Brands are about making life better, and enabling people to achieve more

Peter Fisk has over 30 years of brand development experience, from his first job as a brand manager in the airline industry, through many roles in developing brand strategies for the likes of Asahi and Coca Cola, P&G and Unilever, Barclays and Santander. In 2002 he became the CEO of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, with over 60,000 global members, member of the World Marketing Council, a fellow of the Marketing Society, and judge of the annual Marketing Excellence Awards. He has also been Group Managing Director of Brand Finance, the world authority on brand valuation and effectiveness. His bestselling book “Marketing Genius” has been translated into 35 languages, and explores “the left and right brain of marketing thinking, how to be the Einstein and Picasso of brands, combining intelligence and imagination”. His most recent books “Gamechangers” and “Business Recoded” build on these themes for brands and business.

I love Nike.

Not the company, but the idea. It’s not about the founder Bill Bowerman and the story of his waffle iron, much more about the adrenalin and inspiraton that I felt tingling down my spine on the night when Steve Cram broke 3 minutes 30 for 1500m in Nice. I’ve worn Nike shoes and clothing for 35 years, and never considered any other brand. Products have come and gone, trends and technologies. It’s not about technical quality or superficial image, it’s about the confidence and confirmation that I get from wearing the iconic “swoosh”. It’s about me, and how I feel.

The old idea of brands was that they were marks of ownership. Brand names and identities reflected where they came from, as indicated by the Germanic origins of the word in brandt, as farmers burnt their distinctive markings onto their livestock. Most brands initially reflected family names, and the activities of owners.

Over time, consumers became less engaged by origins of ownership, and responded much better to brands that reflected their own lives and aspirations. Names became more abstract, as the concept became more important than the name, and the logo acted as a shorthand for distinctive attitudes and values. Concepts reflecting people, not products, could rise above functionality, and enable brands to move beyond categories.

They are a reflection of customers, uniquely shared value, and potentially your most valuable business asset.

Brands capture an irresistible idea, compelling and intuitive, engaging and inspiring people in ways that companies and products cannot. They build platforms and connections through which customers and business can achieve more. A great brand captivates people emotionally and irrationally, about them and what they want to achieve, and ultimately to make life better. Brands are also your bridge to new products, categories and markets, to sustaining and growing your business in a world of relentless change.

Brands in today’s world

Digital media further changed the ways in which brands engaged with consumers, ultimately connecting consumers with each other. Whilst greater access to information drove scrutiny and demand for authenticity, consumers responded by trusting brands less. They switched off from listening to overtly commercial advertising and turned instead to trusting and engaging with friends and others like themselves.

A brand’s story, and ultimately its reputation, became much less driven by what the business said about itself, much more by what people said to each other. In today’s world brand owners seek to nurture and curate what real people say to each other, tweets and posts, word of mouth, click to click, embracing it as an ongoing narrative which they cannot control, but which they still seek to influence and enable. Coca-Cola calls this “liquid and linked” story curation.

Brands today are about communities of consumers who share a common aspiration. The brand doesn’t own the community, but it can be an effective and respected enabler of connecting people, not to buy products per se, but to share passions. Products and services then follow, as the brand becomes trusted and aligned to the activity which it enables. A brand purpose is the shared motivation of the community, and its enabler.

Brands are therefore defined more by what they enable people to do, rather than what they do themselves. Brands are more structures of collaboration to deliver this enablement and ongoing relationship, rather than the wrappers of products and transactions.

The new CX/OS

Peter Fisk’s new model for CX/OS of brands and business takes this further – both describing the new ways in which brands can influence, engage and enable customer (the CX), but also the changing role and structure of organisations in supporting this (the OS).

The Brand CX is oriented around the customer (consumer, customer, client) and how it enables them to achieve more. In three ways:

  • Brands as Conscience – being there for them, on demand and responsive to their needs and wants, personal and intelligent, harnessing data and connectivity to know them better, anticipative and responsive, their best friend.
  • Brands as Curator – bring together what they need, creating different forms of market platforms that aggregate the most relevant partners, products and services, to better solve problems, in a bigger context, in more convenient ways.
  • Brands as Community – enabling people to connect together, harnessing the power of social networks but beyond that the shared values, interests and objectives of groups of similar people. As a result the community creates, does, and achieves more together.

Examples of these roles are particularly seen in brands like Jio (super app of India, built by Reliance) and Nio (the Chinese lifestyle brand that rises above products) demonstrating the conscience, DBS (Singapore’s innovative bank that seeks people to “bank less, live more”) and Coca Cola (liquid and linked, a distributed rather than centralised approach to brand building), Glossier (C2C beauty brand) and Roblex (gaming platform and pioneering the development of web3-based brand experience for the likes of Gucci and Nike).

Manifesto brands do more

Manifesto brands are about people. They are defined by what they enable people to achieve, rather than the means to achieve that. They are about

  • People: they achieve trust because they are built on human instincts, an emotional contract through which promises become reality.
  • Passion: they share the interests and obsessions of their audience, they want more and give more, with energy and inspiration.
  • Purpose: they share a guiding light, a common cause, to make the personal lives, societies, and the world, better in some way.

