I’m certain something has been created. I have know idea what this something does but I will come to care about in the new year. So will brands.

This Excalibur-esque widget — its trajectory powered by Moore’s Law — will be talked about, debated, hated, adopted, utilized, preached about, and so much more. It will make tomorrow far greater than today.

But I don’t know what this widget is. My understanding of it is nil. The same goes for brands.

Unknowingness can create fear. And fear and irrationality go together like Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in a Scorcese flick.

No matter the definition you choose, irrationality comes down to one’s inability to use good judgment.

This year, I learned of the McNamara Fallacy. All brands should learn about it, too.

“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes.

The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.

The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness.

The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”

Applied within our branding world where technology and big data are power players and can be used to create false differentiation, it’s easy to see how we can find ourselves and brands using poor judgment.

To go even further, we can liken our reliance on data that’s easy to find, filter, and manipulate to that of a crack addict getting their latest fix. So we should remember:

“Addiction is a pathological attachment to something attractive in the short term, but destructive over time. Recovery is about looking where we’re going and choosing a path that can last.”

We cannot know everything when everything is linked to rapid exponential growth. What we can know (and embrace) is that the future will have more possibilities. So we can get excited and anxious to learn and utilize instead of sidetracked by fear and complacency. We can prepare. And we can create awesome, amazing, and admirable things that generate a path that can last for brands.

It’s either that or we allow fallacies and addictions to destroy us.

Because a lot is happening. There are many terms forging a place (and questions) in our branding lexicon: chatbots, AI, programmatic TV, VR, live video, vertical video, and on goes the Carousel of Hot Button Topics.

Set to “Disruption Cycle”

Some would view the topics on this carousel as means to a disruptive strategy. They — and the brands who agree with them — would be wrong.

“Disruption is not a strategy. Improvement is a strategy.” — Ad Contrarian

Any scenario a brand creates with the technological forces of change will say something. But working to understand the sort of improvement people need to hear out of that technology in order to spark action is hard work like digging for coal in 18th century London.

“Before we start to speak we must find out what our audience needs to hear. Then we must talk to them in their language. Otherwise we’re just talking to ourselves.” — Dave Trott

We must listen and learn. We must use our damn brains. And we must remember complexity is a brand’s enemy.

In our fight against complexity and as brands aim to lasso the moon in the new year, it’s important to think of social norms — rules of behaviour that can help brands as we evolve.

Why can’t your brand be George?

The first norm (aka our strong rope) is this:


Children think big and wide and well into the future.

It’s not news that childhood curiosity and a dare to dream mentality are useful things. But it’s worth repeating. Because there is nothing wrong with taking time to act as if you’re still in kindergarten.

This difference of action must be embraced. The status quo is not producing as it should for brands. And besides:

“Strategy is revolution. Everything else is tactics.” — Lawrence Freedman

Far too often, brands think in terms of snaps instead of using what’s in our nature: the ability to think in tall possibilities fuelled, in part, by childlike grandeur.

Do we (and brands) want to think like Dollar Shave Club or Schick, Blockbuster or Netflix? Which tales sound better?

Speaking of tales, our second norm (aka the toss needed to reach the moon) is this:


It’s hard not to buy into this:

“Fiction resonates with us because it shows us truths about the human condition through great storytelling and compelling narratives. Through an engaging story we can be introduced to big ideas that just don’t resonate the same way in nonfiction: the medium allows for freedom of thought through creativity.” — Shane Parrish

We should do more of this.

We love great stories. Always have. The Iliad seems to have stood the test of time. The Bible is still kicking around. The Harry Potter franchise seems to have legs. All provide experiences for people to engage and fall in love with.

The Internet and our technological present and future are and will be great homes for great stories provided by brands.

“If you go back to the great novelists of the 19th century. Tolstoy, Victor Hugo — they wrote brilliant, incredibly detailed descriptions of moments of experience. Victor Hugo’s description of the Battle of Waterloo in Les Misérables, the novel, is absolutely like the Internet. It is a detailed discussion of every level of a moment. It’s absolutely fascinating, but what he did, and what Tolstoy did as well, was take all that stuff and put it in a framework.” — Adam Curtis

A framework is a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something.

We often lose sight of this, making comments like this possible.

“Storytelling is on the mantle of bullshit.” — Stefan Sagmeister

Storytelling, at times, is on this mantle due to the far too often utilized method of “one and done” where deep thought is absent and a brand foundation is never created.

This method doesn’t provide brands with support. It doesn’t lend itself to something greater. This method hinders brands like a person who brings a knife to a gun fight.

Frameworks create experiences people enjoy.

“I think the reason that people are increasingly fascinated by the details of experience is that we don’t trust the official story.” — Adam Curtis

One offs are like official stories — singular pieces of information lacking total context, leaving questions, and as a result doubt in people.

Brand success is the cumulation of experiences that provide context, earn fascination, and as a result trust, recall, all the things people must do in order for brands to last.

And as I’ve become certain of:

Lasting tomorrow will take more effort than it does today.

It will require the desire to dream, help, problem solve, and stand up for what needs to be done like George Bailey did.

The results could be wonderful.



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