Published December 11, 2017
On 8 November 2017 our co-founder, Sally Pritchett, gave her first TEDx talk as part of TEDx Woking. Over 100 delegates attended at the award-winning WWF Living Planet Centre to hear speakers explore the theme of ‘Innovation’. Launched in 2009, TEDx is a programme of locally organised events that bring together the community to share a TED-like experience.
Throughout the day, nine speakers took to the stage to share their own view on Innovation in their industry. The talented pool of speakers included Edward Duffus, the Head of Innovation at Plan International, and Rob McCargow, the Artificial Intelligence Programme Leader at PwC.
Sally’s TEDx talk focused on the changing face of brands and looked at how they have evolved over the years to stay on top of the ever-changing digital landscape. You can watch Sally’s talk in the video below:
Change is human. It’s big, it’s small, it’s fast and it’s slow. I think of it a bit like one of my favourite buildings in London, Big Ben. When you stand on the pavement next to Big Ben and you look up, it towers into the sky, it’s huge, but as soon as you walk across Westminster Bridge, it contextualises with the skyline and it sort of shrinks… If you were to take a helicopter over London, actually Big Ben is a bit of a baby compared to Canary Wharf, and the Shard, even the Gherkin – and if you were to take a satellite image of London it would be miniscule. When I think about all of the change that has happened in my life, from one generation of me growing up, to my children now growing up – the change feels vast. If I take a simple thing like doing my homework around the kitchen table when I was a child, I would have sat with a pen and paper, doing my homework at the kitchen table. The one and only television in our house was in the sitting room. I wasn’t missing much from the kitchen because there were only three channels. The fourth channel, channel 4, didn’t come along until I was 12, and anyway, the TV sometimes had something called the test card. For anyone younger than me, the test card happened when there was actually nothing on the TV. Difficult to imagine that there were times where it was not 24/7/365. I didn’t have a phone at the kitchen table, because the one and only phone was in the hall, you had to actually sit on a funny kind of table chair thing because it was actually wired into the wall. So, a telephone call was a telephone call, and besides it was pretty cold in the hall; for some reason the heating never made it into the hall. If I now watch my children around my kitchen table doing their homework, they will not have a pen and paper because they will be using a laptop to upload their homework to the school portal. They will have their phone on the table, maybe even more than one of them because they will be checking their Instagram, they will be receiving Snapchats and WhatsApping somebody else. They will have their tablets playing some music, and for some unknown reason we also have to have the television on, blaring in the background, playing one of the zillions of channels that are available to them now. On top of this there is one similarity to me and my childhood, which is they will be bickering as well, holding down a conversation, be it all fragmented, and that will be going on on-top of everything. So, it feels like a vast change. Then why is it that I am my mother. And I don’t mean a little bit my mother, I mean every day my mother. ‘Pick up your feet. Hang it up. Put your hand over your mouth when you cough. What’s the magic word? Sit up straight. Don’t drag your heels. Were you born in a barn?’ I am my mother.
So, what’s the impact of this change yet no change on brands? I suspect that if you go home tonight and look in your cupboards, your bathroom cabinets, your bedside tables, your fridges, you’ll find more brands that your parents enjoyed, and your grandparents enjoyed then you might think. In fact, if I were to look at breakfast. I get up and have breakfast today the same way as I did as a young person. As a young person my cereal choices were completely influenced by a big furry honey monster and a tiger called Tony. And after cereal we had toast, my father was a lover and my mother was a hater, of course I’m not talking about the state of their marriage, I am of course talking about Marmite. My mother would have drunk tea; Tetley’s or PG tips. My father coffee, so Nescafe or Kenco. And today at my breakfast table, no matter how much I want to reduce sugar in my household because I know that to be a good thing now, my children’s tastes are influenced by a big furry honey monster and a tiger called Tony. I am still a lover, my husband, Nav, is a hater, so we have spawned a mixture of two. I now drink tea, PG Tips or Tetley and my husband coffee, Kenco or Nescafe. You could say that breakfast just got off easy because it’s untouched by the digital revolution So let’s look at a category like playing for our children. You can’t tell me that we have not been touched there by the technical revolution. But if we are to believe that our children have to be completely plugged into devices 24/7 then surely their bedrooms and playrooms would be completely void of a single toy. So, why is it then that all over my house I tread on Lego? My house is as full of Lego today as my childhood house was and I could go on… I brush my teeth with Colgate. I wash my dishes with Fairy. I wash my clothes with Ariel and Persil.
Obviously, when it comes to chocolate it’s Cadburys, but on Christmas day we have to have Quality Streets and Toblerone is really for those special days. So, is it really the case that actually every brand that we knew and love fits from one generation to the next? Actually no, there are some gaps and there are some brands that are missing that haven’t transitioned through the generations. They are harder to remember as they are no longer front of mind. So actually, it’s not always because that category isn’t relevant. If I consider something like watching the movies at home, and I am not talking the cinema but those sleepovers that I had with my girlfriends at home when I was a teenager, to the family film nights we have now snuggled up on our sofas. Ok, as a child I may have had to troop down to a video shop and choose a film off the shelf and now I can download It, but it didn’t need to be the case that it was with Blockbusters and it is of course now with Netflix or Amazon Prime.
