April in Miami. In addition to the expected Spring Break crowd, Miami also becomes the destination spot for the best in branding and design as agency and brand leaders travel from near and far for the 2017 FUSE Miami conference, which took place April 4-6 in Miami Beach.
This year’s FUSE theme, “Change by Design: Thriving in the New Brand Reality,” brought branding executives together to share challenges and discuss their visions for the future of branding and design. Today’s ever-changing environment—filled with business uncertainties, rapidly readjusting consumer expectations and new technologies—have created a new suite of brand challenges.
The diverse program of speakers included Jeremy Lindley, Global Design Director of Diageo; Brian Singer, the mastermind behind the 1,000 Journals project; lifestyle doyenne Martha Stewart; and many others. Several themes rose to the top of the talks throughout the three-day conference as participants discussed the challenges of how to reach the increasingly mobile consumer while remaining relevant.
Attention as a currency
As Christian Martinez, Head of US Multicultural Sales for Facebook, mentioned in a panel, the average American has 8 hours and 27 minutes of extra time in a day due to the way we connect. With the rapid growth of technology, consumers’ attention spans are getting shorter as information is being consumed in a 24-hour cycle.
In the words of author Kathlyn Hendricks, “attention is the currency of all relationships.” Attention should flow in a continuous circuit between consumers and brands, especially with social media linking brands to their audience. With attention becoming increasingly scarce, brands must continue to innovate to own a share of the consumer’s consciousness.
Values before value
Trust is the lowest it has ever been, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. At the same time, consumers expect more. Brands must exemplify values such as social responsibility that resonate with their audience before they can establish their value in the marketplace. There is an expectation for brands to go beyond the transaction to engage the next generation. They are no longer measured just on what they sell, but also on how they help.
Take risks, don’t fear failure
Pixar’s first rule of storytelling is “you admire a character for trying—more than for their successes.” It is natural to be averse to taking risks due to fear of failure. However, a brand’s failures can turn into future successes. As Brian Robinson, EVP Creative Design & Development at DreamWorks shared, optimism and resiliency are more important than winning.
A proof-point he discussed was the risk DreamWorks took by removing all product from shelves to then relaunch the Trolls brand and to create buzz around last year’s Trolls movie release. Resiliency fuels the courage to make bold moves like this, which in turn allows for creativity and innovation. In a constantly connected society, it is exceedingly difficult to capture culture and be truly relatable to today’s consumers. Only through taking risks is it possible to truly innovate and become a purveyor of culture.
Brands face more risk than ever before due to greater visibility. Because of this transparency, consumers assume the worst about your brand if they don’t know you. Think about your brand across all touchpoints and experiences and ensure the brand reality matches the brand values. Relationships with brands are no longer transactional. Use your brand as a tool to build a community by focused on those values and taking on challenges. This will serve as a tool to further build authenticity.
Visual storytelling is key
Humans process visual information 60,000 faster than they do words. Not only are people better equipped to understand visual cues, but they are also more memorable and emotionally appealing, making them important tools for decision-making. As mobile becomes increasingly more visual-focused, there is a paradigm shift to storytelling. In his talk “Innovation in Motion,” Barry McGeough (Group Vice President at PVH Innovation Next) shared that the average consumer sees more than 7,000 brand images a day. How does your brand stand out? Stories bring people together, even brand stories, and smartphones are digital mobile storytellers that need to be tapped into to remain relevant.
Change is the new normal It isn’t easy to accept it, but change must be embraced in order to keep pace with the shifts that are reshaping the way consumers connect and interact with brands. In this “Age of Identity,” brands must continue to build more connected experiences to maintain their relevance, and design is key to thriving in this new reality. This tech journey may is still in its infancy and there’s no telling what’s yet to come, but one thing is certain: the best way for brands to predict the future is to create it.
—Jessica Shvarts is a marketing manager at Interbrand Cincinnati.