Every person and brand needs to evolve in their own way in order to stay relevant, but what if the way forward isn’t clear? That's where we come in.
Is it time to change your story?
January is traditionally a time for change. New Year, new you, right? It’s time to seize the day and resolve to make a difference. At work, it’s time to revive your planning skills and set to work mapping out next year’s activity.
But what if your way forward isn’t clear? What if change feels daunting or scary, rather than exciting?
In life, change is often imposed on us - whether for good or for ill. A new baby means the start of parenthood. Redundancy means it's time to dust off and update the CV or a radical change of career.
It’s no different for brands. Your brand might be losing relevance on account of social or technological change. Or a feisty new competitor might be disrupting your category. Or a window of opportunity opens up that needs to be grasped with both hands.
These points of inflection are the start of a new story - in narrative terms, the ‘inciting incident’ that disrupts and upsets the world of the protagonist. The moment when they simply can’t go on as before.
This is when character comes to the fore. A protagonist needs to understand who they are and what they desire (or desire to be) in order to chart a new course.
So if you think it’s time for change for your brand, your first question needs to be this: who are you and where are you now? Only then can you determine who you want to be…
There’s good reason people often don’t welcome change. 'Bad news’ often feels like disaster. It’s difficult to see such situations as the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Even ‘good news’ can cause anxiety, because the unknown is invariably daunting as it is exciting.
In stories, it’s often a time for a character to ‘take stock’ of the situation and make an inventory of the resources required for the journey ahead. This process is often facilitated by a mentor figure who helps the protagonist see the situation clearly and might provide them with ‘the magic’ they need for the mission before them. Think of how Bond invariably meets with ‘M’ for a mission briefing and then with ‘Q’ to receive the keys to a new Aston Martin with ingenious and lethal modifications.
That’s often how we see ourselves at Aesop - as ‘godparents of change’. Helping brands take stock of who they are now, helping them define their new mission, and equipping them with the magic they need to succeed in the future.
Understanding who you want to be in future should start with an inventory of who you are now. Naturally, every person and brand needs to change in their own different way depending on the particularities of their character and situation. But there are patterns, especially in stories. There are archetypal characters and situations that are always instructive when assessing what to do.
Here at Aesop, we work especially well with brands with certain archetypal characters and in certain archetypal situations - namely, the ‘challenger’ (or ‘insurgent’), the ‘fallen star’, and the ‘hidden gem’. In short, brands that require a greater degree of change - those in ‘do or die’ situations. Brands with less resources at their disposal that need wisdom and creativity to make the most of what they have.
There are other ‘change archetypes’, of course - for instance the powerful Ruler or Patriarch that needs to deal with rebellion or maintain their dominance (think of a market leading brand seeing off a disruptive competitor). But we relish more of a challenge!
The year to come back to life.
20 years ago, you were a much loved brand, with products that changed or defined the category - a market leader in fact. Then scandals came and went, new brands entered your space, confidence in your advertising went down… Slowly it all became about not losing ground rather than making bold strides forward.
So what's next?
These brands need to find a legitimate way to engage their audience again: new products, a moment of culture that makes them relevant now or reframing perception of your category - all of these can work. Just how do you package up your story to make the most of your magic tokens, the elements of your brand that people still know and love?
Think Skoda and Argos, instead of C&A or Woolworths.
Fallen stars use stories of reinvention, inviting people to see them in a new light. They can use nostalgia or go back to their roots. Their story can be one of hidden strengths, maybe uncovering something as yet unseen. Most of all, these brands embrace change, enabling them to embrace the future, rather than dwell on the past.
The year to shake things up.
No longer being disruptive for the sake of it, this teenager now needs to stake a firmer claim on the market. There's an opportunity that won’t last forever, and needs to be grasped.
How do they stay different and ahead of the pack whilst still growing and not being flavour of the month. How can they continue to be the maverick despite needing to stalk down the market leader?
How did BrewDog, Uber and Airbnb go from being challengers in a category to established leaders of markets they created almost all by themselves?
The challenger story can be about forcing revolution by raising the bar. It’s about being obsessed with a particular problem and being frustrated by the status quo. It’s about having missionary zeal, despite being the underdog. It’s about visionaries that change the future.
The year to get yourself noticed.
Hidden gems are the brands with a story worth telling, but it currently lies untold. Perhaps they were unsure of exactly what they needed to say or how to communicate a story they have already. Or they have a quiet heritage and history that is suddenly intensely relevant or in fashion, and it’s time to make hay.
Think of how Cook, the ready meal brand, was ‘an overnight success, 20 years in the making’.
The task that awaits the Hidden Gem is to refine their story, punch out its relevance, and be confident in telling it. The risk of not being out there becomes greater than the potential rewards of biding their time. If they dither, innovations happen, expectations change, and the market moves on. They must stake their claim or miss their chance forever.
The story of a hidden gem is one of finding your true self and getting out there. Of taking pride in yourself and singing your own praises a little. Of creating a little luck and magic for yourself, then enjoying your new found lustre.
Has making a change been on your mind lately? Is finding a new way to connect with your audience and address your challenges on your to do list this year?
Even though good intentions are there, it can still be hard to take the first step.
This year you can find your mission, galvanise your team and write a new chapter in your story. No matter the size of your ambition, the first step can be simple – agreeing on where you are now, allows you to plot your path forward.
If your brand feels like it might fit into one the above categories, it might be worth getting in touch.
Don’t let the past determine the future. It’s not your fate to continue on the path you’re on now. You can write the future of your brand by giving it a new story. You can be the change that improves its fortunes.
If you want to see change in 2020, we can help. Aesop exists to help brands change for the better through story.
We do this by giving them a brand-new narrative - one that enthrals, informs, and entertains. And ultimately moves people to buy.
Because good stories have a life of their own. They make believe, touch hearts, change minds, and move feet.
And a great one changes everything. With the right story, you can make a real impact - whether you’re changing culture or delivering commercial numbers that tell a story of their own.
If you need a new story, contact Lisa Roscoe at email@example.com.