Giving Your Brand a Future Edge

01 Oct 2015|Added Value

If you work in the world of brands, at some point you’ve probably heard an exasperated creative director quote legendary adman Bill Bernbach: “How do you storyboard a smile?”
As brand partners, the end of the long journey to identify a creative concept — the conceptual linchpin of a platform, positioning, or brand essence — often culminates in the nerve-wracking assessment phase. Here we see if all our strategizing, ideating, directing and executing pays off.
But assessing a concept with consumers to vet its resonance – will this idea speak to those we want it to? — is notoriously difficult, especially when the only way to give texture, grit and heft to a concept is to convey it via a creative idea.
How often do those in the back room let out a groan as consumers react to the execution of the idea, and not to the idea itself? The consumers themselves aren’t to blame – how can you separate what something is from the way it’s presented? After all, to quote Marshall McLuhan, another of last century’s great mind: “The medium is the message.”

So we can’t rely on consumers alone to deliver to us our successe.

To truly assess an idea’s potential you have to peer into the future. But the tricky bit is that you have to do that in the context of the realities surrounding consumers today. So we must look at the entire world of influences that are pulling consumers inexorably forward, shaping their constructs, reference points and expectations, both consciously and unconsciously. These influences are what drive tomorrow’s preferences, values, and perceptions of what is meaningful and fresh.

This is where the power of an integrated approach to consumer and cultural insight can inject critical, future-focused strategy. At Added Value, we call this approach Double Edge. It’s anchored deeply in human truth: we begin by asking consumers to build a world of meanings, which are uniquely relevant and exciting to them personally, around a brand’s key concept. Then, using these meanings as a jumping off point, our team of cultural strategists mine the universe of cultural influences for the most emergent expressions of these same meanings. What we deliver is stretchy, dimensionalized directions of the brand’s concept which capture the relevant meanings for today using the fresh, exciting expressions of tomorrow.
Double Edge is how we make sure that we’re not only solving the right problems for a brand, but that we’re also unlocking the right opportunities – and at the right moment in time. Turn back the clock to 2003 and no consumer would have been able to tell you that they what they wanted from a soap brand was to be affirmed in their own, real bodies. But the smart minds at Unilever recognized the larger cultural forces that were at work and launched the Campaign for Real Beauty, transforming that simple bar of soap into an emblem of female empowerment. Talk about cultural power.
Double Edge means we don’t need to figure out how to storyboard a smile – because storyboards were never the point. Understanding what that smile means at this moment in time in the context of culture, though – that’s the key to building a billion dollar brand for tomorrow.


Written by Joanna Franchini part of the Cultural Insight practice and Agathe Laurent, Senior Vice President of Qualitative Research at Added Value

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