Should we still care about brand?

Branding and disruption

We’re living in a time when technological and social shifts have split organisations into either disruptors or disrupted. There’s no more space in between. It’s a time when continuous beta is the new status quo, and to survive the new context means to keep evolving. Everyone warns… if you’re not going to disrupt yourself, someone else will do it for sure, And it’ll hurt. The tide riders are those brands that never stop morphing. Experimenting. Learning. Iterating.

One question we’ve been asking ourselves lately is what happens with the brand when companies go through this constant process of change that’s expected of them? Traditionally, ever since commercial branding has been established as a discipline in the 70s by Wally and his peers, the role of brand has been to anchor things, to set a solid foundation on which the business to grow and mature. Yet in a time when companies need to be freer than ever - to evolve from one product to another and morph from one sector to another - all this seems rather restraining. Brand builders can’t take their time anymore to craft brands that stay the same throughout decades. No more Cokes, no more Fords. On the contrary, we see brands revisiting their assets more and more frequently: what it once used to be every 15-20 years, is now 5-6 years. New logos, new positionings, new visual identities, new language. If change is constant, and a rebrand is the sign of change… then should rebranding be constant? How about consistency? Is brand still relevant? Necessary?

The term brand is becoming somewhat meaningless not only because of its misuse in all sort of distorted ways (let’s not go there), but also because brand as we know is too static in a context that has long become overly dynamic.

Yet brand as a symbol of what we believe in is still incredibly relevant and more important than ever. Because brands are about relationships. How people build connections with and make sense of the world around them is perhaps today’s biggest disruption and one of the toughest challenges for every organisation in the world. Disruptive technologies are changing the way we relate with things and other people: changing our expectations, our wants and needs, and the way we express ourselves as individuals and as a society. And brand is at the very core of it: as a tool to express and give purpose; as a tool to help people make sense of technology and for technology to understand how it needs to evolve; as a tool to help companies find relevance and prove relevance in a social context that’s continuously moving. And ultimately, as a tool to build meaning between technology and people as disruption changes both of them.

Brand is, more than ever, essential. But brand needs to disrupt itself, before it becomes irrelevant. The challenge we see is creating brands that maintain their authenticity and at the same time their relevance, no matter what fundamental changes the business goes through. These brands are those that first and foremost understand what role they play in people’s lives. They are a call to action, as much as a philosophy. They help congregate people around what they can become tomorrow, instead of anchoring themselves in what they do today.