"Leapfrog" is a delightful term. It conjures how to get ahead in a single move, like children playing a game.
But the concept also applies to business, where leapfrogging usually refers to technology. A classic example is how many less-developed nations of the world now have technology parity because they went straight to cell-networks and bypassed complex and costly fixed-line infrastructure.
While leapfrogging happens in every type of business, it most often occurs when there’s a radical change in circumstance. Today it’s happening in marketing. Traditional brand marketing is a perfect metaphor for the landline. If your brand is one that’s already invested in that infrastructure, carefully developed brand messages creatively expressed and pushed out can still work. But for how long?
That approach was invented in a world that’s been reinvented. The sales funnel has given way to a decision journey. Now, consideration triumphs awareness. Now, what happens after the sale is as important as what led to it. Now, audiences are in control of brands because what they say is more important than what the brand says about itself. And now, brands are defined by what they do.
Marketers can build the new "cell network" that creates the ability to leapfrog into brand parity. It’s founded on the model of brands that win by investing in engagement and emphasizing their purpose.
Warby Parker, TOMS, Dollar Shave Club and Etsy were all newcomers that leapfrogged into crowded marketplaces. None followed traditional brand building. Instead they’ve prospered by developing meaningful connections with their audiences through taking stands, sharing success and being good corporate citizens. Being good truly can be good business.
So as much as marketers and agencies love a great brand story, it’s time to reconsider traditional brand storytelling. Monologues require audiences to want to care. In a world where most people don’t care about most brands, going solely with this approach is outmoded for all but the most beloved of companies.
Instead, define your brand by standing up for causes that resonate with your audience. Sustainable Brands, a global community of business innovators, calls it "merging purpose and profit through the unifying power of the universal human search for meaning." Create platforms for sharing and amplifying a marketer’s beliefs and engage in dialogue. Do this well, and the need for traditional efforts diminishes as your brand leapfrogs other brands still relying on the old ways.
Embrace your audience’s needs. Inspire conversations. Be brave. Be engaging. Be accessible.
Brent Wilson is Executive Creative Director of Vancouver, WA-based AHA Inc.