As the current pandemic accelerates a change in behaviours and raises considerable challenges for plenty of brands – and, in particular, retailers - it also offers opportunities for innovation and growth. Now more than ever, agile brands who are able to think and act creatively and pivot their focus and behaviour during this time will reap the rewards.
Winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth
In the past, brand consistency resulted in a successful and sustainable business. You could create something once, repeat and adapt. Essentially, it was eat, sleep, brand, repeat. But now, consumers are constantly seeking the new. It’s not enough to be ‘creatively consistent’, which can lead to being left behind, unseen and forgotten. Brands now have to be ‘consistently creative’, bold and to shake things up in order to engage audiences and thrive.
When brand consistency was prioritised, consistent delivery of the visual identity was considered one of the few ways to demonstrate strength and popularity, and public awareness was about visibility on the high-street. This was when brands were built around an identity and all its supporting codes and communications, rather than its purpose, vision, or experience that we see today. It was a far cry from today's understanding of brand attributes and behaviours.
At D&P, we believe experience is everything a brand does to engage the customer – from its vision to its purpose to how it inspires, communicates and engages. People are driving this shift, challenging brands to be more creative, appropriate and effective in how they communicate.
Creativity’s value can’t be ignored, particularly in the current situation we find ourselves in. Winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth. The best design-led businesses outperform their industry counterparts, increasing their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate.
Brands need to discard the rulebook
It’s about empowering and enabling creativity. Brands need to discard the rulebook and be more creative in order to remain relevant, strong and successful. It's our belief that creativity should be viewed as a fundamental business tool that when harnessed creates real & measurable value. But to achieve that you need the right strategy and culture.
Some of the biggest brands are adopting an unconventional response to creative disruption. Focusing on continuous iteration and agility, they are restless, relentless and fearless. Ikea is leading the way with its SPACE10 research and design lab ‘on a mission to enable a better everyday life for people and planet.’ Part of Ikea's bold strategy is to become a 'truly circular' zero waste business by 2030 and SPACE10’s research initiatives will surely help to make it happen.
A brand today needs to be holistic, where everything interconnects, works together and breaks boundaries with shared budgets and ambitions. Businesses must see themselves as ecosystems, driven by transparency and fed by cross-functional talent. Workforces should become communities with broken-down silos. From Finance to Property, Logistics to HR, all segments need to step outside of their safe place and get involved, be connected and accountable for success.
The ‘same old, same old’ doesn’t cut it anymore. The chain-store retail roll-out has led to predictable spaces in homogenised high streets replacing the craft, personalisation and personality that was once there. This can be remedied with creativity. Take Aesop, one of the first brands to use creativity as a business tool. The brand delivers quality and localisation in its stores around the globe.
Doing what's not expected can pay off
As consumers nowadays crave change, it's about localisation, not homogenisation. You can be consistent in your values and purpose but don’t have to be consistent in delivery. Visual consistency matters less than social and cultural relevance. Nike by Melrose is an example of a brand adapting a space to its locality. The Los Angeles store offers city-specific styles and uses data to bring shoppers what they want when they want it. It also acts as a hub for NikePlus members, with rewards in the vending machine that can be unlocked and Curb Services, where members can make returns or exchanges on the curb outside the store.
Brands should be driven by what they stand for and buck the market trend in terms of culture, appearance and even audience. Apple looks more like a fashion brand than a computer business. Sonos isn’t so much a hi-fi company, it's about music in the home. Doing what’s not expected can pay off. Lush has helped reinvent the way we think about the beauty market by creating a democratic experience that’s engaging, colourful, theatrical, fun and accessible. It has divorced itself from an established approach.
People are looking for magic in a world of convenience: for differentiation and personality amid the mundane. As our expectations are increasingly fed by the growing speed of fulfilment online, brands are looking to create standout and memorable experiences that rise above convenience. At Gentle Monster, imagination and theatricality is unleashed in an explosion of creativity in its stores, each one different from the next, giving people a reason to visit the store.
Brands are launching into new sectors and products, inventing new services and revenue streams, stretching the brand to alter perceptions. For example, Muji has strengthened their core offer by thinking holistically, covering every aspect to live the brand and expand the influence beyond their everyday consumer goods. The iconic ‘anti-label’ label has opened several Muji Hotels. More than just a place to rest, the spaces act as flagship stores, galleries, restaurants and creative hubs all in one.
Brands need to discard the rulebook and be creative in order to remain relevant, strong and successful – particularly in the challenging era we find ourselves in. The worlds of branding, marketing and retail need to be merged to deliver relevant, effective models, driving our four metrics for success: Awareness, Engagement, Advocacy & Growth.
Plato reputedly said; that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, however we think today it should read ‘Creativity the mother of innovation’ - where the best idea wins.
We believe it’s an exciting time to be a brand: an engaging brand. The question is how will you engage creativity to consistently deliver? It’s a call to action, for all business leaders, retailers or service providers. Go Create!
Interested to discuss our thinking further? Get in touch.