09 Mar The Future is Bright for Business and Brands: Optimism makes life better
Part 4 of 4 on the importance of optimism in building brands and business, written for and appearing first in First 5000, the professional network for Australian mid-sized businesses.
When times are tough, businesses and brands can drive optimism by: helping people feel better about themselves and their lives; and helping people feel better about the world in which we live.
Helping people feel better about themselves and their lives
In the shorter-term, businesses can look at ways at helping people feel better about themselves and their lives. I recently ran an online “pulse” survey to ask some everyday 35-54yo Australians which brands help them feel optimistic, when times are tough.
Many of the brands mentioned are fulfilling people’s implicit goals of security and enjoyment, which is what we’d expect to see in response to difficult times, “wrap me up” and “pick me up”. It’s not future focussed, it really is meeting an immediate need to feel better. Kleenex is associated with comfort and Newcastle Brown Ale with nostalgia. Cadbury and Coca Cola are associated with togetherness and happiness. Virgin and Kmart with fun. Chloe perfume with fresh and playful.
Some of the brands are more aspirational and future-facing, yet their promise feels authentic and achievable for everyone: Nike and Lorna Jane are motivating people to “dream” and “believe” and both are associated with mental and physical wellbeing; Apple inspires creativity; and Qantas is representing the Australian spirit – of which we have a newfound appreciation – around the world.
There is an overwhelming simplicity to, familiarity with, inclusivity about and trust in these brands. They are not your brave tech brands pushing the boundaries such as Amazon, Google and Samsung. They are not your big service brands, banks and insurance companies. And they’re not your charity brands, each working hard to achieve their specific social purpose.
Whilst the brands mentioned are consumer brands, there are at least six key themes any business and brand could consider for refining or revitalising their positioning, experiences and communications to drive optimism in a challenging market and make people feel better.
- Enjoyment / Happiness / Fun / Playfulness
- Safety / Security / Comfort / Nostalgia
- Belonging / Togetherness / Connection / Inclusivity
- Australian Spirit / Community / Support / Resilience
- Authenticity / True to self / Real / Whole self
- Aspirational & Achievable – Creativity, Wellbeing, Professional & Life goals
These could work for employees, customers and stakeholders – equally applicable to your employer brand, employee experience and culture as to your customer brand, customer experiences and communications – so long as they make sense for your brand and business to be playing in these areas.
Helping people feel better about the world in which we live
Looking further into the future whilst activating plans now, businesses can find ways to help people feel better about the world in which we live.
In their Trust Barometer series, Edelman identified that “Australians feel a lack of confidence in the system. They feel that as it’s currently constructed, it is broken. The Australian dream is fragile, the general population are in a place of pessimism that is accompanied by a call for change.” (https://www.campaignasia.com/article/australia-has-largest-trust-inequality-in-the-world/458344, Edelman Trust Barometer 2020)
Edelman also identified that people’s most trusted relationship with an institution is their employer; and they expect their employer, with the CEO prominent, to take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it – addressing issues such as equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, technology, innovation and training for the jobs of tomorrow, the environment and climate change, personal data privacy and protection, mental health, sexual harassment and fake news (Edelman Trust Barometer 2019)
This is a great opportunity for businesses to drive optimism by turning the situation around and driving change in the macro and micro business environment, addressing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders – employees, customers and the community as a whole, partners, suppliers and shareholders.
Through the strategic thrusts of vision, purpose and aligned customer, employer and corporate brands, the future can be imagined and the role of your business and brand/s defined in creating it.
Activated by values translated to behaviours and culture “values in action” and clearly communicated business and brand strategies and plans, businesses drive optimism by creating long-term value for all stakeholders to achieve the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.