It’s no secret that it’s a tough market out there and things are not getting any easier, says Dennis Wong.
Culture is moving at an ever increasing rate. Consumers are cynical, tired of being sold to. The marketplace isn’t getting bigger yet competitors continue to flood the market. Meaningful differentiation and true innovation is increasingly hard to unlock.
The burning question that marketers need to address is ‘How do you grow in a post growth era?’
We believe that many traditional marketing processes and behaviours hold back the real breakthroughs. They make our craft sluggish, naive and risk averse whilst the world we exist in demand agility and bravery. In today’s market, responding to consumers and their ‘needs’ and pandering to culture is not enough.
Brands must inspire and lead culture itself.
Why? Because brands do not simply draw their meaning from packaging or the promises they make in their communication. The most significant meaning for brands is made by the culture they surround themselves in.
It is the difference between Red Bull and Mother who both produce energy drinks. Mother promises energy while Red Bull champions and enables the freedom that comes from pushing the boundaries of what’s physically possible. Red Bull is a true lifestyle brand while Mother languishes in the declining world of FMCG.
There are four ingredients to building a lifestyle brand:
1. An enduring cultural tension
Something our consumers wants that the status quo in culture stops them from getting.
Harley Davidson unlocks the enduring tension that people want to be free but culture cages us in. (Hence its popularity with middle aged businessmen running tedious desk jobs!)
2. A brand character
With a clear set of beliefs and a purpose bigger than its category that can unlock this tension for people.
Nike is the hero who exists to liberate the champion within. This unlocks a tension felt by almost every human being…that people want to feel self-worth but culture creates a cloak of mediocrity
3. A cultural framework
Communities within culture that are both aspirational to the target consumer and also manifestations of the same core belief system as the brand.
Jack Daniels is an outlaw (like Harley) who believe freedom is born of rebellion and going your own way. Though their brand is encoded with the symbols of the Wild West, they peg themselves within contemporary rock and roll culture as it imbues the same, timeless belief system.
4. Deep understanding of the lifestyle itself
It’s badges, behaviours, social hierarchies. The best things about it and the problems within it that need fixing.
Converse thrive within skateboarding culture. They understand that the biggest problem in this culture is that there are not enough great places to skate. So rather than spend loads of money advertising, they spend their money and time finding and fixing up dilapidated skate parks with local skate communities, making the lifestyle better for those who subscribe to it.
Understanding this framework is only the start. The real work is in embedding a fundamental behavioural shift in how marketers must see their role …
· From brands to lifestyles
· From selling to leading
· From marketers to visionaries
By leading lifestyles rather than selling brands, you earn your role in culture by becoming authentic within it. You build a brand that is bigger than your category.
You have a clear vision for the future. Propelled by your beliefs to drive change that improves the world for disciples of the lifestyle which you lead.
You lead by solving problems to make the lifestyle better and giving their lifestyle a bigger voice to more people, creating a market for themselves in which they are already the default choice.
You do not find growth. You create it.
Dennis Wong is Added Value Australia’s innovation specialist.
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