The sorry tale of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi should teach us some valuable lessons about the climate we operate in these days as businesses and brands. In this story we have a clear example of how a 24/7 news agenda fuels turbo charged and emotional reactions from the crowd – #teamnigella – and enough sympathy (for now at least) to skew any real perspective.
Not only that, but we also see how quickly brands are able to react to the idea of being written off. A skill that is becoming increasingly valuable in the furnace of media opprobrium. Kate Moss, BP, Ryan Air, Elton John, Virgin Trains and Twitter are all example of “brands” who have recovered from attack and moved on. The vicissitudes of the age did not crush these mass market icons. Why?
Well we are a “transmissive” society. Consumers don’t look up from the mesmeric power of their devices, so many are onto the next brand or story after they have erroneously dismissed the brand in trouble. In other words, we actually don’t enter into a dialogue. We don’t look up. We fail to discriminate in the moment as we digest the mass of information. This lack of consideration and reflection results in the transmission of undigested information. It’s a never ending circle for a moment or two. Then momentum changes…
What this connected world insists upon is immersion, distraction, collaboration and company. As many ‘friends’ as you can muster, followers, lists, and constant communication with as many people as possible. Reactions are delivered back in real time, triggered by superficial emotion, when actually what we require is perspective and a much longer term, better informed view.
To get to the REALLY BIG IDEAS, ones with permanence and resonance, what we need more of is detachment, concentration, autonomy and privacy.
‘Teach us to sit still” T.S Elliot prayed. How wise. This new world of hyper connectivity allows no time for new perspectives and so the constant noise can lead to conversations that are potentially thoughtless and worse dangerous, whilst informed detachment can actually inspire a more intense engagement.
So the centrality of STORY – the thing that makes you stop, that makes you muse, that makes you consider, that makes you reflect, that makes you laugh, that moves you and makes you engage – is more critical than ever.
Today’s world of over abundance, excess, data and a dizzying array of social technology requires some new thinking and compelling explanations around how to win in a crazy world.
We require a longer term view with the ability to react in real time. With a believable narrative, agility, flexibility, a willingness to exercise judgement and a skill for improvisation.
Businesses must lose the delusion once and for all of being in control.
Be brave. Great stories rarely emerge from a timid culture.
Find the foundation stories that will help to define issues, set out actions and describe an alternative and wiser outcome. Meaningful stories stick with people longer than statements and claims.
What we see clearly, is that whether a company uses narrative or not, its story is being told in all sorts of ways each day. It’s never been easier for people to have their say. Anecdotes get shared and amplified so the official story of a business or product lives in an increasingly contested space. Companies must learn to compete more effectively at the level of the word. Simple, compelling, crafted.
And there’s one last thing. It’s a small matter of the truth. Brands must tell it these days as there really is no place to hide anymore. The wheel of fortunes, those wages of hubris – business must be able to fight fire and rebuild, surviving the punches from that horrid yet satisfying truth that the higher you climb the more inexorably you may fall.
But it is never over for the smart business. Post crisis the beleaguered brand with the best story will recover more quickly. Brands and individuals may well suffer slights and injuries, but with a brilliant team, smarter thinking, resilient strategy, perspective and intuitive creativity they can rise from yesterday’s newspaper with a stronger narrative and a much brighter, sounder future.