Brands bring their purpose to life by creating experiences for their consumers. Do it well and these experiences can be a powerful platform for growth, contribute to culture and generate desire.
In a world of ever-increasing competition for the consumer’s dollar, brands have to constantly innovate just to stand out. This means, they have to constantly re-imagine how their purpose can come to life but are today’s marketing teams well-equipped to create brand experience innovation?
In my experience, most brand owners continue to rely on their agency partners to deliver brand experience innovation, usually through a response to a creative brief. Creative agencies are a hot-bed of inventive thinking and culturally-connected people. They can do a wonderful job of creating brand experiences. But these experiences are often short-lived, constrained by this year’s budget or media schedule; by commitments to shareholders or retail partners. As a result, brand experience is treated like any another activation – a transactional task to be delivered, rather than how the brand lives, breathes and contributes to culture day in, day out.
Yes, brand teams are stretched in many different directions but, at the end of the day, their fundamental role is to ensure the future success of the brand. While creativity and vision are part of every brand team’s objectives, most marketers would tell you that commercial management and internal stakeholder issues take up a disproportionate amount of time and attention. Brand teams are therefore unfortunately forced to become passive managers instead of active drivers of growth. As a result, many large brands are finding their market share under attack from small, vibrant players that provide a clear promise to consumers and enjoy double-digit growth. These brands are often founded by visionary individuals, and run by teams who are not afraid to break the rules. They have the conviction that they can provide consumers with a better way.
But this type of success is not just limited to the little guys. Some of the most vibrant, admired and iconic brands in the world are driven by people with vision who bring their brand purpose to life using category-defining brand experiences. Let’s use Nike CEO Mark Parker, he is a sneakers designer. He lives and breathes the Nike ethos and core product every day. Not only that, he can design and create it too.
Another example, Icebreaker founder, New Zealander Jeremy Moon, was shown an innovative merino fabric at just 24. He embraced it, quit his job to design a new range of outdoor clothing, and now leads a unique global clothing brand on an impressive growth trajectory. Also in the world of fashion, German designer Karl Lagerfeld has been the Creative Director at Chanel since 1983. His creativity and vision has never wavered, and under his leadership the house has gone from strength to strength as the most coveted fashion brand in the world.
The technology industry also offers examples of brand innovation. This industry is one that shapes culture and delivers brand experience innovation everyday – very few tech brands do any classic ‘marketing activation’. These brands have been founded by geeks who dared to dream. Facebook has created a brand experience that gave the world a new way to connect and communicate. These people are all masters of brand experience innovation, although they probably would never think about themselves in that way. They don’t have to ‘brief’ it – they live it and breathe it every day. They are members of the core tribe that subscribes to the brand’s beliefs. They are wedded to their industries, they are the heartbeat (and sometimes even the face) of the brand. But none are classic marketers. None could be described as brand ‘managers’.
With the changing marketing landscape, organisations need to take a different perspective on the skill sets really needed to deliver brand growth. Let’s find visionary individuals who are passionate about the brand purpose, represent the brand values and consider themselves to be creators, not managers. Let’s bring these people into brand teams, and put brand experience innovation at the heart of what it means to be a marketer.
Sally Smallman (@) is a director at Added Value Australia