Some folks use unpacking as a great metaphor for learning and lessons. As in, can you unpack that for me? In other words, explain it, break it up into smaller bits, spell out the main points and draw out the key meaning and implication. As I unpack my bags, literally, on return from Ad Asia 2011, I also unpack its theme. Uncertainty: the new certainty.
On a personal note, one often realizes, whilst unpacking, that one packed too much. But this time, the mental note to travel light was more emphatic in scope, which brings me to the first and key take out.
1. Travelling light:
The importance of travelling light is well accepted in general, and in tough terrains in particular. Tough terrains include unknown territories, faraway lands, pioneering or risky explorations.
Metaphorically, this is the marketing landscape.
The riskiness of disintermediation and dialogue, the challenge of micro segmentation (38 segments, according to one estimate), gearing up to build long term platforms and short term gains were themes that recurred through discussions. In this scenario, being light on one's feet, carrying only the most essential equipment is the only safe and speedy way for brand builders to progress.
Relatedly, the concept of 'loosely owning' versus owning is of relevance and value. For instance, letting a couple of fans continue to run a face book page, despite the huge numbers instead of controlling it (Coca Cola FB).
In short, brand builders need to travel light. Less trunk, even treasured trunk (!), and more knapsack.
Wait, there is more to unpack in the idea of travelling, per se.
Making your brand travel as opposed to 'staying in'.
"Step Out", the words of the new Samsonite campaign speaks to brand builders too!
Those who care to hear the larger message, as they leave the airport! And its semiotics - stepping out of the small, white colour less box, into the green jungle or colourful streets re-iterates the point.
In branding terms - Make your brand go to new places, moving, exploring, venturing.
Practical implications of this?
Some version, or other, of the 70-20-10 rule was advocated universally.
70% of budgets spent on the familiar.
20% spent on innovating on the familiar.
10% spent on the unknown, untested.
In short, let your brand be a traveller.
The new marketing landscape, argued the digital panel is an apprentice space, not a scholar space.
Brands have to step out, try it out, and make the journey.
Because change is so swift, by the time the case studies have been read the scene would have changed.
"The book has not been written, it is being written on-the-go".
Brand Travelogues is a new genre. Brands are being asked to stop staring at the dusty, or gilt framed, mission statements on the wall, and step out on a mission, or two.
3. Keeping it light:
And this was a personal favourite. There was a larger message, the only one to be greeted by a standing ovation on, not losing a sense of wow.
And another session, that shared among others, a slide that presented maths in a lighter vein.
Visual of the usual Pythagoras question... A triangle: two sides with a number, a third side marked x. The question ‘FIND X’.
The answer: Circle and arrow around X with "HERE IS X" blazoned across.
Guffaws all around.
There is a sense of lightness, human-ness in the best cases (Footlocker, Pedigree, Bandsports) shared by Contagious.
And it was contagious, that is.
Let’s unpack this.
There is a new consumer. Check. There is a new complexity. Check. There is a new creativity. Check.
So? Grin and greet it. The attitude with which we greet change matters. And it is greet, not meet.
The best way to engage with the times is positively, vibrantly.
Light not heavy is the frame shift asked of us all, despite the challenges, and changes. If "the dude we should do" is the new descriptor of 'best practice’ that sets the new tone!
In sum, there are three certain ways for brand-travel through the uncertain times.
Firstly, have a fundamental brand principle or value, and be flexible, and fresh in terms of its manifestation or expression.
Secondly, innovate and experiment on your brand on a regular and sustained basis, even a small basis to begin with. This is the only way to make it grow, learn and prosper.
Thirdly, embrace, or cultivate, a mindset that greets evolution with a lightness of spirit.
Luggage, not baggage. A mantra for life, travel and well…brands.
But the journey log does not end yet.
A poser at the end was ‘what are you doing?’ The gravitas in the query lay in doing (versus knowing?)
As listeners, readers, we may have got the notes, and downloaded the apps, and shared the cases.
But, as practitioners, we're nudged to 'get' something more than delegate bags of words. We’ve just unpacked, and we need to travel!