04/04/2019

Looking Beyond Brand Humanity

The crowded chaos of Grand Central Terminal is a force to be reckoned with on a Monday morning. Hesitate for a second and you’ll be trampled by human traffic.

A seasoned New York City commuter, I know better than to stop in the middle of the hustle. But recently something stopped me dead in my tracks – and it wasn’t a flash mob like you see in the movies.

It was an advertisement.

Nothing showy. Just a traditional poster that looked a little too clean against the worn brick walls of the subway station. The ad was part of a brand launch campaign showcasing the humanity of a traditionally functional brand. And it was the third of its kind I had seen that morning.

The thing is, it wasn’t the strategy or creative or that gave me pause. It was the paralyzing thought of what’s next?

What happens when humanity becomes table stakes for brands?

I was pushed along to the platform as I got lost in my thoughts. We work every day to help our clients build authentic, meaningful connections and experiences with people. But where should we be helping them go next? How do we help create a brand that stands the test of time?

On the train, I studied advertisements wallpapered along the inside of the car. Today, it was Casper— the brand that overhauled the mattress industry now fighting to keep its market share from the countless copycat mattress startups it inspired.

The goal isn’t to build a brand that lasts forever as-is. The goal is to create something dynamic so it can evolve … just like people.

As brands continue to embrace their authentic identities, I imagine we will see them mature in the same ways that humans do by building on their values and finding their voice. But the brands who want to stand out, connect with and inspire people, will amplify their voice and take a stance on societal issues.

We’re already seeing this come to life with some of the brands that made our brands to watch list for 2019. Just take a look at TOMS, who expanded its focus on poverty to take a stance on gun violence.

At the end of the day, how brands own their humanity and use their power of influence will be up to them. It’s our job to create a strategy that can grow with them. And maybe give someone a thing or two to think about on a Monday morning commute.

Amanda Abell is a brand strategist at Joe Smith, the brand consultancy of Padilla.