Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brands are replacing politicians as leaders of the world

Another gorgeous morning here in Cannes. I´ve had my two espressos (or café expresso as they are called here), mingled with the locals (well, more secretly perving at their French energy), bought fruit at the market to avoid eating more pan (sandwiches are cheap and I´m on a budget...). I love the mornings in Cannes, before those who partied to 4 am at Gutter bar wake up. Peaceful. Pure.
On day 5 of Cannes Lion I see how the main theme is “brands can make a difference”. What´s in the centre is not social media, online platforms or any methods on how to trick consumers into buying. A returning thought is instead how brands can change the world.
I know it sounds pretentious, and that it may be wishful thinking, but just listen.
I was a political writer for 20 years, producing several books, hundreds of articles, speeches, editorials and provocative thoughts. Of course I did this because I believed that I could make an impact, improve people´s lives and influence. But in hindsight I see how limited the political words are.  People don´t read opinion pieces, and most of us have lost trust in politicians. They can create laws, increase taxes and force us to do stuff, but true influence lies in culture – not in political structures.
When thinking “change the world”, consider what “the world” is. When it comes to the everyday world, where we live, breathe and find our values, norms, habits and behaviours, politicians are useless.
But brands can be king. Brands are becoming more and more important to us. We talk about them, signal our identity through them, find comfort in them. Brands define us like no political ideology can today. By choosing a brand you say what you stand for.
This is not true for all of them of course. The other day I wrote about deodorants and how silly it is to pretend a sweat-fighter can have deep values, and to say that every brand can create world peace would be slightly naive J.
But when listening to Leo Burnett´s seminar yesterday, where they pointed out how brands need to “speak human” and influence people instead of consumers, I notice a brevity in the industry that will shift the way brands impact us. When brands come closer to the market and meet people as people, there can be love. The fearful rational relationship when a camera is sold because it´s got x many megapixels is replaced by a softer, warmer and more powerful relationship where Canon speaks about inspiration and the emotional meaning of a camera.  
Many other seminars here in Cannes have touched the subject. Brands need to have a purpose, brands can do good work, brands need to step down from their high horses and listen to their audience through social media. People can play along with brands, but refuse to be steered. Patriarchs, politicians, arrogance – all dead. It´s a feminine, collaborative energy taking its place.
(Reservation: Asia is highly competitive – I learned in Wundermann´s seminar that Farmville in China is replaced by “Happy Farm” where they steal pigs from each other instead of sharing and being nice – but the structure of the industry is flattening.)
This is what social media is about. It´s not a “tool” – it´s a revolution. It´s a difference-maker. All other powerful institutions are losing their grip, by holding on to old school hierarchies with leaders on the top and people on the bottom, and the creative industry are now guiding brands to take their place. Brands need to make money, hence they evolve with time in another way than tax money led men in suits can. Brands are now taking stands, starting movements and spreading good values. They are the new source of change. If they want to.
I wish to change the world. And I believe I can do this through advertising and branding. one of the agency CEO´s in Sydney once told me I perhaps should find another industry if this was my goal, but I believe he is wrong. My love coaching or my political engagement might be purer, since I can say exactly what I want, but when guiding brands to connect with people´s hearts I can detox a larger world that used to be impure, and I can bring some light and purity into it – as well as some ROI. Win-win.

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