Monthly Archives: September 2010

The role of brands

These are my very brief thoughts in relation to the role of brands, whether the power of brands is waning and what it means for the industry as a whole…

It used to be relatively simple to know what the role of a brand was. Brands were simply products and services available for sale. But society has evolved at tremendous pace pace in the last century and brands have evolved with them. Now, it feels like everything is a brand. Rightly or wrongly, brands now dictate what we think of people and how we think of ourselves.

So, is the power of the big brand waning?

Well, the above would suggest not. Unprecedented technological advancement has meant that in the present day, brands are able to be more flexible and multi faceted than ever before. Brands can offer different meanings to different people doing different things at different times. This flexibility creates greater relevance to the visions and ideologies that consumers identify with and conform to.  

So, with greater opportunities to be relevant comes greater power?

Well, yes it does. However, the opportunity to become multi-dimensional has a flip side. With these technological advancements, the consumer has also been offered the opportunityto participate and interact rather than simply consume messaging. As such, brands are no longer a static brand value but a constantly morphing discourse of opinion. Some belong to the brand, but more belong to individuals who now have the power to make and break them.

If the product and the vision stacks up, then brands are more powerful than ever. If brand credentials don’t stack up though, then no amount of media purchasing and snappy slogans will rescue them from public opinion

So, what does this mean for our profession? Well, it means it’s harder to cut-through than ever before. It means we can’t bullshit consumers. It means we need to understand a plethora of channels that a few years we didn’t even know existed.

It also means more channels than ever before to communicate in. More opportunities to be bold and innovative. More opportunities to make a difference to greater numbers of people than ever before.  It means there’s never been a more exciting time to be working in the communications industry.

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Is advertising losing it’s relevance?

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. Starting a new job and the holiday season put paid to efforts temporarily. Fortunately, starting a new job means interesting new surroundings and people to be inspired by. Which is good. So, I’ve started at Saatchi and Saatchi and one such source of inspiring thoughts is a weekly account management ‘workout’. We’ve had talks from interesting brands like Google through to social media experts and it was whilst listening to the latter chatting away about a particular participatory campaign that I asked myself a question… Is advertising losing it’s relevance?

I’m not talking in the traditional sense of does advertising per se hold interest to the average man in the street. We know it still does as, whether it be gorillas, meerkats or karaoke, advertising campaigns retain the ability to permeate popular culture. What I’m more interested in is how far removed from the product being advertised, agencies are now willing to go to achieve business objectives that didn’t exist 10 years ago – principally around participation and interaction. The reality is that in low interest categories – it can be easy to think that people aren’t really interested in detergent or sausages or wood varnish, so to get them involved in participatory mediums, we need to find out what they really are interested in and use this as a hook to show that we understand their wants and desires.

For me, this creates a problem though whereby it becomes incredibly easy to lose sight of what we are actually trying to achieve – sales. Our desire to make people ‘participate’ or ‘interact’ with a brand can overshadow the ultimate requirement of establishing relevance which is I think is essential within advertising to selling more of a product. Participating isn’t enough. We need relevance. It’s actually pretty easy to create something that people can play and interact with. The real challenge therefore is finding the emotional hook in the context of the product and the potential customer’s relationship to it – that can create an affinity and ultimately sell more. Relevance basically. Which is much harder and oft forgotten.

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