Twenty years ago, when I started my career, my dream was to create big brands. The kind we see everywhere, like in everyone’s home (and, why not, in their hearts). I loved brandbooks, books with brand rules, and spent hours looking for examples of great companies. When I found one of them, it was like winning the lottery. I was super excited to share insights with friends and analyze directions.
Ideas were bubbling up about how to control the future of brands. In an obstinate search for consistency and discipline, he acted as an inspector of what is right and wrong, attached to the famous “dos and don’ts”. It didn’t take long for the market and myself to realize that trying to predict the future was a frustrating and meaningless task – just like the effort of mastering any and all brand communications.
It was then that questions about my profession – and about branding itself – came to stay in my life and began to dictate the way I direct the growth of my own business. How can a brand stay relevant in a scenario of increasingly rapid change? How to be desired? Are brands still capable of influencing people? Or do people influence people? Questions that required a lot of reflection.
That’s why my clients and I ended up on the couch at various times. We went through this process together and, today, in addition to being great clients and brands, they have also become great friends.
We help traditional branding evolve by challenging established concepts, with a clear objective: to make a difference and create a more positive future. Those brand inspectors from two decades ago, with the rulebook always under their arms, have given way to increasingly inspiring leaders. Understanding the whys and disseminating, involving, engaging people to be ambassadors has become the way to manage brands. And this is a management model that goes far beyond control over what is right and wrong in communication. Above all, it presupposes living the principles and beliefs of the business.
On this path, consistency gave way to coherence. I can’t imagine a single relevant brand that is in the current market disconnected from the context, far from contemporary themes and issues. Not taking a stand means staying away from conversations and people. Going further, not taking a position is also a positioning choice. Here we go on the couch again.
A movement is increasingly visible: businesses are personifying themselves, brands are starting to look for influencers and even CEOs are taking on this role. To give you an idea, according to Nielsen, Brazil today has more influencers than doctors and lawyers. And, considering the clients that are knocking on our door, it is no exaggeration to say that even doctors and lawyers are wanting to become influencers. And what happens to the big influencers? They are brands looking for relevance. A Brazilian mega creator, with millions and millions of followers, came to us to help him build the future of his brand. And he was emphatic: “I want to leave a legacy, not just do anything to get likes and comments”.
Okay, now I have a new node that gives me sleepless nights pondering the role of branding in building strong brands. After all, if what defines a brand is the role it plays in people’s lives, we need to reflect on a new way of occupying this space. It is essential to think about new ways to develop and manage brands every day. Here at the agency we have a single, unbreakable rule: everything changes and that will never change.
Michael Porter, author of several books on management, says that “strategy is making choices, it’s letting go. It’s deliberately choosing to be different.” But how to make choices in Brazil, a continental, diverse country with deep contrasts? How to decide between the Brazil of Instagram and the real Brazil, from Oiapoque to Chuí? The challenge is to truly connect with the territory and build value alongside consumers.
The study Tá Quente, Brasil!, by business and data consultancy Timelens, proposes a direction when analyzing what actually impacts Brazilians. In “Brazilian, happy people x sad people”, for example, he questions our widely disseminated reputation for being unshakably happy (according to BBC News, Brazil is the 5th country that considers itself happy the most).
By surveying millions of mentions on social media and Google searches, the study revealed that searches for the word “anxiety” grew 71% in the last two years (there were more than 87 million). Additionally, searches for “stress”, “depression” and “burnout” are above pre-pandemic levels. And hyperconsumption has become the escape valve for this accumulated stress – videos from Shein consumers highlight the excess and volume of purchases; Fearing the increase in prices, people increased Google searches about taxes on purchases from the Chinese company by 363%.
The context is full of contradictions, wherever you look. And relevance continues to be an objective for brands. I therefore propose that branding changes its approach and assumes that ROX is the new ROI. In other words, obtaining Return on Experience is more important than pursuing Return on Investment. According to Gartner, customer experience (CX) is currently one of the three main areas of investment in marketing.
We, branding experts, believe that CX should be the means of connecting brands and people. We need to broaden the definition of “return” and invest in building a community. This is because, in this strategy, the return goes beyond the money invested versus the money received. Engagement becomes exponential, true and loyal. This creates a team of ambassadors always available to co-create, exchange and defend a brand.
It may seem overly ambitious, but it really isn’t. Making a difference in people’s lives is vital for brands, and this journey begins by exploring, understanding and solving the greatest number of problems encountered throughout the relationship with consumers. And yes, genuine content will be key to sustaining a community of real influencers.
I leave here an invitation. Among so many contrasts, digital fads and current trends, choose your truth and understand your limits. After all, no brand wants to become a meme graveyard.
*Ewerton Mokarzel is CEO and Partner of FutureBrand São Paulo