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Become A Survivor Brand

Edgar Molenaars


Ogilvy, Netherlands


BECOME A SURVIVOR BRAND: It’s now or never

Brands have evolved for centuries. But now there’s something radical happening, something we can compare to the big meteorite impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The big difference between now and then is that brands can see their threat coming – and can act to avoid demise.

We all know that only the fittest species survive: that is, those animals and organisms who are able to adapt to a changing environment, and who even learn how to thrive in new situations. Does the same apply to brands? Well, yes. And we are heading for a big change.

Data and algorithms have been changing our lives for the last two decades or so. It has been a struggle for most brands to keep up with the rapid changes. Do they go for the clicks or stay with the bricks – or do they find a way to mix? Some brands have adapted, some have not. Dinosaur brands like the defunct department store chain V&D now only live on in the memory of an aging generation – despite efforts to bring some of them back to life in the digital world, as with Kijkshop and Dixons. On the other hand, the ravaged brand landscape has led to the rise of new players like booking.com, Zalando and Coolblue.

Now, an even bigger disruption is on the horizon: voice-enabled search. But when will it hit us? Maybe not right away. The Dutch are famous for building dikes to keep the water out, and it seems we are similarly good at keeping drastic business changes at bay as long as possible. Online players like Amazon that have otherwise have conquered the planet are still waiting to make their move here in the Netherlands. And while the world is rapidly embracing voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home, we Dutch are reluctant to take the plunge. Nevertheless, voice is getting bigger and will inevitably impact the Dutch market in a big way – and sooner rather than later.

But why worry? Voice, you might say, just an easier way to search for stuff: that isn’t such a big deal for brands, is it? Actually, it is. Voice is making finding products and services easier than ever. On top of that, our new voice assistants not only suggest what they deem to be the best option; they can also act right away and order the recommended product, or make a reservation. This puts the steering wheel in the hands of the assistant instead rather than the consumer. Which is a big deal. Because to our new speech- controlled aids, there are no emotional strings attached to brands. Their choices, based on queries, profiles, and who knows what, will make consumers switch brands in a jiffy. It’s human nature: evolution has ensured that we almost always opt for the easier choice, even if that choice is not the brand we are used to buying. The upside is that we really could be facing a world where brands don’t matter that much anymore.

How to outlive this new and hostile environment? You know the answer: adapt. But in practice, getting your brand in the survivor-mode isn’t that easy. Even if you are a digital whiz kid who knows how to crack the secret code and prosper with data, you can’t do it on your own.

Agile brands have always flourished thanks to fertile partnerships. And as recent research has shown, the longer these partnerships last, the better. In this fragmented and unpredictable world, it pays to team up with expert partners who can help you seize those opportunities that give your brand meaning, coherence, and shape. By doing, you’ll ensure that your brand is fit enough to survive.

Fitter brands make sure they stay healthy on three levels: the far, the near, and the now. They are consistent in expressing their purpose. Because if you won’t stay loyal to your own core beliefs, how can you expect that your customers will? Fitter brands also find effective ways to make new products and services get noticed, creating meaningful communications and experiences around them. And last but not least: they are present at all relevant moments that occur, keeping pace with the moment.

It’s how your brand behaves on these levels that protects your brand’s value to customers – that ensures they will keep on looking for you. And how your brand behaves on these levels can even sway an algorithmic-driven assistant to select your brand instead of any other competitor. Because you grow loyalty. You get noticed. And you stay relevant.

In order to do so, you have to truly connect with consumers. That’s why Ogilvy not only specializes in brands, but also in understanding people and what matters to them. This knowledge, combined with sharp insights, innovative tools, agile processes, and creative minds, enables us to give brands purpose, gain trust, build connections, and stand out in meaningful ways. We put the power of ideas to work to deliver business effectiveness. Because it’s still creativity that makes a species survive – especially in the coming age of voice.

So yes, the meteorites are heading for the Dutch marketplace. There’s no hiding from it. Instead, it’s vital to be agile, creative, and collected. To do what survivor brands have always done: make your brand matter.