“Change is the only constant in life.” So observed the Greek philosopher Heraclitus in the 6th century BC. It is believed he drew the inspiration for this from observing a river and concluded that “life is like a river” and that nature is in “a state of constant flux.”
He could have just as easily been describing the rapidly changing social-economic conditions in the US and around the world.
Things are in a constant state of flux, from virtually every standpoint. Be it demographic shifts, technological advancements, global connectivity, emerging markets, changing mores, the list goes on. And the changes come with more rapidity.
For today’s brand marketer, the question is not “do we change?” It is “how quickly can we change?” in order to adept to opportunities or challenges that present themselves with increasing speed.
But here’s the paradoxical dilemma. Brands rely on consistency … whether it’s identity, message, quality, presentation, delivery, and so forth. But yet the marketplace, like Heraclitus’ river, is constantly changing. So how do you maintain brand integrity while, at the same time, go with the flow, so to speak?
While you mull that one over, just consider the following two areas that are experiencing rapid, radical change and impacting the vast majority of consumer brands on the market today over the next 10 years.
- Electric vehicles will surpass internal combustion
- Wireless, hyper connectivity will be the norm
- Biodegradable packaging will be commonplace
- DNA mapping to manage disease risk will happen at birth
- Virtual and augmented reality will become common tools
- The middle class continues to shrink
- Women in business leadership continues to grow
- America grows more politically liberal
- Asia replaces Latin America as the largest source of new immigrants
- Life expectancy will continue to increase
And with each bullet listed here, there are hundreds, if not thousands of steps along the way.
Leading the charge in rapid change for marketers is no doubt social media and all things digital. And therein may be part of the key to maintaining brand relevance in a rapidly changing world.
As is often quoted from Peter Drucker, “The business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation.” In our hyper-evolving marketplace with driverless beer trucks, drone deliveries and wearable health monitoring and transmission, no wisdom resonated more.
Brands surely must innovate to survive, but they must also communicate by the means and methods of a changing world, as well. Communication must be conducted by brands as a two-way experience: listening as well as speaking.
Social media provides brands with the engagement platform to stay constantly abreast and relationally connected to a shifting target audience. Research and big data and analysis will also play a larger and larger role as brands keep tabs on customer behaviors, motivations, intents, habits, and the like. In that way, marketing informs R&D of a changing landscape and facilitates the brand’s ability to remain nimble and adaptable in an unceasing cycle of development, assessment and redevelopment.
Unless brands are urgent and intentional about a priority and a process to stay not only current, but ahead of change in their industry, they won’t be around for long. Previously on Branding Strategy Insider, Mark Di Somma shared five questions brands should be asking themselves to re-imagine their long-term future:
Is there an exciting idea that you can expand into that will give your brand a bigger license to operate? Why will your interpretation of that new idea be distinctive from what others are doing there now or where others may wish to go with a similar idea?
What does your new idea open up that you have never seen before? How will the business cope with that, and how quickly? How will consumers adjust to that, and how quickly?
What are you trying to preserve? And is that what consumers want for themselves and from you?
What’s your time frame for change – and how did you arrive at that? Is it based on what you feel comfortable with or what the market will demand?
If you are making rapid change because your current idea is quickly losing relevance, why were you caught off-guard? Did you not see the warning signs, was everyone in the senior management team playing ostrich or have things moved so fast that you were simply overtaken? And given that, how will you ensure the brand you will be won’t be subject to the same vulnerabilities?
Even old Heraclitus would agree, it’s time to embrace the paradox. Change to stay consistent.