughts/ideas on the future of brand communications.
This post is part of Greg Fuller’s guest series on Brand Impermanence. The first post explains the background and concept of Brand Impermanence: The search for nirvana is over. The second post focused on the four principles of Brand Impermanence: The Beta Brand. The third outlined a future model for advertising agencies.
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