At The Cabinet we pride ourselves on living beyond the bubble. And if time has taught us anything, it’s that if you don’t know what’s happening in society more generally, then you have no chance of producing work for clients that will be relevant, powerful and effective.
Our work must tap into and harness what is already out there, to inspire and reflect our target audiences, their fears, their hopes, and of course their dreams.
So, if society – and as a result brands – are a true reflection of the times we live in, then what’s going on has a direct correlation on what we do, where we do it and who we do it for.
The term ‘Liquid Times’ was first coined by Zygmunt Bauman in his 2007 book Liquid Times, Living in an Age of Uncertainty, launched one month after the first iPhone. Bauman foresaw the ongoing passage of ‘solid’ societies changing into ‘liquid’ ones, as new and unprecedented social pursuits emerged, and individual lives became ever more untethered from previously stable institutions and beliefs. Examples of this aplenty, from the UK expenses scandal through to the global bank bail outs, no organisation has come out of this societal bruising unscathed.
It would result, he predicted, in members of society leading ever more fragmented lives, with individuals having to adapt by becoming uncharacteristically flexible and adaptable; constantly ready and willing to change tactics and decisions at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret, and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability.
And so, this has come to pass. Super-charged by technology, and accompanied by constant socio-economic uncertainty, consumers lives have been shaped by this new reality, and for them it feeds into every decision they make. Whether it be the zero-hour contracts and insecurity of the gig economy or the huge financial hardships that are being exacerbated by debt being packaged in new and easily accessible ways.
With this level of disruption and social change, it should come as no surprise that this seismic shift shapes how, what, why and where brands operate today. Irrespective of size or legacy, businesses are having to learn to present themselves and respond to a remarkable array of consumer demands, global diversity, and an ever-increasing revolving door of communication platforms.
All of these factors compound the challenges faced by businesses seeking to capture affiliations with new consumers. Especially so, when it comes to how to communicate with generations with shifting preferences and loose brand loyalties, and for whom no single channel appears to predominate.
With these challenges comes great opportunity, and those brands and business that can adapt and flex into these realities are already enjoying the benefits, targeting new and diverse audiences in new and diverse ways while not compromising on their brand values.
Just take a look at any number of brands in the fashion industry from North Face, Louis Vuitton and Supreme to name a few to see how they put technology, creativity and uncertainty at the heart of what they do. One of the reasons for this is that the fashion industry has been driven by a continuous requirement to innovate to survive and therefore has been at the forefront of embracing technology across all aspects of their business. Led initially by Burberry in the early 2000’s many brands have surpassed them in the race to evolve and challenge… you only have to look at how any of the LVMH brands manage to combine creativity, technology and desire to drive demand and successfully sell their products at ever increasing prices. Not exclusively a fashion phenomenon, and closer to our hearts, drinks brands as attitudinally polar-opposite as Topo Chico and Brewdog, both demonstrate how being Liquid serves you well when wanting to grow beyond your traditional heartland.
While these brands are very different, and appeal to different tribes, what they have in common is their reliance on and commitment to harnessing the power of innovation. That is to say creativity and technology combined, not individually.
In conclusion, in a world that is becoming more uncertain by the moment, across multiple dimensions; brands, irrespective of industry and audiences must learn to be as liquid as possible. Those that don’t step up to this challenge can expect the same thing to happen to them as happens to a frog when it gets boiled; a slow, then sudden demise.
On a more practical note, how do we judge whether we, and our clients are truly liquid? Follow this easy guide:
Is what you are doing clear and easy to understand?
Will people want to share and engage with what you produce?
Has what you have done been brought to life in the best possible way?
Is this an original idea?
Will it drive positive results for business?
Will it stop people in their tracks?