Change that matters

By Nigel Smith, Group CEO

It’s the worst of times and the best of times. Change is everywhere, except where you want it to be. It comes on when you don’t expect and spoils the party. To be a brand owner in one of those disrupted industries where the traditional model is evaporating must be heart breaking.

It’s very difficult for companies to see change coming. We are creatures of habit, happy with our feet on solid ground. The companies that are driving change are the first adopters of the new paradigm. Because they have no legacy they have spotted the opportunity in your sector that is being driven by new technology, the emergence of digital, connecting everything and everyone in new ways that we couldn’t have dreamed of even ten years ago. So carrying no baggage they re-invent, scale up and disrupt the old order. The ground shifts.


The tendency is for the old order to respond with protest. Hoteliers lobby government to tighten regulations on letting, taxi drivers go on strike and jam the city and record companies try to control their music distribution, but these are just the futile throws of players in a losing game.

Why, why, why?

What’s happening is that new paradigms are creating buying patterns that never existed before, more complex and interconnected than we have ever seen. So the old linear thinking doesn’t work, now demand is coming from new channels, control has transferred from brands to consumers, choice has grown exponentially and its not going to get any easier as cognitive computing, like Amazon’s Echo and IBM’s Watson among many others, begin to understand us better that we know ourselves.


So what do we need to hold onto, is there still a constant at the core of all this and can clear thinking help us maintain a competitive advantage? The answer is yes. When we look at the dynamics of consumer preference most buying decisions are still emotionally driven. The needs that drive our decisions haven’t changed; survival, belonging, recognition, aspiration are all at the core our preferences and affinity for what we call brands.

The ‘B’ word
Branding is a much-misused word that is bandied about by every agency and consultant from management, to PR, advertising, marketing, design, digital, social, events and promotions, without any real sense of meaning. But now more than ever, in today’s fragmented markets, brand thinking needs to sit at the heart of everything a company does, at the core of a business guiding all our decisions, the compass that keeps us on track.


Why is brand thinking important? Simply because it’s customer driven and putting that at the core of your decisions will ensure your focus is on creating remarkable experiences that delight your customers and will drive sales and growth. Thinking that will help you uncover the why of your brand, which in turn will help focus the what and the how of your business.


Of course you still need to master the complexity of the digital age, and the way that it is changing consumer buying patterns, but a clear understanding of their aspirations, driving a simple compelling message about your brand, will make this much less daunting. It will also inspire your own people and their thinking, to drive a customer centric approach in everything they do.


Finally, accepting that consumers now drive the conversation, and mass content marketing is just a panacea for the digital age, will help re-focus the importance of a strong core brand story for business success. Creating a unique story that customers can own and participate in has never been more important, and it applies to everything from hospitality, to tourism, transport, F&B, technology, space travel and pretty much everything you care to think of.


Photo: Lake Louise, Alberta