Brand management, in marketing, has been around a very long time and I often get asked the question “Why do I need to rethink my best practices?”, which is a fair question. The problem is best practices are based on hindsight, based on all the things that have been done before, which can really limit a marketer’s thinking. What worked in the past, won’t necessarily work in the future because what mattered to consumers in the past, may not matter to them in the future, because culture changes. You need to be looking ahead. Foresight is not about predicting the future, but it is about anticipating the drivers of change, which gives you the opportunity to hypothesize around future risks and opportunities that could help drive your business.
A great example of this is the financial services industry, banks, and wealth investors. Since PayPal came on the market many years ago, it’s not too difficult to have drawn a straight line all the way to the roboadvisors that are currently emerging. What has made that possible are the changes in consumers’ values around privacy, security, and where they look to expertise for their financial advice. Now, the problem with foresight is that for some organizations, they struggle with the fact you can’t quantify it. There are some organizations that are very well aware of the changes in consumer attitudes and are ahead of the technological change in wealth investment while other organizations struggle with this kind of ambiguity, and they’re behind the times.
Best practices, based on models from yesteryear, don’t take into account the shifts in culture. Going forward, we need a way to do that. I know that most of the marketers out there will point to big data as the savior, and we’ll use all the analytical power we can to reveal all. Big data does a wonderful job of quantifying touch-points, that every brand can have, based on all the click-behavior. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t answer the whys behind the behavior. When we’re talking about things that are culturally relevant, they’re impossible for people to answer. You really need to look to ethnographic investigations to understand the whys, the motivations behind the behavior. This is often subconscious to people so, you can use your big data, but it’ll only tell you what not why. It’s really the thick data that comes from the ethnographers that allows the kind of insight you need to build a brand that’s both culturally relevant, culturally resonant, and ultimately built up to a brand purpose that will guide you forward.