Having dedicated the past 30 years to building some of the world’s largest brands, Brandlab CEO Aubrey Ghose shares his take on the impact of digital on a changing world.
WE’RE emerging into a new world. 
Every day! 

That’s the reality now for smart brands vying for the all-important space in the minds of their collective consumers.
In this fast-changing world, we’re seeing a backlash against globalisation. Brexit, Trump and an increasing desire for a sustainable planet are tangible examples of this change - yet at the same time - we’re all (including millennials) seeking more balance, alignment, expression, purpose, and a deep desire for community. 
We’re more connected than ever before and yet we can all see and feel that culturally and emotionally, we are all increasingly in search of a sense of connection and community.

Weird, right?  So what’s really going on? 

In my view, it’s a very natural reaction, because I have long held the view that we humans see brands in very much the same way as we see our friends. Our friends are our friends because of how they make us feel in their presence.
We want our friends to be there for us, we need to trust them, we want them to inspire us, enable us and in turn we want them to respond positively to us as we change. 

And so it is with brands.

These days, branding is about understanding how you can be more relevant to your consumers in a world where digital is the air they breathe. 
Yet digital is still often talked about as if it’s a separate ‘thing’. It isn’t. No more than paper equates to the thoughts contained in a book. 
Even this article within Campaign which is in a separate section called Digital is indicative of how as an industry we still see Digital as a thing in and of itself. It’s not. It is both the filter and the lens that defines a brand.

If digital is now the essence of any brand platform, we need to see digital not as a thing we do but as an innovation enabler. It is the very canvas on which Brands are painted. 

Since the dawn of mankind, we have been tribal in nature. The trend away from globalisation is in fact a return to a kind of tribalism, but this time we choose the tribe we wish to belong to – on the basis of our mood, our state of mind, and our interest in a fleeting moment. 
I call it a trend to multi-tribalism.

In this world, we can belong to 100 tribes a day if so inclined! It’s a world in which consumers are the new experts and digital is their enabler.
We belong to the washing machine tribe when looking for a washing machine; the petrolhead tribe when planning to buy a car; and a knowledgeable widget tribe when hunting for widgets. 

Brands therefore need to become benevolent Tribe Leaders, whose tribe-mates are frequently fleeting and disloyal. Working to inspire, enrich and enhance the lives of their tribe-mates -  delivering experiences that whilst being “On Brand” may have nothing to do with products or services, but everything to do with knowing why they are in business, the ‘Why?’ of their brand. And thus, proving relevance to their tribe-mates.
When I was a young designer working on an airline identity in London, the aircraft’s tail plane was the starting point for exploring design options. For a fashion retailer, our starting point was always the shop front sign. For a corporate, the letterhead.

The difference today is that branding now starts and ends with digital, irrespective of the sector, service, or industry. Brands that are designed and built for digital are the brands that are succeeding.

Digital means we can’t lie to consumers. Brand values such as authenticity, truth, compassion, and relevance are the new currency.  
Let’s take just one of these: Relevance. Being relevant to your consumers no longer means just having a product or service they need. It means brands have to think, behave and do the things that their target customers like to do.

Taco Bell in the US is a great example. They don’t talk to their customers about snacks and fast food. Instead they engage and enable their target audience in something they have found that happens to unite them all – Music.  
Taco Bell helps fans discover new bands in addition to helping bands discover new fans. Fans create content at concerts and Taco Bell co-creates, curates, and uploads this content with their target audience in a way that makes the brand uniquely relevant to their consumers’ lives. 

At Brandlab, we’ve recently developed an app for a new bank brand that will predict what individual customers will need at different times of life, year, month, week and literally even times of each day based on their spending patterns, lifestyle choices, and intelligent learning. This means that the more the app is used, the more the customer benefits and the more relevant it will prove to be.

Welcome to the future of branding. That future is digital – and it’s already past!
Aubrey Ghose, CEO