Brands by the People, for the People, Will Always Flourish
By Marc Mathieu
People need businesses and businesses need people. People are behind our companies, our brands and our products. People also enjoy using them. We drive it from both ends. We market. We sell. We buy. We enjoy.
Some brands make a difference to us as people. Some brands we carry with us to work, we see our kids carry them to school, we use them in the living room or bathroom. They are everywhere. And we need them. They help us tell the world who we are. They are with us every hour of every day, making life more enjoyable, more productive, more connected – at least, the good ones do.
How do some brands do it so well? At the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Global Marketer Conference in Sydney last month, we looked at exactly that. Together with Will Gilroy of the WFA, Simon Kemp of We Are Social and others, we launched Project Reconnect. The plan is to identify best practices that are shaping marketing for the future and reconnecting us with the people
we are and the people we serve.
There was a time when the incorporation of a company required a declaration of purpose. ‘To sell product x’ was not enough. The company needed to explicitly state its chartered purpose and the benefit it provided for the community. Only then would it be given license to operate.
Today, the accountability does not come from the papers of incorporation, but it is there nonetheless. The good companies – the ones that will stick around – still care about something, because the people we serve demand it.
Some brands are born with a purpose. Think about ethical shoe brand Toms. Think Unilever’s own Lifebuoy soap. But others are not. Some brands have to discover this purpose along the way. By finding something that matters to the brand and the people that love it, brands can ensure their longevity. Without a true purpose, your brand is just a banner; just another part of the visual clutter.
It’s the code they live by
I often say that marketers are people too, because there is a need for us to rehumanise ourselves as marketers first and foremost. Taking it further, I believe that in many ways brands are just like people. We treat them as friends, cohorts and allies. And many of the qualities that dictate our views on ‘good people’ are also present in what makes a ‘good brand’.
Think about this: you expect people – at least your friends – to be truthful and transparent with you. And you expect this of brands too.
You also expect generosity. More than ever brands need to be generous with their content and services, and even their knowledge.
Brands will also have to remember the importance of empathy if they are going to forge real relationships. And let’s not forget fun. No one wants a boring friend. And no one wants to buy a boring brand. Fun can mean funny, but it can also mean interesting and exciting. Think about Unilever icecream brand Ben & Jerry’s. At the end of the day, if you’re not fun to hang out with, there’s another brand that is.
It’s the community they live with
The people who love our brands are, without a doubt, the people who will keep us relevant if we let them. Companies around the world are smartly opening their doors to ideas to do just that. This can manifest as a shared content strategy or a shared enterprise.
The world outside is moving faster than the world inside our office walls. Engage the outside, empower people, operate as if it is 2014. Because otherwise you will be yesterday’s news.
Fundamentally, people are at the heart of it all. We are seller and buyer, inventor and enjoyer. So what is important to you? What do you believe will shape the future of marketing? Join the conversation @WFAReconnect #ProjectReconnect.
You can send your own views on what should shape Project Reconnect to Marc, Simon and Will at @marcfmath, @eskimon and @wfareconnect.