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Brands like Kodak and Blockbuster ‘allowed the future to happen to them’ – warns TBWA

Brands need to be finely tuned to the wider cultural forces at work, if they are to survive the technological disruption that has seen once great companies like Kodak and Blockbuster consigned to history, TBWA’s chief strategy officer for South East Asia told a conference in Singapore yesterday.

Speaking at the Brand Finance Asia-Pacific Forum – titled ‘Brand 4.0’ – Robin Nayak warned the audience that it was a mistake for consumer-facing companies to ignore cultural and technological shifts. He called for brands to find their purpose before it was too late.

“Brands have allowed the future to happen to them,” he told delegates at the conference in Singapore. “Why didn’t Kodak invent Instagram? Why didn’t Blockbuster invent Netflix? Brands have been disrupted, but human behaviour stays the same. People are still taking pictures. People are still watching films and shows.

Nayak from TBWA

“The talk about the six-second attention span is absolute nonsense. If you give people something they care about and value, then they will invest time and money with you – as the gaming world has shown us.”

Pointing to a brand that was engaged with the cultural heartbeat of society, he name-checked Apple – suggesting that the company was perfectly aligned with its consumers at the same time as being a technology innovator. 

“You need to understand your audience at a human level and enable your brand to stand for something,” said Nayak. “Your competition is culture, not your competition [companies in the same space], so you have to be part of a culture that is constantly changing.”

“You have to be culturally aware so that your brand doesn’t make a faux pas,” he added, using the example of how Lynx deodorant adverts had changed dramatically in just the space of five years – from objectifying women to become a more inclusive brand.

“It was the strategy that all deodorants were following back then,” explained Nayak. “The brand [Lynx] hasn’t changed its point of view, just the way it delivers it. You have to harvest the cultural truffles that are out there.

“If you don’t spend time understanding culture, you will be washed away by the same wave, just as Blackberry was washed away by Apple. Brands that don’t stand for something won’t last. A product can be copied so it’s important that people actually like you too.”

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