Fast. Fast. Fast. Change. Are brands getting it?

The speed of the zeitgeist

This is an article written by Saffron-Brunel Prize 2015 winner Nicos Dermintzoglou.

We are being bombarded with lifestyle changes from every corner of the world, especially digital ones. Cool startups are created every day, old powerful brands are trying to keep up with the latest digital trends; endless examples surround us. Big players such as GE and IBM are adapting their businesses and newcomers like Deliveroo and Laundrapp are blooming. So what do brands need to do to stay relevant in this every changing context?

Let’s take Apple as an example. Apple is expecting a 25% increase in iPhone sales compared to last year. Does its strategy stop there? Is this Apple’s big plan? Don’t get me wrong; I respect Apple and myself am an Apple user. However, it seems to have lost its cause lately. I expect much more from a visionary brand with strong identity and culture than just adding an ‘s’ to incrementally update a digital device; the same brand that changed the route of music and digital services with the iPod/iTunes and inspired so many entrepreneurs around the world. Apple now seems to lack a meaningful and timeless vision. Yet, I’m not suggesting that brands should come up with a brand new, super innovative, disrupting idea/product/service every year or so. That’s impossible -or at least not the easiest goal to achieve- and as a matter of fact Apple has already disrupted many industries, from personal computing and desktop software to music, mobile phones and publishing.

So what now? How do we stay relevant?
What about making the core vision and offerings of a brand more delightful and more impactful to the customers? Let’s have a look at AirBnb and Uber, two native digital brands which created purposeful visions, reasons for existence. They managed to develop such strong brands because they are lifestyle brands. Uber didn’t try to become a replacement for cabs and AirBnb didn’t try to kill the hotels; they aim to create and offer genuine experiences. Uber targets individuals who are willing to save time, money and travel conveniently and with style. AirBnb tries to empathize with its customers giving them an alternative to explore the world. You can sense their visions/purposes in everything they do: for AirBnb the ‘sense of belonging’ and for Uber the ‘transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere, for everyone’. Remarkably, they keep pushing forward into new markets, despite their current success; they do not get complacent. We can see it with their new initiatives: AirBnb for Business (AirBnb’s business travelling service) and UberRUSH (Uber’s on-demand delivery fleet). Yet, their core values blend in every touchpoint of their brands.

That said, branding is more than just preserving a brand; it is about steadily evaluating a brand’s mission, philosophy, and goals alongside with those of its customers. What AirBnb and Uber did admirably was not lock themselves in their original brands just because they had been profitable. They are definitely two brands to watch; they took branding to the next level by creating and communicating visions that are here to stay. Staying true to a vision helped them adapt to the continuously changing digital world and eventually disrupt their markets.

Branding started from a logo and a tagline. Until yesterday it was the experience the customers have when they use a product or a service. Now, the best way for a brand to have continuous success is to evolve and become a symbol for an idea, a way of thinking, rather than just a product or a service.

Image copyright – Sortie en Mer by Guy Cotten