Brands at the speed of life

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What a pleasure to discover the writings of Simon Graj. I very much enjoyed this post on how changes in the speed at which consumers see and recognise brands affect the nature and manner of the relationship.

Graj suggests brands are on a collision course with consumer habits because while brand creators and managers feel increasingly inclined to engineer complexity into their stories in order to give them depth and dimension, consumers are looking for “elegant, plug-and-play simplicity” – brands that are clear, attractive, binding and capable of being absorbed at an increasingly frenetic pace as we dash to work, check our phones and pursue our lives. “Brands are now something we experience out of the corners of our eyes,” he says.

That suggests that in “a world that rockets us from experience to experience”, brands need to be able to collapse their symbolism into smaller and smaller bytes of information. As Graj observes, the 30 second sit and watch platform has all but disappeared. Brands appear in the margins of our search engines, in banners as we check our social channels, on smartscreens on public transport, on posters as we rush between appointments. They are everywhere, and yet increasingly they are subliminal. Those that fail to capture our attention,  he says, (perhaps because they are not distinctive enough or simple enough) are swallowed up in the blur.

I agree with him visually.

But we also know that consumers will put aside surprisingly large amounts of time for brands that do capture their imagination. They’ll queue for hours to be among the first to buy a new gadget. They’ll cross town to shop at a store because of what it means to them. They’ll save and save to acquire something they value. All of this can take hours, even months – during which time they are bombarded by other offers, other ideas, other enticements.

So at the same time as brands are needing to condense in order to be succinctly noticed, they are also needing to expand their presence and their relevance in other circumstances in order to keep customers engaged, sometimes over extended timeframes. Judging when and how to do that in a rapidly rechannelling world strikes me as a major challenge and a fundamental reason why, in my opinion, we will see content curation and management assume increasing importance in the years ahead.

I was discussing this irony just yesterday. On the one hand, brand owners need to be absolutely single-minded about what a brand wants to mean to consumers in order to distil that brand to its most granular. At the same time, they must be able to scale that simple, pure thought into an evolving, inspiring, relevant, competitive and coherent storyline, backed by authentic and consistent experiences, that people recognise and, at some level at least, recall every time they encounter the brand.

Instant. And yet involving.

Momentary. And yet packed with momentum.

Fast. But still endlessly fascinating.

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