Brands continue to look for breakthrough innovations. It is possible to look to the past for design inspiration as well as human behaviors that can be used in the future.

Here are two examples of how the past became the future.

4590121947_85c801b070_bThe retailer Service Merchandise existed from 1934 to 2002 and developed a system to complete customer orders via computer terminals, and later through phone orders. They even tested drive-thru locations for added speed and convenience. Was this process the fore runner of buy online, pickup in store processes we see today? I am sure that components of it are in fact what many consumers do today. A company before its time, not hardly. But the fact is that they could have been influential in IKEA’s shopping process of showroom and centralized pickup. Can you imagine what influence they would have on the big box store like Home Depot and Best Buy today with their model? An experience that would align with today’s time crushed lifestyle.

tucker-1003Processes aside, design innovators such as Preston Tucker had visions that were before their time. The Tucker 48 boasted many safety innovations that became standard in the future including disc brakes, fuel injection and self-healing tubeless tires. The “Tucker Torpedo” was also futuristic in its design as well including a central headlamp that followed turns and magnesium wheels.

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Continuing to demonstrate his vision for the future, Tucker with a group of Brazilian investors later designed the Carioca. Many aspects of the design have been discovered in the Chrysler’s Prowler fifty year later.

As history continues to repeat itself, it’s how we embrace these opportunities that makes them important for brands. There are many other visionary examples of ideas before their time. It’s a matter of being able to look at history and implementing into today’s experiences to make it relevant. It’s this ability that provides the vision for brands to engage with consumers.

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1105x622_Grants-hunter_rYou have optimized your website, put your pay-per-click strategy in place, secured back links to your website and have built Facebook and Twitter pages.  All tactics to create traffic to your site. Now that you have visitors to your site, how do you engage with them? Do you connect with them in a way that identifies with them deeply or do you just “sell” them? Do you have a story that resonates with your customer to the point that they become brand ambassadors for your company? Are you a company that makes a difference in their lives? It’s not good enough to get consumers to your website.  If you don’t engage them on a personal basis your business will have a hard time convincing them that you can make an impact on them. While tactics can create marketing in a point of time, brands that engage on a personal level, that have a impactful purpose are ones that sustain. The book “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose” written by Roy Spence of ad agency GSD&M, goes into this philosophy and why it is important to companies.

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In the past brands have talked about themselves through traditional advertising channels.  With the advent of the social media and websites like YouTube and Vimeo, brands have imbedded themselves into the lives of their intended customers.  Creating branded content that goes beyond telling their story, brands have been able to define their purpose creating a connection with an audience.  Marketers have found that through high-quality content, brands can fuel initial perceptions, inform research, build trust, and ignite purchase decisions that create a perpetual buying cycle for customers that feel bonded to a brand (See graphic developed by McKinsey & Company).

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Many companies have leveraged the impact that video has to tell stories. Some brands have become ambassadors of causes, documented them and built YouTube channels around them.  They understand the impact that they can make through connecting with their audience rather than constantly selling them. Consumers were enthusiastic about branded videos, with 59% of US adult internet users saying they watched them when they visited a brand’s website, and the majority of respondents actually preferred to view brand videos on a company’s site. Fully 40% of respondents favored watching such content over reading the same information.

Patagonia’s compelling strategy and how brand tells their story.

Consumer brand Patagonia, has immersed itself into becoming a company whose purpose is what drives sales.  In an AdAge article, Joy Howard, Patagonia’s VP of marketing stated, “We have a mission to solve problems in the world. That’s very much a part of how we engage with consumers.”  Fast Company and Marketing Sherpa describe how Patagonia leverage its brand to create consumer activists that support the causes Patagonia outline as part of their purpose. Another Fast Company article goes on to compare the Patagonia marketing return on investment versus JetBlue, Apple, Target, and Johnson & Johnson and how it outranked all of them.

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Patagonia has created a series of YouTube channels, specifically one called “The New Localism” that speaks to it’s customers passion for public causes around the world.  Additionally Patagonia has created a series of videos in its “Environment” channel that talks about sustainability as well as it programs including its “Common Threads Partnership” recycle program.  The company’s vision of “reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace,” is the corner stone of its purpose communicated to its customers and followers.

 

LMPGS_book2Extend the brand through experiences.

Its obvious that Patagonia values its customers passions and the stories that they tell and have focused their marketing on the these relationships.  Patagonia has gone so far as to add publishing to the brand experience by producing ebooks, technical manuals and inspirational books like the autobiography “Let My People Go Surfing” written by Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, that further extend the brand into its customers culture.

Content that engages continues to impact and creates a bond between consumers and

brands.  Many other companies have followed this strategy. North Face, Nike’s Makers Movement, Microsoft Special Olympics are a few of the many companies that have embraced this opportunity.  Brands that follow this engagement process will have the best possibility to create a sustainable relationship with is customers and market.

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For many years business leader have been asked ”what keeps you up at night.”  Rather than focusing on what many times are either issues that are out of your control, a better approach is to focus on “what wakes you up in the morning.”  Initiatives or strategies that excite you are more than likely to result in long term solutions that cause change, sustainability and focus on the core of your business.  Companies and their leaders that view through this lens can create a statement that demonstrates the company’s passion rather than just what it is selling at that point.
Companies that continually seek out their passions are the ones that engage with their customers on the highest level.  They go beyond selling to their customers, they become part of their cultures and eventually become synonymous with their customer base.
Highly effective examples can be experienced with companies like Tom’s Shoes, Whole Foods, Apple and Nike.  They each identified themselves with their target audience to engage with them on subjects that are near and dear to their hearts.  Many of these companies continue to support their passions not only through causes, but they have identified cultural issues that they can solve through their products.  This results in developing a brand thats engagement sells as well as identifying product  attributes.  This relationship also provides a platform for companies to develop products in the future based on conversations in its community.
In short, defining your purpose and living it everyday, will result in creating energy for yourself and in your business that also identifies with your audience.