I’m sure my children are listening to as much music, if not more then I listened to as a child, maybe I had to tape it off the radio, and was a bit panicky if in the middle the tape had to be turned around. But of course, those brands like Our Price and HMV are no longer how we are listening to our music, and ok maybe these are categories where the digital revolution again has really impacted them. But if I take something else like even a yoghurt, and I say actually the yoghurt industry looks as if it is alive and well, just like it was when I was a child. If you go into a supermarket you still see a plethora of yoghurts, but no longer Ski, like I did as a child, and this combined with a complete change to the route to market. So, there are brands that we liked in fact. In fact, your reaction tells me that you now reminisce about those brand, but they are no longer with us. So why is that? Why do some brands manage to transfer from one generation to the next but others don’t?
I believe there is a combination of three things at play at the moment. The first is that we have product manufacture, that means with globalisation from a prototype to a product on the shelf very very quickly, cheaply and easily and this combined with a complete change to the route to market, you no longer have to have a change of high street stores, or beg the buyers of a supermarket or department store to put your product on their shelves. You can now place your unknown product, unknown brand in an online marketplace, or even set up your own ecommerce shop and you can be up and running quickly and easily. It’s these two things combined with the third thing which is the access to advertising. No longer with TV being king, is this purely for the exclusive, big, rich brands that could advertise. Now we’ve levelled the playing field. So, these small, unknown brands now have a chance to not only produce their product and put it on a shelf, but also get out to their market. And this has been a game changer. What it has caused is an unexpected explosion in market pressure. I kind of imagine that maybe back in 1998, around that time someone piped up in a board meeting in Cadburys somewhere ’ahh excuse me, do you think we should pay any attention to this little, niche organic chocolate that’s come up called Green and Blacks?’ I’d like to think that someone took that person seriously, but maybe someone laughed and went ‘we’re Cadburys’. Only to find that not long later they were sharing every shelf, in every supermarket with Green and Blacks.
I’ve just started my Christmas shopping which I am quite pleased about for this year. And I don’t know about many of you but I am going to be buying gin this year, and I think a lot of people will be buying gin. It’s just a bit å la mode this year. But I have just as much chance that I am going to be buying locally produced Silent Pool gin as I am a 248-year-old Gordon’s brand gin. And suddenly that 250 years almost of Gordon’s has little to play for in terms of the future of Silent Pool vs Gordon’s. So, let’s go back to breakfast for a moment. Is it really true that breakfast is completely unaffected by this market pressure? Ok the digital revolution hasn’t hit the cereal aisle but when I walk into these massive supermarkets that we now and see cereal for an entire aisle, from floor to ceiling gluten-free this, high fibre that, low sugar, granola that, granola this, and actually that’s before we have even considered some of the little trends. I don’t if any of you had a dalliance this year with avocado on toast. My mother would have looked at me like I was crazy if I had asked for that as a child, but of course cereal has had that kind of pressure just like all of the other categories.
And you couldn’t possibly tell me that Lego has not had market pressure. Forgetting all the online games if you just took one brand that gave them a run for their money this generation was Minecraft. So, come on kids you don’t need to physically build it with plastic, you can do it in a virtual world! How does a brand like Lego not just survive a generation but shine, seriously shine? So, this is where I like to have a bit of fun and I like to imagine the top execs of a brand like Lego, marching up to Big Ben staring up at this towering change and saying ‘ok the kids today want to watch YouTube videos, well then, we will bring Lego to life in YouTube videos, we will have Lego Ninjago, Lego Friends, LegoCity, we will bring Lego to life and reimagine Lego for children of today. And if you are telling me that kids today really feel that the most relevant thing to them are these huge franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter well then, we will make Star Wars and Harry Potter Lego and we will stay relevant. And if you are telling me that kids today have forgotten how to play and they can’t really see where their imagination is then we’ll make a movie that explains to kids and literally demonstrates to them how to play.
And maybe in another boardroom further down the road, because obviously they are next door. The top execs of a brand like Marmite are also stomping up to Big Ben and they’re looking up and they’re saying ‘right it’s not good enough anymore that we just sell our product, we have to have a two-way communication, we have to have a social media, we have to have a community of fans. Well this is a bit of a problem because there are some people that don’t really like Marmite, in fact, they don’t really like the smell of it. But what would happen if we just talked to everybody whether you loved us or you hated us and if you weren’t sure we would get you to taste it and we’ll tell you that you hate us.
So, this is fun but I think these brands also walked over Westminster Bridge and looked back at that towering change and did another important thing. They put it into context and they said ‘let’s just remember if we are Lego our job is not to just make YouTube videos of Lego, our purpose as a brand is to inspire children to build and to imagine and create and that’s actually our destination, the rest is part of the journey. What would have happened if Blockbusters has walked back across Westminster Bridge, would we be downloading our movies from them now? So, I can’t really imagine in the world of AI and VR what changes my children are going to be reflecting on in 40 years’ time. I literally cannot imagine but I do like to think I might leave them a bit of a legacy, and whether they like it or not I’d like to think of them in their houses with their children in a few years’ time saying ‘sit up straight, don’t scrape your feet on the floor, what did we say? Yes, you may get down from the table, hang it up, you weren’t born in a barn’ and I will leave me legacy like that. Change is human. Thank you.
Find out more about the next TEDx Woking talk here
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