The imperative of long-term brand thinking

It's so easy to think short-term, but as Dan Parritt, co-founder of brand and design agency Molasses writes, brands must navigate relationships, learn from mistakes, and cultivate legacies that extend beyond short-lived campaigns.

The world hasn’t changed, but perhaps we have.

Every societal or environmental change is a reminder for brands, and us, to think differently. About evolution, responsibilities and more – be that home life, how we buy, how we engage with brands, each other and the fact that perhaps we’re not infallible.

Wars, politics, disasters (natural or otherwise) continue to open up ‘mindfulness’ moments. Crises provide a wake up, an opportunity to stop, think and consider the long-term good.

These moments continue to remind us that perhaps the ‘immediate’ isn’t always better. And long-term thinking can be more effective – that short-term planning and results won’t matter in the long-term – not without a long-term vision and not when the world goes to shit.

We’re playing a long game in life, as are brands. They are living breathing things, they have relationships, they lose relationships, they make mistakes, they have a perceived end, but it’s how they lived that is how they are remembered. And what they give birth to continues to build this legacy.

A good way to look at long ideas is through examples. Thinking longer is not a new idea, it’s been around for a long time (as espoused by Les Binet and Peter Field in ‘The Long and Short of it’). Long term brand vision will always win over the short-term.

Take planning the Sydney Harbour bridge, it’s eight lanes by the way, but they didn’t need eight back then – they were trying to think longer – although perhaps not long enough in this instance.

And Dickens wrote long pieces of literature – but it was how he delivered them that was different. A page at a time, in the newspaper to keep people reading, add suspense, surprise and delight, and of course aid sales to a targeted reader.

With a greater pressure of accountability and return on investment, the need to show immediate change and growth is insane, and as such, encouraged.

Of course, with results, via things like Google Ad Words and social media ads literally delivering second-by-second results, this has only gotten worse. This is not to say these things are not important, but planning short-term will only ever be that – short-term. What do you want your customer and consumer to do next and in 2-3+ years’ time?

A brand strategy and vision is not an advertising campaign, it considers the brands’ long-term proposition. We must always start with a vision, a greater purpose, and not just what’s in front of our face. Short-term promotion must play a role, but it needs to be part of the wider more considered plan, and fit within the strategy – noting that ‘hope’ is not a strategy.

Take the ‘Coke Side of Life’ positioning. It was an ethos, a way of living – everything, campaign or otherwise, was led from that. It was a brand strategy, which has evolved. But it shows that a brand is a living breathing thing – as is the end consumer.

Remember that ‘Life should be full of unforgettable experiences, every step of the way’ – it’s a way of being – otherwise what’s the point.

A brand’s strategy should not be confined to mere advertising campaigns but should instead encompass a holistic, enduring proposition that resonates with its audience. By embracing a vision that transcends the present moment and embodies a deeper purpose, brands can forge meaningful connections with consumers and cultivate enduring loyalty.

Dan Parritt is the co-founder of Molasses



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