US Insights

How serendipity can help build your brand

Joanna Franchini

VP Cultural Insight, Kantar Added Value

Brands 11.18.2016 / 12:30

Franchini

How can brands be heard in an environment of increasing noise.

We live in an age of meticulous curation: manicured Instagram accounts, red and blue Facebook feeds that show us only the perspectives we already agree with, the rapacious appetite of the click economy swallowing us whole.

And yet, despite what seems like better access to more information more highly tailored to our desires than ever before, we find ourselves in an echochamber of our own making.

And frankly, it’s not that fun.

Not only is the noise tremendous -- both the volume and the velocity increasing in competition for our attention--but it actually appears that it’s also largely self-reinforcing!

And we marketers are partly to blame!

Consider how Zadie Smith, author of the seminal novel, “White Teeth,” characterized her experience of being marketed to on the internet: “where ads for dental services stalk me from pillar to post, and I am continually urged to buy my own books.”

When predictive becomes entirely too predictable, what does that mean for the brand experience?

Look at the fact that P&G, after putting the full heft of its marketing budget behind hyper-targeting on Facebook has reverted back to old-fashioned mass-marketing, where they’ve found bigger bang for buck.

So how do brands get their message heard amidst this cacophony?  But even more important -- in the chaotic clamor of the tech age – what can brands offer that is of value that is actually worth being heard?

Because it’s not enough to simply show up in the right places –  you have to show up in ways that are relevant and meaningful to people.

So how do we do that?

In fact, one answer to both questions can be found in the simple idea of serendipity.

Defined by the dictionary, serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

A brand that delivers serendipity is a brand that delivers something of cultural value in unexpected and novel ways wherever it happens to show up -- but that still remains true to the brand itself.

 

Brands that major in serendipity tend to share three characteristics. These characteristics work together synergistically.  They enable a brand to create meaningful experiences that carry the brand’s message in a way that resonates with people, and culture at large.

1) Disrupt Wisely: brands disrupting the norms of a category and our collective context, but in a way that is smartly calibrated, and additive

2) Contribute Value: brands making a contribution of value to the conversation that is already happening all around us, rather than trying to start a different, attention-seeking conversation of one’s own

3) Cultivate Curiosity: brands acting as agents of discovery for consumers, cultivating curiosity while continuing to tell the brand’s story in “a happy or beneficial way,” that creates cultural meaning

Consider the under-the-radar brand, Hairstory. Its founder, Michael Gordon, the original founder of Bumble & Bumble, has launched a simple line of four hair products aimed at completely reinventing hair care. The cleansing product, an un-shampoo, is called “New Wash” and the brand, radically, doesn’t even make a conditioner. Its claim is that if you wash your hair with “New Wash” – you won’t need one.

The new-to-category product line is absolutely disruptive, but that’s not the primary way it adds value– the value it contributes comes in the form of human stories. Those stories are at the center of the brand’s proposition (just look at the name on the bottle!). 

Each Sunday Hairstory launches an “Edition” of their broadcast channel – profiles and videos where the brand uses its editorial sensibilities to tell the hair stories of multiple “everyday” people – many of them faces you normally won’t see between the pages of a fashion magazine. Though the product is part of the story, it is never the story itself— the story is a personal journey of an individual discovering, uncovering, really, his or her truest self. And it’s one driven by curiosity.

The brand taps into resonant conversations around authenticity and self-expression, and contributes something unexpected and original that is entirely in line with both the brand and culture at large – by being disruptive, by staying curious, and by having a contribution of cultural value baked into the brand’s value proposition.

Being tapped into culture and understanding how to leverage it by delivering moments of serendipity in the right way gives your brand a way to speak meaningfully into today’s echochamber of hyper-curation.  This is what makes you worth being heard, and gives you something worth saying. This is the cultural currency of our age, and it is increasingly table stakes: not just a nice to have.   

Source: Kantar Added Value

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