BE USEFUL OR BE OBSOLETE

Jamie Buchanan
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“You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving.” Bill Hicks

Let me indulge briefly in a parable from another industry that is a huge part of everyday life and culture – the music industry.

The evolution of recorded music – from vinyl to tape to CD and then to mp3 – was widely seen at first as a linear progression: digital formats were simply the next vehicle for selling recorded music. The actual impact of mp3 on the sales of physical products and the drastic transformation of the marketplace was grossly underestimated and, as a result, the industry began to collapse. The formats evolved but the industry was, and still is, playing catch up.

What the music industry failed to do quickly enough was continue to be useful. Punters didn’t want to buy CDs anymore; artists no longer required multi-million pound studio complexes to record in, but these were still the core offerings of the companies that dominated the industry for years before.

Brands run the risk of the same fate. Being liked (or ‘Liked’) doesn’t necessarily sell products and, whilst a website full of rich content can be fun to browse or a highly personalised letter might make me like you more, in order to move from being something people want to something people need, a brand must also be useful.

Therefore, brands must evolve the way they communicate in order to become essential. They must strive to be interesting, likable, desirable and useful. Marc Pritchard even goes as far as to apply this mentality to his entire existence:
“I think of my simple purpose in life as ‘to be useful’”

3 WAYS WE MIGHT GO ABOUT THIS

1.     Be challenging 

We should act like competitors, as it’s the competitor mindset that forces us to be bold and take risks, to keep innovating and stay fresh. We also cannot afford to be scared to make a radical shift in the way we operate. We shouldn’t fear failure, we should fear irrelevance.

 2.     Be agile

We need to be able to take the necessary steps that enable us to make this shift, even if it means abandoning everything we’ve been doing for years to do so.

3.     Be available

Finally, for a brand to be utterly useful it should be available when its needed. Therefore we must harness real-time technology to put an end to static campaigns and start being part of everyday life, 24/7.

You can be the most desirable brand in the world, but unless you successfully add a useful dimension you’ll have a hard time making the transition from being a brand people want to a brand people need – a ‘go to’ brand – and you run the risk of becoming obsolete.