Like all brands, manifesto brands are short-hand codes for bigger ideas that people believe in. They are built on a distinctive set of values, beliefs that they share, ideas to promote, causes which they want to support. In a sense, they are the consumer’s interpretation of the company’s purpose.

They are manifestos. Declarations for change, a belief in better.

Some brands even define their manifesto in detail. Not as an advertising narrative, but as a shared statement of intent. Brands, and the products and services which they bring together, then act as a platform from which business and consumers can promote good, and also do good.

Apple famously defined itself, not with a logo, but with a belief: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently … And whilst some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Yes, it appeared as a memorable ad, in one form narrated by Steve Jobs himself. But it stirred an emotion in me. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be that.

Nike embedded its manifesto inside every pair of shoes, saying everyone is an athlete, striving to achieve their best, to find their own greatness. North Face is about “exploring”, the world and ourselves, to understand both better, and to be more fulfilled. Fiat wants people to enjoy everyday life, to “celebrate the smallest of things with infectious excitement”.

A manifesto brand typically is built around three components:

  • Brand manifesto and storytelling: makes the purpose relevant to the consumer, built on insight and aspiration, communicated to or between people.
  • Brand activations and experiences: delivers the manifesto through products and services, and broader initiatives, eg Coca Cola’s rural Ekocenters.
  • Brand ambassadors and community: spreads the manifesto between people who share the cause, as it becomes a movement, eg Patagonia’s climate protests.

Coca Cola is about happiness, not just refreshment. Nike is about your best performance, not just shoes and clothing. BMW is about the joy of driving, not just the driving machine. Swarovksi brings a little sparkle to every day.

Brand Lab … Reimagining your brand system

Peter Fisk helps you to build, redefine or grow your brand in a more inspiring and innovative way. Finding a better purpose, a clearly defined audience, new opportunities to extend and grow in existing and adjacent markets, new business models including licensing and franchising, based on deep insight into the ever-changing needs of your target customers, and to what drives most value creation.

Examples of recent branding projects include:

  • Adidas: Taking a purpose “sport has the power to change lives” and considering what it means for categories, such as running – better shoes, empower athletes – and for markets, mobilising communities.
  • Aeroflot: Brand strategy and valuation for Russia’s national flag carrier, exploring future scenarios for the brand and how it is positioned and communicated in the global travel market.
  • BAT – rethinking brands in a world of rapidly changing motivations, to engage in responsible marketing that explores new alternatives for a healthier world.
  • Bayer – developing patient-centric brands and marketing, aligning the corporate brand promise with product or therapeutic area branding and marketing
  • Cartier – reimagining the global brand for the future, less about heritage more about possibilities, less about the product more about the consumer, to drive innovation and growth.
  • Coca Cola – creating a global DNA for marketing excellence. then supporting local teams in deploying a global framework in more locally relevant and intelligent ways.
  • Coty – rethinking marketing in the beauty industry, given the disruption of digital start-ups, to develop new market and brand strategies, new business models and go to market strategies.
  • Davidoff: New brand strategy, and product concepts for classic brand. Building a new narrative around the future customer, replacing tired imagery with new insights and ideas
  • ISKO: How to become the world’s top ingredient brand in denim, turning a b2b supplier, into a consumer-centric fashion label, that adds value to the most prestigious jeans brands.
  • GSK – developing a more patient-centric approach to the market, building brands around benefits not drugs, embracing new technologies and channels, to engage all stakeholders.
  • Microsoft – helping the B2B sales and marketing teams to engage business leaders, rather than just technologists, in solving bigger problems, rather than just selling products.
  • Oriflame – developing markets and propositions for global growth, built around a redefined Swedish brand, and “customer get customer” business model.
  • Philosophy: New brand strategy for global growth of cosmetics brand, from “Hope in a Jar” to new markets of Singapore and South Korea, through believing in more.
  • Samsung: Considering the role of the corporate brand in elevating a portfolio beyond its categories, and beyond competitors to have meaning in people’s lives and impact on society.
  • Tata Steel: Rebranding and communication of leading steel company, developing an added value blueprint to go beyond the low-priced commodity business into customer solutions.
  • Red Bull – thinking beyond the can, to engage audiences more deeply through inspiring content and extreme experiences that build the brand as an attitudinal community.
  • Visa – brand sponsorship strategy for the Olympic Games, seizing on a unique moment to showcase the brand and its future potential in incredible ways.
  • Vodafone – rethinking marketing practices in a world of mobile and social consumers, tapping into the power of influencers and facilitating the development of brand communities.

Keynotes, workshops and Programs

Peter Fisk leads a range of development programs, fusing his in-depth expertise on the best and next practices in strategy, innovation and marketing with the challenges of leadership, change and performance.

He does this in a wide range of intensive workshops and longer in-depth programs – delivered independently, directly with your business, and also in partnership with various business schools around the world.

His workshops fuse the best of academic insight and practical toolkits, and so are both educationally inspiring and focused on practical action. Workshops can be delivered online, in your own business, or in an interesting location.

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