The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If You Don’t Shape The Future, Mediocrity Thrives …
July 5, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

The problem with brand building is there’s no single approach to achieving greatness.

It’s not for lack of trying.

Ever since I’ve been in the industry – which is longer than a murderer gets in jail – there’s been this quest to identify the ‘ultimate solution’ … the methodology that can bestow brand dominance on all who use it.

However, despite all the time, money and research we’ve put into looking, there’s a reason we haven’t found it and that’s because it doesn’t exist … and the reason it doesn’t exist is because for all the things marketing can control, there’s one thing it can’t.


Until those pesky humans stop having a mind of their own … a mind that continually changes and fills up with things that they think are more important – like paying the mortgage or deciding what to cook for dinner – we’re going to continually be asking ourselves questions that ultimately have no definitive, future-proof answer.

Why am I saying all this?

Because for the last few months I’ve been [foolishly] asked by a number of people, media & academia to answer 2 questions …

+ How will the approach to brand building change over the next 10 years?

+ What role will brands play in consumer’s lives in 2020 and beyond?

… and while I could write a bunch of predictions that make me look informed and smart [especially because people would have to wait till 2023 to be able to tell me I’m wrong] the fact is, I haven’t got the faintest.

Of course there are a number of things we can be sure of.

Digital will become even more powerful and influential as technology continues to find ways to seamlessly integrate into our lives, routines and behaviour … storytelling will remain the bridge between commerce and culture and strong, demonstrable, points-of-view will become even more important in driving differentiation, loyalty and relevance [albeit to more niche, hard-to-reach audiences] … however the reality is the future is not a pre-determined place, it’s something you have to continually create and shape by pushing, prodding, exploring and provoking which is why I prefer to go with the all encompassing answer:

It’s whatever you’re willing to make it.

23 Comments so far
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Brilliant post Rob. Though I’d agree with anything as long as you didn’t say 2020 was going to be the transmedia age.

Nothing wrong with transmedia thinking but it was an approach, not a momentous, revolutionary period of time. Not that you would know that from the amount of media people I met that dropped that expression in every conversation.

Comment by Pete

The point you make is a good one. For all the talk agencies and brands give about pioneering their own path, many follow whatever approach has the momentum of the industry at that particular moment in time. The rest just react to what their competitors are doing/saying.

If there is any label to attach to 2020, maybe it’s the age of sheep. As you say, it’s in your own hands, but few are willing to do that because that makes them feel exposed and open to judgement.

Comment by Pete

You’re feisty today Pete. I agree with what you’re saying … it’s just the way you’re saying it is much more ‘Niko’ than ‘Pete’. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Pete’s gone rogue.

Comment by DH

2020. You’ll still be wearing birkenstocks, listening to queen and favoring military inspired shirts. I don’t even need to wait 7 years to be told I’m right.

Comment by DH

No comment.

Comment by Rob

My answers

1) It won’t.
2) Less and less.

They’re related.

Comment by John

I agree … which is kind of my point unless you do something about it and even then, the odds are stacked against you unless you start understanding where you stand in people’s lives rather than act like they are sitting at home, waiting for you to talk to them.

Comment by Rob

Planners will prove to be as resilient as roaches.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Bang goes whartons reputation. Whatever it was.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I know. Poor folks. I’ve just destroyed the meaning and value of any degree someone has from that fine institution.

Comment by Rob

That is the best and probably most accurate, summation of what could occur in the next 10 marketing years. I do concur with John that the impact of marketing will become less and less influential, especially if brands continue to follow their current course of micro innovation, wallpaper messaging and invasive media spend. Nice work Robert.

Comment by George

I like your “micro innovation, wallpaper messaging and invasive media spend” sum up.

Sadly that is pretty accurate.

Micro innovation because too many companies are still living in the 50’s and think any news is good news.

Wallpaper messaging because brands don’t want to stand out and ask their research companies and ad agencies to play in the category rather than out of it.

And invasive media spend because if you have nothing of value to say, the only hope you have is to keep hitting people over the head with it until they start to listen.

Comment by Rob

Prognostication is best left to crystal balls and soothsayers. Look at the financial markets,most people working there have no idea what’s going to happen in the next hour and the whole thing is driven by fear and prediction, which more often than not turns out to be mistaken. I think where you put your finger on it, is that people are more concerned about the now, paying the mortgage and getting through friday to enjoy the weekend. The more you can touch a button with something relevant to people’s lives the closer you are to understanding branding.

Comment by Rob Scott

Hi Rob, thanks for commenting.

I suppose my issue is that brands and agencies have to appreciate – as you say – societies “now” issues … too often they act like people lives revolve around waiting to buy the ‘new & improved’ Chicken Tonight.

But the bigger issue for me is that by all mean plan to do big things in the future, but you can’t expect it to come true if you don’t try and do things to shape it and that is – sadly – exactly what adland and brands love to do. They act like the future is a pre-determined place, but it’s not … well, unless you’re some weird religious person who thinks there is always ‘a plan’ for you.

Comment by Rob

That’s all we need. Another person who makes serious comments on this blog.

Comment by DH

If those locust commentators come again, I’m going home.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Nicely put Robert. Some excellent views in the comments as well.

Comment by Lee Hill

The future is media arts

Comment by Northern

As the bumper sticker says: “It takes crystal balls to be a futurist”.

My two penn’orth:

More media fragmentation, so even less ‘mass’ in mass media.

More indifferent brands with more brand indifference (yawn).
Those that shine will shine more brightly – it’s either that or get lost in the grey haze.

More retail concentration, so more private label pressure on brands.

More data, used with less imagination. (e.g. more re-targeting – repetitive offers for stuff you looked at but decided you didn’t want.)

More short-term marketing panic, more client and agency churn, so fewer long-term campaign ideas. (‘Refreshes the parts’ ran for over 25 years. What chance of that for an idea that launched today?)

More one-offs and events, to try to create your own mass audience. And all forgotten much faster: ‘The nine minutes wonder’.

Fewer long-term brand successes, especially in technology, as it gets harder to transition from one technology/product generation to the next. Success will be measured as surviving a decade, not a century. (E.g. Nokia, Blackberry, Sony, Dell, Compaq).

Products will remain just as important as brands (despite what far too many people who should know better think now). What you make is the most tangible evidence of what you believe.

On the upside, good ideas will still transform people’s thinking and attitudes. Those ideas just won’t necessarily be expressed in the form of ‘advertisements’ in paid media. But they will still have the same objective as advertising, to manipulate and manage peoples’ perceptions of brands and products. Being famous is still going to be important. What you need to be famous for will change as culture evolves.

People won’t necessarily change much. How they live, and what they own and use will.

Lampedusa put it succinctly: “for things to stay the same, everything must change”.

Comment by Ian Gee

From now on I’ll direct anyone that asks me questions like this to you …

Comment by Rob

The short version is ‘the same but different’.

Comment by Ian Gee

The future is the future we won’t know until we it’s the present.

Comment by Doug

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