The Power of Change

Posted on November 20, 2007

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It’s been said that the only thing that’s constant in life is change. Without it, philosophically speaking at least, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this pontificating post. And I know Charlie Darwin for one would back that argument in the broadest sense.

I think we should all be thankful that change is a reality we all face to a greater or lesser degree. And I say this despite knowing how painful, devastating and seemingly pointless a lot of it can be. Don’t think for a second I haven’t been through enough of it. I have, believe me.

But imagine how perpetuatingly boring life would be without it. In fact, it’s almost an impossibility to conceive the thought, isn’t it? Imagine facing sameness day in and day out, week after week, year after year. You can’t, can you? Because this would mean a life without the possibility of growth, a life without progress, a life without hope and dreams, a life utterly void of excitement and spark; it would be an endless suffering from a soul-suffocating status quo. Without change purpose would not live and our existence would be one not worth experiencing. Tomorrow would seem completely pointless.

In short, a life without change is no life at all. Even in the absence of a slight Shiraz intoxication leading my thoughts to areas that may alter my perspective slightly, I would hold this as a fundamental truth.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about change. To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure. But that Shiraz may have something to do with it and also the fact that at this point in time, change is something that’s happening to me in a big way.

I’ve just said farewell [never goodbye] to some wonderful friends and colleagues at Y&R Brands Asia and I’m about to say hello to the people at my new agency, TBWA. I’m riding the wave of change into a future impossible to grasp. And I am excited.

It struck me that change often proves to be the most powerful catalyst for growth for people, myself included. I can certainly say that letting go of certainty and allowing change to happen have allowed me to get to know myself better over the years and also understand what really matters to me in life.

I think brands are no different. They thrive on change too. Strangely though, more often than not, they seem to be systematically constricted by rules and templates. Unfortunately, the quasi sacred parole of ‘brand consistency’ has come to materialize itself in many a marketing departments and brands as one-dimensional monologue of sameness; every brand communication is crafted to say the same thing, using the same format and tone of voice, year in and year out. [Changes in a brand’s expression that we see from time to time is most often a result of ego and/or change of agency as every new marketing director seems to have in inherent need to leave his/her mark.]

This is hardly the kind of stimuli that intelligent beings like human beings find interesting and engaging. When all elements of surprise are driven out of a brand’s character and it’s communication, the way the human mind deals with it is to choose to block it out. Because the mind sees little point in re-interpreting and processing the same information over and over again when the conclusion is likely to be identical time and time again. This is a survival mechanism that I’m sure has evolved to became even more refined in today’s branded world where a constant bombardment of messages and stimuli are a reality in which we all live.

For far too long, marketing has worshiped at the church of consistency. It has done so without really questioning this doctrine and it’s origin. Failing to question directives and instructions from authorities is one of the fundamental factors needed for fanaticism to take root. [I just wanted to point that out.] By the way, have you ever heard of MCF? According to a number of sources, this organisation have several thousand members in marketing departments and ad agencies globally. And there is reason to be afraid. Very afraid. Their full name is “Militant Consistency Front” and they have been astoundingly successful at converting people to their belief for decades. Their infiltration capability is second to none and you’re probably not even aware of their existence.

Under the rising demands for accountability from marketing departments, I believe a mind-paralysing fear of change has gripped thousands of marketing directors, preventing them to see what consistency should really be about in the context communication.

Don’t get me wrong, consistency has a definite role to play in a brand’s existence if, and that’s a colossal if, it serves the brand in terms of clarity of purpose, not perpetuated monotony. There is a massive difference between the two.

A brand’s purpose must continually be conveyed in new and exciting ways in order to be noticed, resonant and engaging, ultimately moving stuff off the shelves. In order to connect brands with people – what ultimately will secure the future of our industry – we have to stop belittling our own minds and start recognizing them for the incredibly intelligent, advanced and sophisticated things they really are. We – whether we’re talking about brands or ourselves – have to embrace change knowing we can handle it and that it can fuel tremendous growth if allowed to run its course. Now, I’m off to find out if what I’ve been muttering about still holds true and if it can lead to growth.

Posted in: Planning-related