As technology continues to disrupt our lives and our businesses, brands need to create a purpose that is not only evident in their products and services, but also baked into their own internal culture, writes Declan Flynn.
The past 12 months have been tumultuous and unpredictable. We find ourselves at a crossroads, politically, socially and technologically. While the future might be uncertain due to the ever-changing nature of modern living, uncertainty is not new. Even the ancient Greeks acknowledged that, “There is nothing permanent but change.”
It is the pace of change that is new to us. Technology enables change to occur much faster than previously experienced. While social revolutions used to take years to ferment, social media can bring crowds to the streets in hours. Technologies like driverless cars have the potential to disrupt multiple sectors of the economy in under a decade. So, how can we learn to embrace this uncertainty and change by looking to our past?
The second industrial revolution wrought great change on Victorian society, bringing about a cultural, economic and technological shift which radically changed not only how Victorian society functioned, but also changed people’s very behaviour. Society moved from an agrarian focus to an industrial one and from rural living to urban. With this came increased inequity, business owners and traditional institutions saw a massive increase in wealth as modernisation brought new industries and opportunities, while the workers struggled to make ends meet. This too brought other issues relating to housing, health, poverty and crime.
Society struggled to rebalance in what was a revolutionary time, Victorians developed a strong sense of proprietary and a moral code to help them make sense of this new reality. Professions which had been in existence since time in memoriam, no longer existed as technology replaced the workers. This was a blessing and a curse, but in this era, many brands we know today were just beginning to sow their roots and their products and services developed and evolved to reflect this new reality. This was a time of increased competition as production became more efficient and ultimately cheaper, leading to a slightly more fragmented consumer landscape.
Fast forward to 2017, what has changed?
The effects of industrial progress have, coupled with modern developments, continued to impact how we as a society function. The ‘Digital Revolution’ has fully embedded, but as it continues to develop apace, we can see the impact modernisation has brought and the potential of what it will bring. While the industrial revolution impacted traditional farming, food and production processes, the digital and age of automation will impact all aspects of our lives, even eliminating professions that are part of the fabric of society, from medicine to accountancy and from retail production to customer service. Simultaneously, we see society begin to change and develop new ideals, we see a rejection of traditional institutions and ways of thinking, as stereotypes of all kinds become obsolete.
In the age of mechanisation humans got forgotten, progress trumped the needs of people. Today it is our feelings and emotions that are being forgotten. In the drive to give the easiest and simplest service, brands are forgetting the experience. We desire meaning and purpose, we crave interaction, a real connection and an experience, it is these which give us a true sense of fulfilment.
Brands have a role to play now like never before.
However, they must define their purpose to give people meaning over and above a product or service.
Brands can weather this uncertainty by defining their purpose. However, purpose is not a tagline, it must be delivered and experienced by everyone who engages with the brand. At MCCP, we see that the big shift for the marketing community is that culture is the new marketing, and that it sits at the ‘C’ suite level. Brands need to fully appreciate the value of this if they are to grow.
By using research and strategy to identify and capitalise on emerging consumer truths, brands can innovate and create products and services that will strengthen their offering while also ensuring they maintain loyalty by answering the needs of their existing consumer audience. This will also enable brands to innovate and to develop new products and services that fit with their consumer’s lives.
MCCP recognise the need for brands to create a purpose that is not only evident in their products and services, but which is also representative of their own internal culture. The purpose should be a guiding light, both internally and externally. We have worked with some of the largest manufactures, retailers and experience creating brands both in Ireland and abroad, and have helped them to not only identify their purpose, but enabled them to align both the internal culture and the external, resulting in real growth.
While change and uncertainty can be daunting, by embracing it and developing with it, brands can not only survive, but thrive.
Declan Flynn is a Strategist with MCCP
First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ November 2017)© to order back issues please call 016611660