In her final article as editor of Campaign magazine, Claire Beale wrote a paragraph that should ring in the ears of each and every marketing director across the world.
“I don’t buy into the narrative that Covid will change everything forever. But 2020 is a significant turning point. Coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, political upheaval, the economic crisis, environmentalism: lines are drawn in the sand. It’s time to ask whether you want to anchor in the antediluvian world – belt pulled tighter, managing decline, wishing things were as they used to be. Or surge into the new world, using upheaval to fundamentally reframe your business and your career.”
She is spot on. While we are all sick of hearing about the new normal and unprecedented times, this year has created a fork in the road for those who will thrive and those who will be swallowed up by times of yonder.
And as Beale said, it’s not just Covid that’s flicked this switch – a surge in people speaking out on the environment, equality, Brexit and the type of world we want to live in, has shifted the everyday conversation and our way of living.
That leaves a big question staring every marketing director in the face when it comes to their brand: do you stick or twist?
Do you stick with the same ‘brand values’ that were written for a world that is increasingly being left in the dust or do you twist and create a vision for your business that’s in keeping with the dramatic changes we see?
Do you stick with the same look for your brand or do you twist, giving yourself a visual identity that feels in keeping with a better, more diverse society?
What about your culture? Your ‘internal brand’? Are you going to keep the corporate feel or redefine yourself as an employer brand that’s fit for a totally different type of employee – one who’s asking more from the business they work for than ever?
And finally, what about when it comes to doing good? Are you going to stick with token CSR programmes or, as Beale described it, create a new type of business with a philanthropic thread woven into its core?
All of these big decisions are ultimately part of the organisation's brand and should be spearheaded by the CMO. A brand isn’t just a logo and a strapline (it never was), it’s what makes a business tangible, relevant and, dare we say it, loveable.
Now is the time for marketing departments (and career-hungry marketers) to come out the shadows and lead the charge in making real change.
So, are you going to stick, or twist?
James Wood is head of Earnest Labs.
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