By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

March 21, 2019 | 5 min read

In the modern world, brands face more opportunities and challenges than ever before, with evolving agency models and an ever-changing suite of technologies at their fingertips.

At The Drum Arms in Austin, legacy brand Mercedez-Benz and jobseeker website, Indeed came together with tech company Novalia , which creates interactive print experiences and the Springbox agency, to navigate through what it takes to build a modern brand. The panel was moderated by The Drum's associate editor, Sonoo Singh.

Back in with the old

What is old is new again, says John Ellett, chief executive officer of Springbox, pointing to the discipline of marketing and how some of the fundamental rules of marketing continue to apply.

“What we're attempting to do is create very personalized experiences through new mechanisms and new technologies”, Ellett adds.

The consumer experiences being created use the same formula to what shopkeepers used 50 years ago, agrees Nats Sijanta, director marketing communications at Mercedes-Benz Cars. You would walk into a grocery store and the shopkeeper along with the few store assistants knew exactly what you wanted to buy. That’s the feeling marketers are trying to transfer into the modern world.

It’s still about adding value, being relevant, having empathy and doing that at scale but it requires technology and data.

Novalia and Touchscapes’s founder and chief inventor, Dr Kate Stone, believes that the future will look more like the past than the present. The role of data is to create an experience for a consumer that is exactly how it used to be, where the shopkeeper knows exactly what you want.

However, people today are angry about how data is used and to what means it is being used for. “There's this general view that the media wants to have this narrative of about what data is and data is all about invasion and all the negativity that come with that,” adds Stone.

Being true to brand values old or new

Mercedes-Benz is a heritage brand, quite different in their values to a brand that has only been around for a decade and not over a century. According to Sijanta, today’s new brands can build in their purpose from the get-go, but those like Mercedes-Benz are at the tipping point where they have to find a way to transfer their legacy into the future. “That means that we have to change dramatically,” adds Sijanta “not only about how we talk to our customer on a marketing point of view but also from the cultural perspective.

“To turn that old metal industry into a new modern brand, it's a huge task but knowing it, being ready to do it and to then executing it – we have to work very hard on all these parts.”

The job site Indeed, meanwhile, has been around for 10 years and its vice president of global brand marketing, Jennifer Warren believes that brands that succeed are the ones that stay consistent and not deter from their mission. She said: “Our whole innovation/pipeline is built around what gets in the way of job seekers, and what's our next innovations around helping people get jobs.”

The ‘P’ word

Brands need to know what they stand for and who they are. The big word purpose, seems to be everywhere, but do we really need it as a marketing imperative for every single brand?

Stone says that the challenge is in identifying the purpose. Everyone wants their story to be as short as possible. “But how do you distill the richness of all the things that go into creating that purpose into a really short and snappy message that people are going to be able to understand?

“Maybe it's not all about communicating through words, perhaps we think about communicating subconsciously through the experience that consumers might have interacting with a product or service. You don't necessarily have to say much to people, you can communicate in a different way.”

Sijanta says that purpose is incremental in today’s world and it’s about seamlessly integrating it into the business. “Think about younger generations, they don't necessarily look for the brand that is the most successful but the one with the deeper purpose where they feel like they can be part of the brand.”

Wading in the conversation or not

In an era of Brexit and Trump, where any consumers do not belong to political parties, religions and are somewhat antipathetic to institutions in general, should brands then take a plunge and address that deficit. Should brands, for instance, be wading into political conversations?

Warren insists if you play in this space, you must be authentic. The brand needs to truly believe in what they want to be involved with or it will go completely wrong and the consumer will know.

Ellett adds that companies shouldn’t be involved with every conversation as it’s not always appropriate and it can cause complications.

He concludes: “Companies and brands need to think about how they prepare for things out of their control. They need to be able to have the internal management capabilities to not try and hide things anymore. You have to live a more honest management approach and culture. The companies that do that will survive as modern brands.” The Drum Arms SXSW

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