I have just read the best of the IPA Diploma essays in the supplement that came with Campaign a couple of weeks ago and very good they are, too. Brilliant thinking and writing from some of the bright young(ish) things of the advertising and communications industry. If you can get your hands on them, do!
I noticed a theme running through all the papers. Collaboration, community, "we-actualisation" - call it what you will, this seems to be the new era in branding and communications. Every one of the six papers touched on this theme:
In "Data is our future: welcome to the age of Infomagination", Matt Sadler shows us the bright future of data. If you think data is numbers, think again. Matt draws his evidence from the willingness of the coming generation to share data and quotes the New York Magazine in saying that the willingness of young people to share their lives online is "the greatest generation gap since Rock & Roll."
In a visionary essay, David Bonney argues that "We believe the people should control the means of branding." He paints a radical picture of a world not far in the future, where consumers in search of "we-actualisation" will become the brand owners - a movement from the Self to the Common Good.
Richard Cordiner in his "Brand Story" provides my favourite quote: "The consumer was demanding the brand become a better corporate citizen and a more entertaining plaything simultaneously, and balancing ethics and entertainment turned the brand into a dancing bear with a remit to save the planet." His is a great story about the relationship between brand, advertising, media, consumer and a few other bit parts, past, present and future.
Chris Galley, in "Yes, we can learn how to change from Brand Obama", neatly contrasts Obama's collaborative, adaptive approach with the traditional, authoritative approach of Hillary Clinton.
In "I believe brands should only invest in marketing communications through existing users of their brand", Chris Stephenson writes of how brands and their existing users can collaborate to create advocacy and word-of-mouth communication.
Finally, as I was beginning to think that this collaborative utopia was the only future, I was brought down to earth very cleverly by Alex Dunsdon in "Beware the Age of Conversation. Embrace the Age of Osmosis." Alex reminds us that not all brands are an Apple. There is Pears Soap as well! Conversations may well be the exception, as "the vast majority of brands simply aren't that important to people."
He's right. A lot of the examples in the essays are from things/people that I would hesitate to call brands, from politicians, to football clubs, to bands, to films. Or the sort of brands that have a cause, or an extreme view on life, or that people feel passionate about. I would also include brands that participative in nature, like iPod or IKEA. But there a lot of brands that don't fall into this category. As Alex says, do you really want an active relationship with Always sanitary towels? His conclusion is - "maybe in a lot of cases, the brand's role is in helping us not to think."
OK, I've done enough thinking for now.
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