Walk the Walk & Talk the Talk

Please note: this post originally appeared on the Omnishopper blog.

Day one, keynote speaker number one, and we’re starting with a talk that includes “Trump” in the title? A political discussion at 9:00am? Hard. In today’s ultra-divisive political environment? Oh no. This can’t possible go well, can it? What was the speaker, Peter Horst, thinking?

My immediate gut reaction was tempered fairly quickly (phew!) when Peter insisted that his talk would not be driven by political leanings, but would instead focus on this “new world” in which we live. A new world that isn’t necessarily driven by the specifics of the Trump administration, but one that reflects seismic changes that existed and were simply highlighted when Donald Trump was elected President. So what are some of these changes? As Peter explained, a handful of significant trends crept to the surface, including:

  • The middle class was collapsing
  • News and media were dividing
  • Trust was dropping, fear was rising
  • “Authentic” craft brands were growing

Now what does this mean for brands? It means brands face increasing risk from more and more sources than ever before. In other words, brands face new realities, realities Peter summarized as:

  • Interacting in a bifurcated market
  • Connecting with consumers who expect brands to take a stand
  • Brands facing scrutiny, judgement, and the presumption of guilt
  • Consumers assuming the worst when they don’t know you
  • Brands as an outlet for consumers who feel powerless
  • Corporate reputation affecting brand health

With these new realities, brands are challenged to make new moves. But given the particularly divisive trends that pervade today’s society, wading into this difficult new territory is no easy task. How can you stand for something good and not alienate half of your customer base?
As Peter explained, a "brand resiliency model" that focuses on the following key concepts can help brands tackle today’s new retail reality:

  • Find your brand's core purpose
  • Stay relevant and credible
  • Understand constituents
  • Develop scenarios in response to potential brand action
  • Align brand realities with brand values
  • Practice proactive transparency
  • Implement brave execution

What might a success story look like in our politically divisive world with these concepts in mind? Check out Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” commercial. As is suggested by the name, the ad brings pairs of strangers together who have diametrically opposing views. The pairs meet, unaware of the other’s political views and are tasked with building something together. Ultimately, the pairs are made aware of the other’s opposing view. The result is moving and impressive. Heineken enters difficult territory, but effectively does it in a way that doesn’t offend. It perfectly walks the walk, and talks the talk where others – cough, Kendall Jenner/Pepsi ad, cough – have failed.

I won’t risk ruining the ending with further description, but please take a look at the Worlds Apart experiment for yourself and see what success in this new reality can look like.

If you’d like to connect and talk more about today’s new reality and what it means for brands, please reach out. We will be at the conference all week talking about The Physics of Brand, design, and the stories that inspire us.

Aaron Keller, Kitty Hart, and I write for the Omnishopper event blog, please reach out if you have a story to share.

Lucy Robb
Research and Strategy Associate, Capsule Design


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