The way brands grow has fundamentally changed, and to stay in the game gatekeepers need to step up and learn to build brand in real-time. Dan Whitehead, creative director at Frog, explores this new normal.
It’s 1959, and you are launching a new product. It’s a fizzy soda, and you need to pick a bottle, a logo, a name. You work with an ad agency and spend an afternoon reviewing options, pick one, grab a boozy lunch and give the order to start putting up posters anywhere you can find space. And thus, a new brand is born.
Traditional brands were built around media habits. Reading, listening, watching. Build mental awareness, grab share of mind, be everywhere. But unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, things have changed.
The new brand landscape
Modern brands are multi-dimensional hybrids, becoming part of people’s lives by building continuous relationships in real-time. Vision, strategy, purpose and values are fused into everyday interactions with both customers and employees.
To succeed, modern brands need to be purpose-driven, prioritizing making a difference in the world (think Ikea ‘creating a better everyday life for many people’). But they also need to be experience-obsessed, optimizing the customer experience to as close to perfection as they can get. They need to embrace data too. Without it, integrated, personalized and adaptive services that respond to user needs will forever be out of reach. And with transparency just a click away, brands need to deliver on their values internally. Employee-centric brand systems are growing in popularity, and with good reason. They have the power to unite your most powerful ambassadors (your employees), can attract top-tier talent and make sure your brand feels consistent and powerful from the inside out.
This is no small ask. Brands today need to constantly improve their products, processes and even their culture – a vast change from the ‘set and forget’ ways of old. For a business navigating this new normal, we’ve found some ways of working that support the innovation and fast-paced change that can really drive growth.
A recipe for success
Work like a startup
It’s easy to get stuck debating your mission or purpose, so avoid long hypothetical discussions by designing things that put ideas into practice so you can test, learn and refine – fast. The mantra here is to move quickly, but don’t sacrifice quality.
We’ve worked with mobile provider Smarty over the past five years to help them become one of the UK’s most loved networks. Core to our approach was an experimental culture of ‘test > learn > iterate > refine.’ This enabled us to quickly identify new audience triggers, supercharge the experience and get to market fast while delivering long-lasting value. This type of collaborative, value-driven process is a key part of Frog’s DNA.
Shift from siloed to systemized
Never lose sight of the fact any decision you make must add both business and customer value, from product roadmaps to company culture. Break down silos and seed brand in every element of your business – think of brand as an operating system through which your business functions and decisions get made.
A deep understanding of your purpose, your customers and what you stand for is critical. With those evergreen principles established, you can build flexible-yet-consistent elements into your brand without losing sight of your core spirit. Create an agile brand system that can adapt in a real-time way, growing with your communities instead of trying to define them.
Remember: form follows emotion
Frog founder Hartmut Esslinger famously said, “Form follows emotion,” and this remains as true today as it did in 1969. For modern brands to resonate with people, understanding, connecting and communicating with your audience is essential. Build behavioral insight and empathy into your process from the start.
Modern brands become winners when they continuously strive to build positive connections with their audiences through thoughtful interactions. Whether startup, scale-up or established big hitter, any benchmark example is constantly evolving to stay at the top. This real-time approach to brand building is the only way to keep up with changing demands across multiple priorities. To keep up, brands need to bake adaptability into how they do business. Ignore this, and you could wake up tomorrow to find your customers are already with the new kid on the block.