Opportunity and Means
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the conditions that make for great brand ideas. These days, many of the ideas that people talk about the most aren't huge campaigns that teams spent months preparing for—they’re small, quick executions that provide a perfectly tuned perspective on culture. It's the brands that understand their own voice and how to add to larger conversations with it that are winning right now.
But what does it take to successfully get to that point? I'd say there are two major elements: Opportunity and Means. Let's dig into them.
The first thing is identifying opportunity. With the proliferation of channels, and the increasing amount of consumer-controlled conversation, brands that aren't paying attention can’t stay relevant. But this means more than just social listening exercises and twitter handles that respond to customer feedback, although those are both good things. The social world for brands has evolved beyond just 1:1 conversations, because today, individual interactions can ignite entire communities. That is where the magic lies—having a team,comprised of client and agency, that not only "manages" communities, but understands when there is an opening for the brand to add to the broader cultural conversation.
Realizing Opportunity Alone Isn't Enough
A few years ago I had a beverage company as a client, and in 2009 they were presented with a rather unexpected opportunity. In the Boston area, Dr. Henry Gates (an African-American Harvard professor) had recently been wrongly arrested by a Sgt. James Crowley (a white local police officer) in his own home. The incident, as can be expected, caused quite a stir in the news. As part of the proposed solution, President Obama and VP Biden invited both gentlemen to the White House to "have a beer and talk". “Beergate,” as the incident was eventually known, included the publicized list of beers that they would drink. On the list was a relatively unknown brand—the client. All of a sudden, this brand was being talked about on late night television and prime time news. Website traffic went up over ten fold. A call to the client with a passionate "we should do something, this is an opportunity!" as followed by an all too common response…"we'd love to, but we already spent all our money on billboards and aisle talkers". The moral of the story? No matter how great you are at finding opportunity for your brand, it won't matter a bit if you can't act on it.
Having the Means to Act
At POSSIBLE, we've learned from stories like these. Because we don't want our clients to miss out when culture gives them a platform for their perspective, we've created what we call the Cultural Opportunity Budget (COB). The COB is a basic concept - a certain percentage of an overall yearly budget (let's say 5%) is saved in a piggy bank of sorts. Together, the agency and client team set rules of engagement for that money (who can spend it, how much can be spent at one time, etc). Additionally, a shorter process is put in place to execute on ideas within the COB. That way, when an opportunity comes up, we can create content that resonates and have it out in the world much quicker. Fewer rounds of reviews, more testing and learning through quick content creation.
This may seem simple, but it's a surprisingly powerful concept. If a brand can set up a system where they identify cultural opportunities, and then have the process, flexibility, and budget in place to act on them quickly— they are well-positioned in today's world to deliver on their brand promise.