I lead the initiative, with Davis Masten, within the AIGA Brand Design community to apply Scenario Planning techniques to the area of branding. In particular, we have published a Brand Futures White Paper (PDF) that summarizes our findings so far. This material is also being presented to both the IDSA (at their annual design conference in July 2002) as well as the AIGA Expeirence Design community (at their annual summit, also in July 2002). A proposal to make this materials into a visual and inspiring book ahs been completed and awaits a publisher’s interest.
This material is an ongoing development process and the scenarios explored so far in these meetings (and described in the white paper ) include the following:
In world economies, whether due to new priorities, technologies, understandings, or cooperation, the vast majority of people are now able to meet all subsistence needs (shelter, food, healthcare, work, education, etc.) and have, for the first time for many of them, something called leisure time and new opportunity to pursue other interests. How does this effect the development of global brands? Or, local ones? Do brands face more competition or less? Does everyone become more or less brand-conscious? Does increased prosperity increase the quantity of brands? What about the quality?
The world economy suffers a tremendous collapse. Whether due to lack or resources (or accessibility), too much demand, insecure speculation, or political conflict that destroys the carefully balanced and orchestrated coordination of trade between countries, all monetary systems are severely devalued and a majority of people have problems meeting subsistence needs. Do people even worry about “brands” in this climate? Are they more concerned with quality, substance, or “real” value as a result? Or, are they even more oriented to brands that help them make quick judgments and decisions about their needs? Are they so busy with survival that issues of style, fashion, and more ethereal concerns mostly go unaddressed?
In a world where technologies have finally made it cost-effective–even profitable-to make customized products for all sorts of customers of almost every type. People can now extensively customize their designs for cars, clothing, pre-made foods, jewelry, curricula, and pets just like many houses have been for a long time. What does this do to traditional brands? If these products can now be changed substantially, are they even the same products any more? Do brands disappear? Can they compete? Do the customization processes and experiences themselves become the significant brands? Do product brands fade and corporate brands become more important?
For whatever reason (economic, technological, social, or cultural), customization has either not been successful or not been possible. There is a new interest in cultural connection to others and building shared experiences and identities. Status as a member of a group is more important to most consumers than status as an individual. These groups might be cultural, religious, corporate, professional, local, regional, national, or ideological. What might help brands compete in such a competitively reduced set of brands? How do people choose (or do they) which groups/brands make the most sense? How does our construction of identity change or influence the formation of these brands?
Traditionally, only a small percentage of the population has broken-away from the “pack” and pursued their own, ideally original identities. These people tend to be less brand-influenced and more motivated to either eschewing brands or developing their own brands. Imagine what would change if many more people became mavericks in their personal and professional lives. Could the stable order of work and life be maintained without the automated responses by consumers and expectations by companies around mass adoption of consumer brands? What happens when everyone not only establish their own, personal brands, but also forges their own path?
Through a combination of events and communications, the greater world of consumers finally gain a deep concern for the environment-what they might think of as nature. Not only are environmentally-oriented brands becoming more popular, but also processes that are thought to help the environment are adopted in full force (such as reuse, recycling, composting, reduction, etc.). How do these new concerns change the adoption, perception, and creation of brands? What do products and services that are seen to either have no clear relation to the environment or are actually bad for the environment do to react to these market conditions? Do they reposition? Change their products, services, or resources (if they can)? Do they hibernate?
Privacy is a Rarity
Due to an escalation of surveillance technologies, we are watched almost everywhere and at every time-certainly in the public space. Only inside our homes (or in some cases, our rooms) are we physically private and we are almost never private in a virtual space. Cameras watch our driving (and GPS pointers and satellites monitor our speed and route), our working, and our movement in restaurants, bars, casinos, shops, and plazas. Microphones listen into our conversations with customers, colleagues, peers, and family members. Workers from nannies to store clerks to managers-and even some executives are monitored via camera, phone, and email. What effect does this have on the appearance and development of, identification with, and visualization and presentation of brands? Are people less likely to adopt or display brands? Will they tend to use brands as camouflage? Can brands somehow augment our sense of privacy?
City as Brand
In an evolution of an already established scenario, more an more cities begin sophisticated, integrated brand development and management projects in both strategies and tactical presentations. Using New York City as a focus, since it has both opportunity and pressing need to reframe itself, what directions can the city take in evolving its already strong brand? How should it differentiate itself from other cities and, indeed, where is it already positioned? What mechanisms can be used to both create and promote new or newly articulated values? Is it possible for a city to have a brand? Is it possible to create or manage a brand for an experience as complex as a city? Who makes the decisions and how can it be managed? Is agreement needed at all levels-or any at all? Is there a process that can be employed? Is there a client? How does one measure success?
It’s also the basis for a presentation Davis Masten and I did at the 2010 IDSA annual conference.