A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 9 – Respectful Disrupter

The title on Alan VanderMolen’s bio is Respectful Disrupter – in his words, our industry, and the environment in which clients operate, is being greatly disrupted by technology. At the same time, we’ve seen the massive disruption in the media ecosystem. So in that environment, Alan’s role at WE Communication is to disrupt the agency’s business model to make sure it is keeping pace with the external environment.

Alan was in Australia recently to launch WE Communications second global Brands in Motion research.

Listen here or download on iTunes

The research challenges the traditional concept of brand perception as a static indicator, by arguing that all brands are constantly in motion – either driven by, or inspired by, technology.

In this episode, Alan, takes us through a few of the key findings:

Consumers still want a high level of innovation. However, given real concerns about data security consumers are getting nervous about the pace of innovation and now expect brands to use technology and innovate ethically and responsibly

Consumers and B2B decision makers are defaulting to rationality. That is, show me, prove it, versus tell me. Consumers have become increasingly weary of being talked to, and marketed at, and want to be engaged with.

Consumers have become binary. They tend to love you or loathe you, there is not a lot of in between and that has been a big change over the last 12 months. In this environment, it is more difficult for brands to be consistently loved.

On the hot topic of brand purpose, 72% of respondents think it is important for brands to take a stand on important issues. There is a nuance to that – the brand has to have permission to take that stand. Permission is given by having a good product or service from an organisation that is operating ethically and responsibly – then consumers are  very interested in the brand having a purpose. In other words, brands need to start with do – do what they say will do; move to the how – act in a way that meets community expectations; and then end with the why – the broader purpose of the business.

So what it means for PR professionals? For Alan, this represents a call to action for PR professionals to take responsibility for the moral and ethical behaviour of brands and not just be focused on promoting products and services.

Beyond the research Alan believes the future for the profession is a positive one. As issues become more real time and more transparent, the communications function will re-establish itself in the C-Suite. We’ve seen communications subsumed to marketing in the past three to five years but that trend is reversing. Alan believes you will see communication re-emerge primarily because there is a massive call for responsibility and ethics to be embedded in innovation and that is clearly the domain of PR versus marketing.

In the news this episode, I share another survey that follows on from Brands in Motion. Global Creative Agency Future Brand recently released the 2018 Future Brand Index .

The Index looks at the world’s 100 largest companies and ranks by brand perception two key trends to emerge:

  1. A strong corporate purpose and better experiences are key to those brands who outperformed; and
  2. Surprisingly it is not necessarily the ”new era” brands of Apple, Amazon or Netflix that dominate the rankings.

Actually this year it was Walt Disney Company that ranked number one in the company – despite being the 51st largest company in terms of market capitalisation. It proves established companies can cut though even in this time of continuous change and upheaval.

There’s a good Echo Chamber podcast from the Holmes Report featuring Future Brand’s chief strategy officer Jon Tipple, if you want to hear more about the research.

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