It’s time to admit that nothing will ever be the same again in our industry. Let’s talk openly and constructively about this. Let’s analyze the giant elephant in the room — from the trunk to the tail —and not ignore its presence and impact on our profession. How can we let go of everything we’ve been holding on to for decades, all to ensure success in the long run? These are the words that one of the region’s best-regarded branding experts Mitja Tuškej used to announce his module titled Branding: New Branding – Hocus Pocus, which will take place at the Direct Media Academy from May 28 through May 30. The module is ideal for all those who go to sleep and wake up with branding on their minds. If brands are your passion and their communication a challenge — you really shouldn’t miss out on the Branding module talk series.
What are the changes that most contributed to the end of branding as we know it?
The changes are indeed incredibly big! It’s interesting that all of us, as individuals, don’t understand their wildly powerful intensity at all. Day in, day out, you simply don’t feel that everything around us is changing so much. It’s amazing how much we’re able to adapt and embrace all these changes. Only when you start to pore over the history do you realize the incredible intensity of the changes. The changes in technology are probably the easiest to spot — they’re obvious, and everyone knows that these changes led to new communication channels that changed both the concepts and the forms of advertising. But that’s just one small piece. I’m not saying it’s insignificant, but it’s not one that would command essential change in branding at the source on its own.
In my opinion, at least two facts are more pivotal and powerful than the speedy evolution of technology… Although at the end of the day, the evolution of technology is precisely what facilitated the situation we all found ourselves in… To be more specific, one of the key developments that calls for brands to completely change their concepts is the total information overload. I find it fascinating that — and I have no idea how experts worked this out — from the beginning of civilization until 2003, the world managed to generate a certain volume of information; that same volume is generated today by all of us in two days! Our brain is somehow managing to increase its capacities, but still — too much is just too much. We don’t have the capacity to store everything that’s going on around us in our memory. We constantly filter through and remember only what’s in our actual interest. And trust me, advertising messages are not quite at the top of our list.
When we add the fact that brands are offering more and more every day and that competition in most areas is getting fiercer, it becomes clear that we need to make changes at the very conceptual level.
How can we adapt as painlessly as possible to the great renaissance of branding values knocking on our door?
Of course, the big question is what and how to change. I searched for answers by doing all kinds of comparisons on different databases and in different surveys, looking at the past and present positions of brands. I came across an excellent case that opened a path to interesting conclusions. A comparison of data from a survey series I’ve been doing for a client of mine for more than fifteen years that monitors the perception of competitive brands among consumers has shown me how differences between big competitors are subtly and slowly becoming smaller. When I added actual market shares to these data, I came up with an astounding result: The brands that were getting closer to each other year by year lost their positions, while the brands that somehow managed to stick to their guns and retain distinctiveness and especially values and personalities expressed through their communications grew. What’s more, the brand with the highest growth over the last ten years was perceived literally the same all the while. Its story is pure, clear, and focused, and its target audience always remains the exact same. A total focus on what the brand essentially is and an enduring total focus on those who are its biggest fans.
Now, does all this mean that branding as it was is disappearing or just changing form… I think that the concept of branding is changing drastically. Today, branding is an extremely delicate and intricate. Accuracy and constant checking of the validity of the relationship between the consumer and the brand is a must. The constant search for where our ‘partner’ is, how they think, what they do, where they are, what excites them, and how to engage them in cocreating the story of ‘their own’ brand — these are all objectives without which we will hardly keep our brand above water. In my opinion, this really places the role of branding in a brand-new framework.
Whom is the Branding module intended for and what can the participants expect from talks and workshops?
The Branding module is a top choice for anyone working on any side of our triangle… The agency, the advertiser, or the media — I don’t even think that the role itself matters. What’s important is to have and open mind and a desire to do something in a perhaps slightly different way. I will give my all to show the participants that it’s important to make a tightly closed box with the brand and its consumers inside and use this as the square one for creatives to design solutions that break out of that box.
The two main characters in branding are the brand and the consumer. What is their relationship like today, and what did it look like before?
Ha! Basically, the relationship between the brand and the consumer never even underwent drastic changes. They were and still need to be in a romantic relationship. Even more than that — love is just the beginning, they must be in a partnership. Respect, listening, and even a bit of a row or a misunderstanding here and there. The important thing is that this is a relationship that should last. And it’s important to understand that the relationship and love will happen if the brand and the consumer find each other. And they’ll find each other if there’s a certain agreement between them. If they think alike, if they uphold similar values, and if they share similar lifestyles. This works, as has been noted by the world’s biggest branding experts for quite some time.
However, not everything is the same. All the changes and the full evolution of everything led to the fact that today we are all significantly more segmented. There are so many different options, so many different interests, and so many nuances that separate us and make us different that it’s much more difficult for brands to find the right values and personality to enter the consumer’s state-of-mind in the subtlest and clearest way. And again, when we enter the mutual relationship, we also enter the world of constant communication, constant courtship, and keeping the romance alive. If I change, and I’m changing much faster than I used to change ten or fifteen years ago, if I receive updates, spot and receive memes, and embrace new trends, my partner — my brand — must do it in parallel. If the brand is not investing in our relationship, there’s a possibility and likelihood that some other brand will offer me something that better fits my changed views, so I’ll first flirt a little bit… Which might turn into a new love and a break-up.
This relationship system for brands simply means that they must keep listening and analyzing the target audience’s insights, the trends, and the relationship between themselves and their consumers, and keep adjusting their story to their partners, their customers.
Your new book Hocus Pocus: Focus tackles the very topic of your module. Is focus your message at this year’s DMA?
Yes, most definitely! My message is a total focus on the relationship between the brand and its consumer. And my focus will be on that — getting to the right focus 😊.
In your opinion, what qualities and skills should a marketing, advertising, or communication professional have in the new age of communications?
Today’s branding is all about focusing on the relationship, on keeping the love and partnership alive, on staying passionate about your brand… And these values are the foundation for everyone in our industry. You must be in love with your brand, you have to be committed to the relationship, and you have to build and maintain that relationship all the time. You must listen, read, and broaden your knowledge and know billions of different facts in order to find the right focus for your brand and to properly keep the love of the right people for your brand alive.
ABOUT MITJA TUŠKEJ
Mitja Tuškej is one of the most notable branding experts in this part of Europe, and he’s been an irreplaceable figure in the communications field for more than 25 years. If anyone could be called a renaissance marketing philosopher, it would be Mitja, although he has shown equally excellent results in his many years of practical work. He is a member of the Ascanius Media Slovenia family, one of Slovenia’s most successful agencies that was awarded once again this year with an Effi for the most effective campaigns. His specialties include analysis and strategic planning, and the skill that he is definitely a master of is creating simple and logical frameworks around extremely complex data. He best enjoys the challenges of complex strategic planning, both at brand and corporate levels. In 2015, he wrote No Friends, No Brands, Slovenia’s marketing book of the year that has a rather well selling regional edition. Hocus Pocus: Focus is the Mitja Tuškej’s new book from 2019, in which he complemented his knowledge and experience with the latest and hottest developments in brand management.