Next Level Brand Building
Resilient brands must be rooted holistically
Companies are not isolated entities but are embedded in interconnected, dynamic systems in which local interactions can give rise to unpredictable global effects and vice versa. Companies are part of industries and business systems that are embedded in local and national economies, which in turn are interwoven with societies. To survive in the long-term, companies must fulfill a purpose — the intersection of a vocation and an external need — which serves the larger system. Failure to do so puts them at risk of being gradually starved of the support they need from other system participants.
A resilient brand requires a different approach to brand marketing. The formal measures of a brand, often referred to as ‘differentiation’, ‘esteem’, and ‘relevance’, must also account for commitment to place and living in a just and sustainable world. As we gain a better understanding of the connection between flourishing and well-being, today's brands need to tune into the aspirations and entrepreneurial energies of communities who want to shape their future. The 21st century toolkit for brand marketers must include think global/act local procedures that strive to account for the full cost of doing business and bring problem-solving capacities to bear that are in concert with sustainable economic development.
The last decade has seen deep civic shifts as more community members become stakeholders and stewards of place. Yesterday, developers proposed a "downtown revitalization" or "waterfront revitalization" as a retail strategy with scant regard to the wellness of the whole. Today communities demand an integrated approach that puts public access, stewardship, and opportunities for local innovation and entrepreneurship on equal footing. Yesterday, a Starbucks on the corner signaled a neighborhood was open for business. Today the locavore movements, proliferation of urban farms, green markets, neighborhood working waterfronts, and artisanal sectors, are the draw for would-be-residents, visitors, and business who put quality-of-life first.
Witness the upsurge of Seattle, Cleveland, Portland, Or, Portland Me, and other cities whose policies recognize the socio-economic benefit of community self-determination, as well as the steep costs of overdevelopment and environmental degradation. The rise of smart city investment built on place integration and digitalization, further serves to organize innovation around well-being and self-regulation.
As more of these bigger gears align, brand marketers need to reforge the brand contract in order to reflect a deeper commitment to place. For the next level brand agency, the creative possibilities for partnerships and new value creation are limited only by the imagination.
Level M works at this intersection.