Many of the things we thought or have known to date are changing. I guess we know the only true constant in the world is change and so when we really think about it, maybe things aren’t so different after all? A thought to ponder perhaps.
With the proliferation of AI, the abundance of content, ideas, influencers, social media platforms and channels, it might be time to start thinking about ways to step outside what is fast becoming the digital norms, and step into the tangible, the human touch and where connection is met with humanity.
Without further ado, let’s get into where we think things are going. Despite the explosion of digital products, AI, the discussions of productivity and efficiencies, we’ve got some controversial or left-of-field opinions.
Collaborative creation will rise
In a world where we’re trying to build community around brands and the fragmentation between customer, influencer, media and brands is rife… it’s time to consider collaborative creation. What does this even mean? Well, when you give people valuable ideas, content and access to create something meaningful together, they do.
We saw how powerful collaborative creation was at Purpose Conference in 2023. With 950 leaders coming together, accessing talks, photography, video and words that meant something. A community building towards a brighter future, who all have a belief that the world can be a better place and that business is a vehicle for that change. Hundreds of Purpose delegates were able to access content during the event that empowered collaborative creation and a proliferation of the stories being told by the community and delegates, that reached hundreds of thousands of people. Less about the brand speaking to the people and more about the people speaking to each other.
A powerful movement indeed.
How can other brands, businesses and leaders harness the power of collaboration? Perhaps we stop holding onto our content, our brand messaging and our voices so dearly and we let others tell the powerful stories in their way? Maybe it’s time for global corporate branding to release some control to local markets to tell individual human stories? Or perhaps it’s time for more co-creation where we work with more brands, people and even competitors to align on what we’re all trying to achieve – helping people in some way.
Small, authentic community building is key
“Brands are no longer lighting big messaging ‘bonfires.’ They’re connecting to people in meaningful cultural moments and sparking opportunities for collaboration and co-creation.” – Mark Schaefer
Community is really about deep meaningful and heartfelt connection with people. It’s based on 1:1 authentic interactions. This idea of going back to the basics of the core of humanity, listening, caring, collaborating and finding solutions to problems that we can solve together.
So, how do we build a community authentically as we’re trying to build businesses?
Science suggests that effective community sizes are actually between 50, 150 and 500 people. What does this mean for us? How do we go about creating and building authentic community connections where we actually know each other, hear each other and create a sense of belonging, something we all long for and is a human need.
Well, maybe in the digital world places like Slack are the answer? Small but mighty groups coming together to discuss things they care about, share knowledge and get to know one another.
Perhaps, in-person events begin to grow back out after the isolation of COVID. Being together is a visceral experience that creates lasting memories. But we’re over the fire-side chats and brands speaking out to audiences over poncy breakfasts… maybe it’s time for workshopping together, solving our biggest challenges together and trying new ways to have two-way conversations.
Aligning your values to your customer needs is the only way forward
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… if your values don’t align with your products, your marketing and how you solve for your customers – you don’t really have a business. It’s not enough to think about how we solve pain points for people in order to drive our revenue. While revenue is important, a growth at all costs mindset isn’t helpful. What about growth with positive impact? What about growth but choosing who we work with that actually aligns with our values and purpose? What about growth where passion oozes from you as you create and work together?
Your values are not just a few words thrown up on a wall that you sometimes see and if they are, time to reevaluate friends.
What do you value?
What brings you joy?
What work lights you up?
Staying true to your values and delivering on them engages your team, your customers and helps grow your business. Never forget those roots.
Just adding more sh*te into the world won’t work
For many years, content has been queen… but is it still? It’s a tough question to ask, as an agency that creates and builds a significant amount of content for ourselves and our clients.
The world has evolved. There are more channels than ever, there are more creators than ever, there are more bits of data and content going out into the world every second than there ever have been. It’s hard to differentiate between human created content and AI generated content.
