Brand experience and the 1000 year vision

Method in the madness

Humour me folks. I appreciate with that title you’ll think I’ve lost the plot. After all, it’s questionable whether companies can plot the next 10 months, let alone envision where the business should be in a 1000 years. Today’s pace of change, and digital disruption, challenges even the most audacious leaders. Indeed, why even ask the question?

Well, there’s method in the madness.

It’s a technique. A technique that’s useful when trying to tap the deeper themes and values a brand experience should bring to life. And ok, it’s not a technique to noodle with the entire organisation. This is something to mull over a coffee, in a quiet corner, in a moment of forward-reflection… and if you dare, possibly with a few colleagues.

For example: we’re finding many of our global clients are seeking to own an innovation narrative. For some that’s a social innovation narrative. For others, it’s science-centric. That led us to debate internally, the cult of personality in owning today’s innovation narrative. It seemed to us, many of the venerable brands that once carried the innovation torch, are fast losing ground to brands with strong personalities at the helm; their voices more authentic, more relatable.

However, these personalities (like Musk, Bezos, Branson, arguably Jobs in his day) have some things in common with the 1000 year vision. And, by the way, having a 1000 year vision isn’t a new concept. Some enduring Japanese brands and emergent start-ups, in West Coast enclaves, have modelled their ambitions and values on this technique.

The personalities owning, arguably, the innovation narrative today have visions that stretch far-forward.

How does this apply to creating an engaging brand experience?

A key challenge when creating a brand experience, that convincingly promotes an innovation narrative, is connecting on a deep emotional level. Successful brand experiences go beyond the product, or service. Thinking a 1000 years out, to what the company and life could be like, side steps the current market reality. It switches the emphasis to what the enduring values and company legacy would be. It elevates the brand purpose. The 1000 year vision taps more visceral, higher order needs. If you project that far forward, you are, by definition, assuming a massive transformation which hitches the business to an innovation bandwagon.

Example: imagine you’re a bank today but in the Future you conclude money no longer exists. What have you become? What gets you to that new point without disappearing into the history books?

You might extrapolate in a Future, where everything is made and orchestrated by machines and a new quantum artificial intelligence, the bank has become an ‘enabler’ for deep exploration, adventure or creativity. After all, banks do more than protect your assets. They help grow them. They provide oxygen to entrepreneurs and their dreams.

Translate that 1000 year vision to the here and now, a bank’s innovation narrative isn’t about digital transformation or mobile. It could be about energizing dreams and ideas. The focus might be on people and collaboration, not products and services. Or it might be about a world without social friction. A world celebrating diversity. Each brand will have its unique starting point, values and beliefs. Those markers give a 1000 year vision context. But, more significantly, this technique of looking way ahead, can inform what the brand is about, in a more profound sense, here and now.

Author: Andrew Reid is a strategy director at Shelton Fleming, a creative agency that works with the world’s top brands. The agency is known for intelligent live events that give brands a personal connection to audiences.

Further reading