Future-proofing your brand (Part 2 of 3)

by Ofentse Sefolo
Future-proofing your brand (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 featured in the previous issue of Walls & Roofs, we discussed using human resources for human problems and how technology incites change. In this issue we will delve deeper into fostering innovation.

During a chief executive officer (CEO) roundtable, a moderator asked the group one simple question: What keeps you awake at night? One answer cut through and was universally agreed upon: Fear of irrelevance.

Household names become irrelevant because they fail to move with the times, technology and the pace of their consumers. In a survey, failure to innovate was ranked as the number one challenge to the longevity of companies. And as it has been shown with AI, certain industries tend to be late adopters when it comes to new technology and business models.

Today’s brands need to solve the bigger problems and be empathetic to the needs of their customers. Brands need to be savvy listeners to pick up cues from their customers and implement the changes that make sense for their business. At the same time, as they innovate, brands need to stay true to their own DNA. Having a strong brand identity is not only a key differentiator in an ever-more saturated market, but a non-negotiable in a market craving authenticity.

“Identify where parts of your brand are fragmented and unite them through a core message.” – Chloe Jerrard, consultant, EMEA

Remember your core DNA

Most businesses were started because their founders were passionate about a fundamental need in the market. To know how to innovate, companies need to articulate this core purpose and measure every opportunity for expansion or development against it. In other words, brand DNA can’t and shouldn’t change, but how it is expressed should evolve.

Consumers crave brands that are transparent and honest. When you move with their every whim, you erode your brand’s integrity. The consumer will ultimately ask what does this stand for? And by consuming it, what message am I sending?

“It’s about consumers’ mindsets, not their demographics. Mindsets cut through the data and tell you what’s really driving a purchase, whether it be fear or joy.” – Andrea Bell, executive editor, North America

Prioritise mindsets over demographics

Brands looking to innovate all too often throw out new products or features hoping to capture new demographics, or respond to the latest report about what millennials are thinking. But behind a machine, and behind a click, is a person. And with this person comes expectations of what your brand means.

Today, demographics are increasingly blurred. Your brand needs to connect with the person behind the numbers before they can ask the question: Is this change right for me?

What’s more, companies are drowning in data. For years, they have been collecting data on everything from what time their consumers watch TV to how they walk from their car to the store. There are millions of ways to quantify millennials, but this data goes unused simply because there isn’t enough time to go through it, or there is so much information, it becomes impossible to decide. Mindsets cut through the data. What is driving purchases? Fear, desire, happiness? It’s hard to connect to a data point. Everyone, including a CEO, relates to a feeling.

“Adopt a start-up mindset and structures that facilitate entrepreneurial cultures or create incubation hubs within existing business structures.” – Lori Gooding, senior consultant, EMEA

Adopt a start-up mindset

Small companies are by nature more agile. They can push through ideas faster, cut through the red tape and are frankly not under as much of a legal or public microscope as the larger brands and companies of our time. At the same level, the need for consumer empathy requires businesses to create almost personal connections with their consumers. So how does a large, established company make changes at the speed of the consumer?

One way is to learn from start-ups. Nike’s reorganisation signals a move towards businesses creating smaller, actionable teams within their larger umbrella. The plan, known as “Consumer Direct Offense”, accelerates innovation by creating hubs for the brand in twelve key cities including Berlin, Barcelona and Seoul. Combined, these cities represent 80% of Nike’s projected growth through to 2020.

President and CEO, Trevor Edwards, explained: “Today we serve our athletes in a changing world: One that’s faster and more personal. This new structure aligns all our teams towards our ultimate goal – to deliver innovation, at speed through more direct connections.”

Another way to adopt a start-up mentality is to build your own start-up. Larger companies should embrace more emerging talent and disruptive thinkers. “Incubation hubs” can provide a pool of new talent and entrepreneurial sparks for your company amongst people who might not otherwise “fit” within existing structures.

Fostering innovation: 3 Top tips

1. Look for incremental changes that fit within the larger purpose of your brand.
2. Don’t hide behind consumer data. Ask what’s driving your consumer emotionally and use this as the basis for innovation.
3. Adopt a “start-up” mentality by setting up smaller operating units for your customers.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to WGSN Mindset for the information contained in this article.

For the complete copy, contact WGSN Mindset or visit www.wgsn.com.

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