Thursday, 1 August 2019

Old dogs and new tricks

Perhaps it was ever thus, but I've noticed a distinct divide developing in the world of brands, certainly as reported by the marketing press.

There are the legacy brands, the old school. At best traditional and comfortable, with a certain staying power, solid and dependable. At worst, introspective and out-of-touch, hopelessly irrelevant, weighed down by their analogue past.

Then there are the disruptors, the start-ups and upstarts. They're busting norms, moulds, conventions and the old order. Possessed by more superpowers than the Marvel universe, they're shaking up spaces and zapping categories into oblivion.

And, increasingly, there are agencies springing up to service (sorry, co-create with) these trailblazers - agencies who talk their language and are disruptors in their own game. There's TwentyFirstCenturyBrand , staffed by data-geeks and storytellers (amongst others), or Nimbly, an "agile, daring, bold" insight agency.

What's a brand of a certain age to do? You can't teach an old dog new tricks - or can you? In the same way that designers introduced diffusion lines in the 1990s, established brands are introducing offshoots where they can collaborate, innovate and generally play the start-up game unrestricted by the usual processes and structures. There's a post about Unilever's Foundry here, and other examples include Henkel X and Oetker Digital

Beiersdorf are also in on the act, with Oscar&Paul - Corporate Indie Brands and the relaunch of the deodorant 8x4, originally introduced in 1951.

The question is maybe not whether an old dog can learn new tricks in theory, but whether he's genuinely agile enough to show them off in practice, without doing himself a nasty injury.

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