Following on from my last post I have been giving some thought to the idea of brand buoyancy as a useful way of looking at brands. My current thinking is leading me away from the simplistic metaphor of brands as boats, though I do feel the Collective Spirit project does point to some interesting, engaging and potentially powerful ways of brand-building, particularly around co-creation and storytelling.
Having recently read John Willshire’s post “Digital storytelling, Statues and Strata” I was really taken by the way he laid out his initial thinking in order to develop his ideas and to invite input. He used his recently invented Artefact cards, a box of which I have recently purchased.
Whilst I can’t draw to save my life I have used his idea of thinking out loud using said Artefact cards, in this post.
I was (am and still am) also crap at physics at school, but with the help of Wikipedia I have tried to get a basic grasp of buoyancy.
The forces at work in buoyancy are Gravity (which pulls all things downward) the Mass and Density of the object and the Density of the fluid in which it is placed. Buoyancy occurs and its relative level is dependant on the mass or density of an object in relation to that of the fluid.
The less dense an object the greater is its buoyancy (assuming its mass is constant).
This leads me to the first of my embryonic thoughts.
We know that brands are increasingly recognizing the need and advantages to be gained from being more open, transparent and involved with their customers and business partners.
There are still brands large and small that have not embraced this approach, but by doing so I think they by ‘open themselves up’ and potentially become less ‘dense’. In doing so they reduce the extent to which they sink in a sea of sameness.
Another perspective of this may be the extent to which brands act authentically, both corporately and through their employees, particularly where they interface with partners and customers.
The bigger an object’s surface area the higher is its buoyancy. In a marketing context this has been historically driven by the size of their ad budgets, the effectiveness of their advertising creative and the extent of their distribution etc.
Today the surface area of brand may be a function of some of these factors as well as:
– The degree of successful engagement with its community of customers and fans, and related to this the strength of the advocacy and positive WOM this generates.
– The nature and coherence of its content strategy, supported by the extent of its (relevant) distribution.
Noah Brier’s ‘stock & flow’ concept offers some helpful advice on this. Brands such as ASOS come to mind.
– The extent to which brands make their content shareable, and produce awesome content that people want to share.
– The degree to which they collaborate or co-create with other brands, which previously they may not have seen as obvious allies; Nike+ being the obvious example.
– The breadth of a brand’s product and service offering, provided it remains coherent. Arguably the success of some of the world’s most successful companies (e.g. Apple and Google) has been driven by their ability to move beyond their historic product bases to create or redefine markets.
The ‘dancing raisins’ experiment, used in some schools demonstrates how increasing the surface area of something can make it more buoyant.
If you take a glass of carbonated water and add a few raisins, they will initially sink to the bottom of the glass. Because of the rough surface of the raisins bubbles of CO2 will gradually attach themselves to the raisins, and both increase their surface area whilst reducing their density. The raisins then start to float upwards. Reaching the top the bubbles burst and the raisins sink. Provided the water remains carbonated the cycle repeats.
In brand terms we may see these bubbles as breadth of (consistently great) product – Apple again being the obvious example. But they equally could be customer reviews or positive tweets, or extensively shared content. Whichever, the extent of the effect of each of these relies upon creating a fan base that is actively pulling for the brand. Whether it’s by brands “doing things that help solve people’s problems” (Faris) or “making things that people want” (John W again) it’s increasingly becoming about what brands “do” not what they “say”.
It’s easier to create powerful social objects that act like ‘bubbles’ to increase brand buoyancy if said objects have their roots in a brand’s purpose or as Simon Sinek calls it – the brand’s “Why?”
Finally, taking the bubbles a little further 2 more quick thoughts:
– I wonder whether John Grant’s brand molecules framework can be viewed in this context, and whether it helps to consider the nature of such molecules in the context of how they reduce a brand’s density, or increase it’s surface area.
In the context of the dancing raisins experiment can we view the bubbles in the liquid (the market) as a series of lightweight interactions, (referred to by Paul Adams, from Facebook’s product team) and hence in Noah’s framework as ‘flow’? Flow of liquid after all does often aerate it and produce bubbles – or am I getting carried away with this analogy?
If so, do the same brand initiatives and actions that help reduce brand density also create these bubbles, or are they created by distinctively different brand actions?
What do you think? Does the overall concept hold water?
Does it add anything to current thinking?
How might it be developed?
I’d welcome any comments.