Let’s be honest, most people don’t like change. It’s scary, it’s risky and it too often feels out of our control. While we throw around big terms like Disruption and Transformation – in reality most people in big brands are fearful of what big changecan mean. It’s completely understandable, but it’s holding brands back.
Because we’re living in through a revolution
Not surprisingly many big consumer-focused businesses are struggling to keep up with the change generated by markets in flux, shifting consumer behaviours and increasingly complex technologies. Marketers are challenged to think of big, ambitious futures – but rewarded for delivering safe short-term results.
This context creates a conflict in how things change – it means change happens in a discontinuous way. A restructure, or a refocus, a reinvention, or a redirection, all of which leads to big rhetoric like “Transformation”. And this is the change that really unsettles people.
Undoubtedly there must be times when significant events of change are essential for brands and business, but too often this occurs as a reaction to pressures, not through planning and foresight.
So is there a right approach to change?
Evolution by design. Evolution needs baking into the very core of brand marketing functions. Not the organic and accidental, “Hey, we’ve evolved as a brand overtime” type, but the seriously designed type of evolution. The artificial intelligence type. Also, to be clear this isn’t just about being faster either, or ‘real time insights’, it’s about creating agile structures that purposefully drive change in the brand – ALL THE TIME. Think in terms of the music industry – Artist careers are evolution by design. From new signings through to their stadium tours, an artist’s ascension and continued success is a process of planned evolution.
It’s the same for a brand and the way I approach this is to match the evolution of a brand’s role, narrative and behaviours with the changing cultural conditions. In effect, the result is a forecast cultural legacy for the brand based on continual change.
Evolution is based on environment and adaptation
In honesty the biggest challenge in this approach isn’t finding the right cultural insights or recommending the right strategy or brand behaviours. In fact, the biggest challenge is helping brand teams to shift from a process of investing in the brand via discontinuous change and periods of static repetition (like most ad campaigns), to continuous evolution and adaptation of how the brand is marketed. The key is to align the changing role of the brand with the changing roles in managing it, both internally and through agency selection. It also dictates that what works today will not be what works tomorrow, or the next day, so we must create a plan for how we will continuously evolve how we will act ahead of making the changes.
Perhaps the most notable benefit for marketing teams adopting this approach is the sense of confidence in change it gives individuals. When you’re able to determine the change ahead, it ceases to feel like change at all and simply becomes progression – and evolution is all about successful progression.
It’s like the original hipster Darwin said: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Clyde McKendrick is Managing Partner at Zeitgeist Laboratories, a London-based cultural innovation consultancy. His executive career also includes assignments as Group Planning Director at TBWA\Chiat\Day and strategy and planning roles with POSSIBLE, Crispin Porter + Bogusky and WDCW in the UK. Follow Clyde on Twitter.