I had an interesting conversation with Kevin Corkum the other day. Kevin is a bit of a renaissance man—one foot firmly in tech (he engaged me to reboot brand strategy at the web theme company he was running) and the other in good old-fashioned brands (he also owns several high end bicycle shops specializing in European road bikes).
Hyperinnovation will send many venerable brands to the glue factory Tweet This Quote
When I asked Kevin if he saw any trends tipping the brand strategy applecart, he replied ‘hyperinnovation’ without skipping a beat. He believes tech has unleashed a beast of constant iteration and innovation that will rapidly change consumers’ expectations, and send many venerable brands to the glue factory. In his words:
I’m fascinated by the impact this hyperinnovation is going to have on sectors that—unlike tech—require massive retooling to effect even relatively small, iterative changes. Imagine if your favorite detergent went through 50 different bottle designs in a year, constantly tweaking to find the ‘right’ one? Would the cost collapse the company?
The culture of iteration
In addition to rethinking production, companies will need to embody a much more fluid corporate personality to succeed in a climate of constant iteration. I think the leader with a grand vision for the future will be consigned to the trash heap of history, replaced by people happy to roll out smaller ideas and evolve them without remorse for what they left behind.
The concept of product longevity will go away. Tweet This Quote
The hyperinnovative company will, I believe, bear a close affiliation to maker culture. Imagine a corporation building ‘rough models’ for friends to try out again and again, adding features here, taking features away there, crafting and tinkering tirelessly.
With all this, the concept of product longevity will go away. As Corkum said “When I launch a product, I’ll have six months to pump it before I have to start the tweaking process all over again.” And as no-longer-quite-new products begin to iterate furiously to hold consumer attention, there’s a real danger they’ll lose their sense of self and become bloated with new features to please perennially dissatisfied consumers. At which point, they’ll crash and be replaced by leaner, more focused products.
Brands may cease to be ‘shorthand’ for things consumers trust Tweet This Quote
Consumers (or co-creators, as I think they’ll increasingly become known) will welcome some of these shifts, but bemoan others. Products and services will be constantly tailored to their changing needs. But the brands themselves might possibly cease to become ‘shorthand’ for things consumers trust. Last week, you turned to deodorant X because it promised ultimate dryness. This week, it’s become the deodorant with more fruit scents. You’ll feel cut adrift, constantly looking for something you can hold onto.
I was curious if fashion, the ultimate seasonal business, was experiencing this shift to hyperinnovation. I spoke with Barbara Atkin, VP of Fashion Direction at Holt Renfrew (Canada’s most exclusive fashion retailer) while she was in Paris this March for Fashion Week.
Atkin confirmed that seasons were rapidly going away. “Just yesterday, somebody leaned over to me at a show and asked what season we’re in,” she quipped. “Consumers don’t care anymore about Fall or Spring—they want fur for summer, shorts in winter, everything whenever, and they want it now.”
Atkin summed it up nicely “Acquiring newness is what it’s all about. Everything we’re creating comes with obsolescence that’s measured in weeks, not months.”
Even the kids are confused
In addition to consulting, I teach marketing at a university. This semester, I brought aboard a complement of startup tech companies for whom my students would create marketing plans.
Even the students—average age 22—were perplexed at the fluidity the startups embodied.
The founders would arrive with products that seemed pointless one week, only to have completely new prototypes crafted seven days later. It was nearly impossible to get a bead on old-fashioned concepts like brand attributes, brand values and target market, not to mention nailing down revenue models. Putting together marketing plans was challenging, to put it mildly.
The stupid curve
An excerpt of my book dives into the effect this constant state of product—and by extension brand—flux is going to have on consumers:
Whereto, brand strategy?
I believe consumers love newness as much as they loathe the stupid curve. It’s an uneasy relationship, but I don’t see it leading to anyone putting the brakes on.
In the chaos of hyperinnovation, anchor your brand on perennial qualities Tweet This Quote
Instead of plunging into frantic brand strategy iterations to keep up with product development, smart strategists will be looking for perennial qualities upon which to anchor their brands. The old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” will take on a whole new meaning.
It’s not an unfamiliar concept. In turbulent times, people gravitate to safety and security. They need to trust. As the products they love change beyond recognition, they’ll want to know the company behind them has values as steadfast as a lighthouse in a storm.
Will your brand be stable in the storm, or capsize in the turbulence? Tweet This Quote
Therein lies the challenge—and the possible undoing—of many brands that are swept up in hyperinnovation.
Will you be able to keep your brand stable in the storm, or be capsized by the turbulence?
Editor’s note: If you have questions about building a futureproof brand, ask Marc in the comments section below. His answer will either run here or in his monthly newsletter. And check out his book for more on hyperinnovation.