Christoph Rohrer, Managing Partner at brand experience agency Blackspace, talks about boredom in German marketing – and the urgent search for new formats
Critics charge that German marketing departments cannot get away from their conservative ways of thinking. While major innovations and transformations impact digital strategy, product development and UX departments in the same companies, marketing and branding teams are unable to carry a bold vision forward – and end up being left behind with their tame sales slogans. “Never seen before” – every pitch briefing for brand experience agencies writes this about an exhibition, an international shop concept or a trade show booth. But it’s all lip service.
Brands and companies need to act
Dear brand, wake up! Times have changed. We’re watching the German art of engineering descend into “Dieselgate”. Digital service startups are challenging major corporations that have been around for decades, and entire industries and business models are becoming obsolete overnight. Such dramatic transformations certainly do make us more willing to change. Today, your company is under a great deal of pressure to reinvent itself. It wants – and needs to be perceived differently. Internal transformations must be reflected externally, and it’s essential to prove one’s relevance and reason for existence. This is why you need to question every communication channel and marketing format that has established itself during the last “multichannel” decade. But how can we leave this old way of thinking behind?
From the “industry” to the “scene”
Dear brand, you need to be more independent. This means looking for opportunities to free yourself from your narrowly defined industry context. When it comes to your brand experience, you should ask yourself: Should we book the biggest space in the hall full of “top dogs” for your next trade show? Maybe the answer is: Get out of the hall and into the city. Over the course of the last few years, a veritable “ecosystem” of cool events and parties has emerged in cities during major trade shows. This is where your target audience actually lives and enjoys life. Such efforts benefit both the trade show organizers and cities alike, and they promote the idea of networking and creative interaction. Product designer Tom Dixon recently referred to the ongoing Milan Design Week as “the Glastonbury Festival of the design world” – for good reason. Are you still part of the industry, or already part of the scene? Are you still busy with marketing, or are you part of the ecosystem?
Networking with other aspects of life
Dear brand, products are becoming smart – and joining the Internet of Things. You also need to connect with other areas of life and look for ways in which you can leave your own sphere behind. Your target audience moved on long ago – go find them, and establish a presence with a new format at an event like Design Miami or Art Basel. Look for knowledge, opportunities for sharing and inspiration. Cooperate with TED or other conferences. Or be brave enough to create your own new experience – like your own festival. Daimler proved to be remarkably creative and adventurous in this respect, with CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, who plays the role of the pioneer rather convincingly. At the beginning of the year, the Swabians extended their cooperation with the digital conference South by Southwest. This collaboration led to the “me Convention” in 2017, which grew from its first event in Frankfurt to be hosted as a ‘festival within a festival’ at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It will move on to Stockholm in the fall.
Dear brand, let’s be serious. If you want to survive, you have to say goodbye to the old ad slogans and play an active role in public discussion. This will help you achieve greater relevance. It’s not enough to create new, formal types of experiences. If you really want to connect with your community and engage in a meaningful dialogue, you need to become a platform. Lead, don’t follow. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
Link to the original article here