Dustin Longstreth doesn’t believe you should just build brands – it’s about relationships, too. Ask the VP and strategy group director for New York City branding agency CBX, and he’ll tell you that connecting with people in this ever-evolving world of branding is the true key to success today. For the last 10 years, Longstreth has helped innovate and re-energize consumer-facing and internal brands such Del Monte, General Mills, PepsiCo, Scotts Miracle-Gro and Arby’s. Here he shares some secrets on the art of branding today.
What’s happening in the branding world today?
The biggest shift is in the nature of media. We now live in a 24/7, always-on world, where media is a means of utility and connection. As a brand, you must move past the “if all assets look consistent, I have a brand,” to a cohesion of actions and behaviors. Today, brands are as brands do – it’s all about the actions you take to fulfill its purpose and make life better for the people it seeks to serve. Stop obsessing about standing out and focus instead on leading, delivering value and being understood. The greater clarity you have about why you do what you do, the more you understand the needs and motivations of your constituents and the value you bring. This will help you stand out from the cacophony of meaningless platitudes and make it easier for your constituents to “pick” you.
Is it possible to stand out today?
Yes, but only if you have a clarity of purpose. Historically, brands only needed to ensure the consistency of a message and an image across a limited number of mediums (print, TV, retail, etc.). In today’s digital world, the number of mediums is exponentially more, and the nature of those mediums is fundamentally different. It’s more about engaging in a conversation and providing utility than simply blasting a message. Therefore, coherence of behavior and action becomes just as important, if not more, than consistency of image. Clarity of purpose is the thread that provides the necessary coherence of behavior and actions.
How important is it to be agile today?
Agility – size, speed, positioning, benefits, style – is the single most sustainable competitive advantage for brands today. Agility is defined as the power of moving quickly and easily. Being nimble. It’s the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly. For brands, the flat, hyper-connected world is more reflective of pickup ball at the playground than the controlled environments of league play. The brands that can thrive in this new environment, the brands with agility, will win.