3 Monkeys Zeno co-sponsors the One Question Debate on What Does Brand Mean Now?
It’s hardly new news that brands are in pretty uncharted waters.
Media change, economic change, political change and societal change have combined to rip up the rulebook. At least, that’s how it can feel. The reality is that brands have now got more scope to play a fitting and fulfilling part in people’s daily lives than ever.
Doing this requires confidence and clarity about what you’re doing though. As we heard from the panel at the One Question debate (https://onequestion.live/debates) last night, the modern world is not a place in which brands should be shrinking violets. In the words of our Head of Corporate Communications, Sarah Ogden, who joined the panel: they need to go hard, or go home.
Brands exist primarily in people’s hearts and minds. A brand is the north star for a company or product that wants to draw you closer and have a relationship with you. They can unify, rally, inspire, reassure, instil pride, create movements or overthrow regimes. They are used to organise ideas, operationalise organisations and build economies.
Brands are built of, and can achieve, an awful lot.
But in an uncertain world in which trust in institutions is at a low ebb, and people are doubting who to believe, it’s tempting for brands to question whether they can play a more forthright role in people’s lives. Do people worried by world events, concerned about their personal privacy, and not quite knowing what to believe really want brands to be more centre stage?
The reality is that brands are mirrors of society. They reflect reality, as the internet can too (though that now reflects many versions of reality).
Looking beyond what brands mean now, the question for us is more why do we need them? Well, they play a key role in organising, communicating and bringing to life ideas that help people understand, consume or derive value. From religion to soft drinks and everything in between, brands connect what we think with what we make and how we define ourselves individually and as a society: the connective tissue.
Despite the turmoil all around us, the reality is the lives of brands and people are infinitely entwined. People want brands to take a stand, and to step into the void left by the unsettling change we’re seeing in the world. But to do that the right way, so there’s mutual gain. And while much navigation is needed, two-way digital media gives brands the ability to engage people directly like never before.
In the context of today’s world, brand relationships can be nurtured in partnership with the people they serve. It is my belief that brand power is in its ascendancy, mattering more than ever before, as organisations battle in the most challenging of environments and the world around consumers shifts and shapes at pace. If brand content is King, then its context is God.
To get all of this right, brands need to think inside-out. The place they can carve out in our daily lives, and the work they can do to build and protect reputation, all has to start at the core of the business, and then manifest itself in the brand. What people on the outside experience has to run through the organisation, like a stick of rock.
These are the topics we explored at the animated One Question debate last night alongside experts from Sony Music, Aston Martin, the IPA, the RAF and Interbrand.
Agreement was rife amongst the panel and the audience that those brands that understand and cultivate this thinking with authenticity are the ones that will be better equipped to survive a shifting world dynamic and arguably have the power to shape them too.