27 February 2017
Amazon, Uber, Google … we take a look at the mundane truth at the heart of the world’s most innovative brands.
Today we read Fast Company’s list of the world’s most innovative brands for 2017. As you’d expect the list is chock full of bona-fide game changers; brands that are leading not following. In fact, most of these companies are so bleeding edge, that Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘tipping point’ is irrelevant to them; they don’t wait for ‘connectors’ or ‘mavens’ to pave their way, they draw people toward them by becoming a beacon for a future way of life.
However, it occurs to me that the elements that define all of these brands are things that have been universal truths about brand marketing since Henry Ford first put his name on an automobile – not the ‘faster horse’ that people told him they wanted.
And that is this: for any company to be successful, they need a unique, credible and motivating idea at the heart of their brand, that’s then artfully expressed across a range of carefully selected channels. Successful brands are all built on this simple formula – so what makes these 50 superheroes profiled in Fast Company so ‘innovative’?
The answer can be summarised by observing another trait they all share. They know their audiences inside out; in fact they probably pride themselves on knowing them better than they know themselves. They know where all the best new talent is coming from, they know what their core consumers have for breakfast, they know what I do when I first log on my computer each day. They. know. everything. And they don’t just know what we’re all doing today, they make it their business to know how our rituals are going to change and evolve over time. They make it look easy, but of course the truth is that they’ve inbuilt this forward-focus into the very structure of their companies, so much so that even the canteen menu probably reflects its own unique glimpse into the future.
Ten years ago, such ‘1984’ corporate antics would be treated suspiciously, but new generations of consumers coming to the fore welcome this shared knowledge and open relationship. Why? Because the payback for them is enormous. Take Amazon and Uber for instance (number 1 and number 3 respectively). Love them or hate them, they have taken an insight about their market and blown it wide open to a point where they are the insight, they become the trend we’re following. Many are cultural institutions now because of it, they’ve entered common language as verbs, and they are so synonymous with our everyday lives, that the idea of coping without them is enough to send consumers into a blind panic.
And at the centre of it all, a beautifully expressed brand. Long may it continue.