Like The Treachery of Images by Magritte, a brand may not be a brand if it only remains a mere representation and does not fulfill its purpose as a brand. For decades, a brand has been defined and theorized in so many books, seminars and other writings by so many people, differing one another by using synonyms or cultural/time perspectives. Yet, today, the same questions are still asked: “How should be my brand strategy? Are we a 21st century brand?” Year-end or not, we usually hear or read a… balance sheet of branded ideas, where the accounts lines are “transparency”, “consumer-oriented”, “omnicanal”, “engaging” etc. As a matter of fact, we all know the key accounts and the holy advice by heart, as year after year they are the same. Why?
An example: plastic. Plastic wrapping is not a new issue. Presented, documented and debated, we are all aware of some of the impacts resulting from plastic pollution. But paradoxically, some brands are still creating smaller packaging – still not all biodegradable – to ease our lovely consuming-consumer lifestyle.
Loads of information is available to most consumers. So many that we are not able to remember all and most of all we got bored when the information sounds familiar. A day after a catastrophe, everyone is emotionally affected, triggering multiple generosity enlightenments and honorable gestures such as fund raising improvised on social media; where helping a neighbor or a country are as numerous acts as they are transient. Here are some instances. Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old student started a GoFundMe site with the goal of raising $5,000 to help James Robertson a 56-year-old man from Detroit, USA, walking 34 km every day to get to work. This crowdfunding ended at $90,000. As to Thom Feeney, a 29 year-old British, he created the Greek Bailout Fund, which has raised €1,930,577 in 8 days.
Amazing stories. Yet, what Mario Dziamski, head of research at Rank a Brand said in The Guardian, gives us a broader picture of these “generosity stings”. He said that the number of visitors that went to their site did increase by around 75% on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh last year; but, 24 hours later, these numbers went back to normal, and remained the same on the second anniversary (24 April 2015). It is like as if the will to consume better vanishes as soon as drama is not under the spotlights…
Using the Net
Documentary or articles, media convey strong and suggestible messages. The Guardian has recently pointed out how Fox News contributed to climate change denial using 72% of non-accurate scientific data in 2013. Worrying…
However, an advantage of information overload might actually be this wide access to more information from different channels; enabling the most curious of us to get a bigger picture. Among these channels, sites and applications are more and more popping out, aiming to help consumers by providing information/guidance on brands or ranking these brands based on different criteria such as labor conditions or environmental impact.
Yet, consumers’ impact should not be underestimated. Our attention span can last longer than a day in some rare cases. Just look at SeaWorld. Despite the $10 million spent over marketing operations, the company has recorded a 84% drop in profits between 2014 and the second quarter of 2015. Consumers seem to not have been convinced since the release of the Blackfish documentary in 2013.
As we know, a brand is not just a label stuck on a product. And being a 21st century brand is definitely being a brand facing consumers’ reality. The top class executives of well-known agencies are repeating themselves every year regarding the basics of a brand: “transparency, authenticity, honesty” etc. These pieces of advice could be seen as booster shots for brands strategy still trapped in the stage of “This is not a brand”; while consumers are sometimes remembering that “Sustainability-friendly brands are brands”.