Brands survive by being agile

13 October 2014

LONDON: Brands must put aside the certainties of brand management that date from the last century and adapt to today's rapidly changing business environment by making themselves agile, two leading industry practitioners have said.

Lois Jacobs and Thomas Ordahl – respectively the CEO and chief strategy officer of Landor, the global brand consultancy – argue that the speed of modern-day disruption means brands must be created and managed in an entirely new context.

Writing in the 50th anniversary edition of Admap, which is concentrating on the future of brand communications, they identify six essential characteristics that help to make an "agile brand".

Brands must be "adaptive", they say, and above all "understand that success requires being both nimble to risk and responsive to opportunity", citing Nike as a good example of a brand that successfully evolved from a single category.

An agile brand must also be "principled" and very clear about what it stands for. "It is this interplay between standing for something and yet never standing still that makes agile brands successful," they suggested.

"Networked" is the third essential characteristic. Through its network of customers, employees, partners and communities, an agile brand – such as Salesforce.com in the example they give – can ensure they have vital relationships and ongoing relevance.

Fourth, brands must be "leading", take an active rather than a reactive approach, or otherwise risk being defined by others. Jacobs and Ordahl say perhaps no brand more than Virgin is better at defining its own future.

Fifth, the evolution of digital has also made "multichannel" a key element for an agile brand. Luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co, for example, has perhaps surprisingly become an online success story by developing a successful ecommerce business while also maintaining its strong historical associations.

Finally, a brand should think in "global" terms and be aware that it can face unexpected competitors, innovations and insights from outside its region.

Above all, Jacobs and Ordahl, conclude – it is up to brand managers and their agencies to change their practices and their habits to "build the great brands of the future".

Data sourced from Admap