Mike Freedman is founder of Freedthinkers (www.freedthinkers.com) which has offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Freedthinkers works with clients in the private & public sectors to understand what is, discover what can be & reach clarity on how to get there. He is also the author of monthly think-pieces on brands, culture & strategy, trustee of the Impact Trust, & a public speaker. Contact Mike at and follow @Freedthinkers on Twitter.
Mike Freedman is founder of Freedthinkers (www.freedthinkers.com) which has offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Freedthinkers works with clients in the private & public sectors to understand what is, discover what can be & reach clarity on how to get there.
Freedthinkers services focus on consumer & market insights, facilitating brand & business strategy, assessing corporate impact.
Mike is also the author of regular think-pieces on brands, culture & strategy, trustee of the Impact Trust, & a public speaker.
How are P&G and Unilever differentiated? Does the Coca-Cola Company want to be known for obesity or health? Will supermarket brands be strengthened or weakened by their supply chains? The perfect storm of social media, continuing social unrest, concerns over the economy and environment will batter brands that are not resilient and adaptive, while shaking established ad agencies to their foundations.
Trends arise from major shifts in global thinking. Otherwise they tend to be fads and blind alleys. And so to only look at trends is like trying to map the ocean by studying the waves. We need to dive deep, to the currents underneath, the reefs and the ocean floor. And so it is a time of fundamental change and it is happening at bewildering speed.
Brands are hailed as the unifying principle of the organisation. Yet brand-owners busily create divisions for advertising, sponsorships, promotions, social media, corporate social investment and so much more, with separate budgets, objectives, agendas and measurements.
The hero's journey is a story celebrated in art and life. "The Lion King" opens with a happy young cub. Then thrust out into the wilderness, tough lessons are learnt. In the third act, re-entry to the magic kingdom, the most extreme test, awaits. Now consider the career of Steve Jobs.
I've been reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area larger than the US, where abandoned fishing nets, plastic bath toys, computers and plastic pellets wash around endlessly, and wondered if I would find my odd socks and lost pens there. These thoughts propelled me around the socks section of a Cape Waterfront clothing store, grumpily looking for replacement pairs.
The most astute marketer I worked with did not train as a marketer: Carol Grolman began as a secretary, became marketing director of Edgars and then Woolworths. Instead of a head cluttered with Porter, Aaker and Ogilvy, she relied on her gut and was brave enough to trust her instinct.
Many great brands have brand mantras that in a few words capture their spirit. The mantra is not a slogan - it is the golden thread that holds everything together, from what a company makes, to its hiring policies.
Building a business and a brand is like firing a rocket at the moon. You don't aim at the moon, but where it will be by the time the rocket arrives. A brand takes years to grow, while the marketplace is never static and what seems an opportunity now can be an overtraded cul-de-sac within a few years.
The global financial meltdown is becoming trapped in clichés - as the first four words of my introduction typify. Every time there is a crisis, whenever change occurs, clichés proliferate and, if the clever writer isn't cautious, they soon start choking communication.
Well financed, well organised and benefiting from shared best practices, activists are taking on the world's biggest brands, from Big Mac to Shell, from Nike to Ford. Brand-owners can no longer preach to the masses from a distance and expect to keep their faults hidden. One ad from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is worth 100 from Ford, which it targeted recently. The balance of power is changing.