Why Brands Should Love People More Than Money
This week I spoke at the first ever DigitasLBi UK NewFront event, which explored the question of whether brands can create culture.
It was an incredibly thought-provoking and well-produced affair. Speakers and participants discussed whether or not brands have the right to create content which becomes part of culture, and how they can go about doing that.
Two weeks prior, I was at another event at DigitasLBi and found myself sharing a taxi to the station with tech pundit Bill Thompson. His response to the question was that "Brands can't create culture. It's like trying to create happiness."
We went on to discuss that being part of culture is a result of being other things - engaging, popular, loved, despised. Culture results from some forms of engagement, with some forms of product, service, or event.
And this is where I based my NewFront talk.
I began with asking those that work for a brand to put their hands up. Then to keep them up if those brands loved people more than money.
In a room of 300 people, two hands stayed up. Hardly scientific and certainly light hearted. But not entirely unexpected.
We appear to value money more than human beings and it seems we're ok with that.
I'll put my own hand up and say I know little about big business. I'm a freelance creative technologist. I talk, teach and document. In the hope my networked stories can go on to inspire and equip those who want to fix this. To find out how we can value people over money in a way that maximises revenue for shareholders. It's a constant battle against an unsustainable system.
One of the first speakers of the day was entrepreneur Cindy Gallop. She said: "In the future, business will be expected to make money and do good at the same time."
I argued that the future is already here for the connected customer. They want to feel something.
The value exchange is broken and they no longer want fifteen flavours of the same shit. They want passionate makers to fess up to the when, where, why and how their product came about. They want sustainable over disposable. And they're wising up to the fact that free isn't free, that convenience often has a hidden price.
Think less about the mechanisms of interaction and more about what it means to be human. Don't let analytics define your customer. Find out on a human level who they are.
Don't think of your product. Think of the desired outcome.
As humans we need to connect above, beyond and around the 'brand'. Emotional exchanges lead to more authentic commercial exchanges.
Charlotte Beers said: “A brand is created when a company EARNS the right to have a relationship with their customer.” What kind of 'relationship' do you want?
Connect with kindness. Educate, assist, entertain, inspire.
Everything else is disposable.
Creative technologist Christian Payne writes and contributes to both Documentally.com and the pages of the Guardian. You can find him tweeting at @Documentally.