A river knows where it is going – weaving its way across lands, around mountains, and through valleys, and a river is also dynamic, responding to its landscape, but never losing sight of its end goal – the sea. And just like a river it is crucial that brands themselves become dynamic and fluid, sure of where they want to flow to, even if they must navigate a changing landscape to get there.
So – two big challenges lie ahead for brands, knowing exactly where the brand wants to go, but remaining dynamic and responsive to change. The challenge for most is being able to cope with the multi-dimensionality of change – change in technology, society, buying habits etc.
With digital technology, it continues to change at an exponential rate, as channels and platforms reinvent the way in which consumers live and communicate with each other. It’s something no organisation can ignore, yet all too many brand leaders, marketers and digital specialists quickly become confused with each new communications medium, as they are unsure of where their brand is going, with no obvious path laid out ahead of them. Confusion reigns, and it’s easy to become frustrated and lost in the sheer scale of opportunity.
But the solution is a simple one – act like water. Firstly, marketers must stop becoming pre-occupied with all the different mediums and channels that they could speak to their customers through, and instead bring their attention back to the core – their brand; gain a true and deep understanding of the brand, know where you want the brand to go to. Once done, the choice of which channels the brand should flow through will become crystal clear.
Think about a photography brand. Kodak rose and fell, hard, because it failed to understand its core; that it existed to help people capture their memories. Instead it was too attached to outmoded technology to understand the path it should take. While the other brands were embracing and inhabiting digital photography Kodak should have gone a step further, why did it not spearhead innovation such as Instagram.
But there are plenty of examples where brands are becoming enlightened to their digital cores. Take Fiat, and its partnership with Spotify; collaborating on a playlist to provide complementary music for roadside scenery is a great example of a brand that is staying true to its core by enhancing the joy of driving, while connecting with customers in an emotionally charged way.
And what about from the consumer’s perspective? Remember that we’re all human, and we all share that basic human need – to make a connection with one another. Nobody wants to be alone. We want to make these connections and to be heard, so we’ll very quickly welcome an approach from a brand, regardless of the method it uses, as long as it feels authentic, natural, personal and personalised. Digital marketing systems can help to deliver a communications plan tailored to the individual needs of each consumer.
While staying true to the brand’s core, digital marketers can then follow the flow of new technologies, not fight them. If you truly understand your brand then the most relevant and inclusive channels will stand out and feel right. If it feels forced, it’s probably the wrong path.
Technological and communicative change is only going to get faster in pace. The real skill is not learning to keep up, but simply learning how to adapt and flow. To survive in the ever-changing digital landscape brands must act like water, be dynamic and fluid, and deliver digital experiences that react and respond to each consumer, while staying true to their core. If you know where you want to get to, the path will present itself.