Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, would have felt at home at the conference on Corporate Brand Reputation held in New York on June 9 and 10.
He was famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe. “No man ever steps in the same river twice,” was his memorable observation, which became synthesized into the philosophical bon mot – panta rhei, or “everything flows.”
Indeed, the common thread of the two-day event organized by the Conference Board was how companies of all sizes and across all industries are grappling and adapting with the increasingly dynamic requirements of the new liquid environment in which they need to perform to drive business performance.
Liquid is the word: to be effective in today’s world brands need to be like water – they need to flow as forces of innovation and business transformation and adapt swiftly to device preferences and satisfy the thirst of hyper-fragmented global audiences with relevant content, unique value and design.
So, how are companies adapting to the new environment?
First, they are adapting internally, challenging and changing the old organizational models.
Maggie Fox, SAP’s Global VP of Marketing, went to the heart of what is the new normal in one word: change. Sales organizations embedded into marketing (and vice versa); marketing controlling IT spending and becoming a hybrid in the process with in-depth expertise in business, technology, engineering and IT; omni channel brand experiences requiring new and unprecedented levels of interdepartmental integration; high-quality content flowing constantly through the omnichannel world becoming the currency of brand power; and of course, data – the empowering force that is transforming hardware into software.
Second, in a communications environment where high-quality content is the new brand currency, marketing and communications departments are evolving into brand newsrooms, often headed by an emerging new executive role: the Brand Editor In Chief.
The evolution, facilitated by the always-on, hyper connected society, is demanding a conversational, informal approach in order to spontaneously engage people and build sustainable brand interest.
Gone are the days of the marketing calendar: brands are now part of the organic content cycle, they are creatively inserted into trending conversations with timely precision, thoughtfulness and, yes, a bit of fun. This is a significant shift compared to the regimented and highly controlled corporate approaches of just a few years ago to communicate their value to the marketplace and engage with their customers.
Third, how do you measure brand power in this fluid world? The jury is still out on this topic, but as of right now, there seems to be a belief that measuring intent to buy is a very valuable and precise dimension through which one can assess the impact of investments in omnichannel brand experiences. One of the biggest challenges remains turning social media data into business and operational intelligence due to the successful integration of structured and unstructured data.
And last, it is a fundamental truth that companies will be able to change only if their people are engaged with energy, clarity and a sense of personal commitment. However, it appears they face an uphill battle here: according to a global survey disclosed by Mark Fernandes, Chief Leadership Officer at Luck Companies, a surprising 70% of the global workforce is disengaged.
“What people value most deeply will move them powerfully in their work and life,” said Mark.
It’s true. When personal values align with company values, lives are more satisfactory lived and work output increases exponentially because the organization becomes an expression of people’s unique talents, ideals and beliefs. Powerful brands will always coincide with powerful cultures.
So, everything flows: for brands to remain viable and competitive in the new world, companies need to go with the flow or be swept away against the currents of change.