We believe that people are beginning to switch off. Turn their notifications off, delete social media apps on their phones. People are moving away from this trap of capturing their attention to sell them something. Because ultimately, people want to feel connected. Ironically, in a world that’s more digitally connected than ever, people are experiencing more isolation and loneliness than ever. Why? Because these digital tools distract us from the reality of our human existence and fulfilling our real needs.
So what do we do as brands? As always we have to adapt. We have to meet people where they’re at. Leaning into older ways of building community and connection. Providing people experiences that add value and create moments of emotional impact for them. Tangible products in hand, from magazines, newspapers, unique formats to deliver a message, personalised gifts, in-person events and experiences, community building meetups that are self-organised. Time to nod back to the past perhaps?
AI is a tool for amplification and exponential productivity but it will cause a split between human premium creation and mass production
While the world is frothing on AI like it’s the only thing that exists right now, we believe a huge divide for business is on the horizon.
Perhaps the consumption in a B2B landscape will look like mass produced AI content comes at a lower cost but of course, a lower quality. And we’re sure in the future will require regulation, much like influencers have to disclose payment or advertising; brands will have to share that their content or message is AI generated.
And on the other hand, organisations looking to build deep connection with humans may look to creatives and teams to build human generated content, slow creative – an opportunity to collaborate and build genuine stories that can’t be created by AI because only humans have a soul. Right?
A divide might be upon us folks. It might look like the difference between fast fashion and slow, circular fashion but digitally…
Businesses who focus on genuine positive impact on the world will be the businesses of the future
This isn’t new. This has been 30 years in the making. There are literally thousands of good people the world-over creating, launching and advocating for positive impact through the business lens. Whether your business is large or small, B2C or B2B, ensuring that you understand your emissions, your footprint, your social impact and your broader impact on the world is an expectation.
Don’t get left behind thinking this is a tool for marketing or a way to keep your employees. Taking a genuine interest and care in the impacts business has to have impact at scale is paramount to our insurmountable issues we face as humankind. Climate change, wars, inflation, cost of living crisis and beyond, these things affect business. No matter how you look at it, it is part of the responsibility of the business world to look at our impact and do better at every turn.
What are you doing to improve your impact?
Fruitful business partnerships will reign supreme, competition doesn’t matter – there’s enough of a pie to go around
For the longest time I have had this sense that competition is arbitrary. While we often deep dive into competitor analysis and we look at a market or a vertical to see what’s going on, the sentiment feels pointless to me. Who gives a shit what other brands and businesses are doing… just do what you do and do it to the best of your ability.
With that being said, collaboration is where things will explode. Maybe instead of considering your market landscape as full of competitors, think about them as a group of humans all working towards the same goals, ultimately in some way to help people achieve something. So why not try something left of field, work with them instead of against them. Collaborate instead of compete. Who knows what could come of it? We dare you?
Despite the ongoing obsession with full-funnel content marketing, personal relationships will always win
There is nothing the B2B world is more obsessed with than full-funnel content marketing. How do we create personalised content at scale at each part of the funnel for the journey each customer may or may not take with our brand?
Well folks, we’ve been doing this a long time now and with the proliferation and over abundance and consumption of content, we’re beginning to believe that there’s too much out there and people are turning away. They just can’t take in anymore.
The more content we create, doesn’t appear to mean we reach more people. Algorithms change, costs of advertising on all platforms have changed, tracking and attribution has changed… so what are we doing? Why are we just building and building and hoping people will come and see and explore and use… I don’t think this is the case anymore?
I think where everything truly lands is when you have built long-term, trusted relationships with people, they refer you and slowly, sustainably and surely you build your business connections. Because you’re a trusted, known person or business. I’m not sure it’s ever been any other way actually? It makes me wonder if we tried to see full-funnel content marketing as a trust building exercise which worked for a time but has fallen flat in a now bursting at the seams, plethora of channels and content.
Time to go back to who we know, have open conversations and see how we can fruitfully work together to build things in alignment with our business values.
So there you have it friends… our thoughts may be controversial, even triggering for some but these are our reflections from the year that was and what we project for 2024. Tell us how this sits with you?