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You Can’t Always Future-Proof a Brand, but FutureBrand Does the Next Best Thing

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 10/15/2018 | 4 Minute Read

What will the future look like? Flying cars, food in pill form, or something else completely? In a rapidly changing society, it’s pretty hard to say; after all, we live in a world which many describe as VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This, of course, presents quite an interesting set of challenges for designers. But no matter what the future brings, Marie-Thérèse Cassidy, Executive Creative Director of FutureBrand admits: there’s never been a better time to be called “FutureBrand.”

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The way we experience brands today is vastly different than when Marie-Thérèse began her career twenty years ago. She described the “Stop, Engage, Persuade” method used to catch a consumer’s attention (Stop), connect with them on a deeper level (Engage), and then convince them to make the purchase (Persuade).

But desire lies elsewhere today.

“I think this fundamental change is existential and has been triggered by technology,” Marie-Thérèse explained. “We have tech in our hand all the time. As a result, we demand a much more consistent brand experience.”

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Generation Z, born in the mid-1990s and on, is a demographic of young people who typically have access to 5 screens. “We have to acknowledge that today’s consumers experience brands through a myriad of different touchpoints,” added Marie-Thérèse. “It’s the future. As creators and designers with clients, we must acknowledge the huge difference in the way they absorb brands and information and how they choose who to be loyal to.”

So how do creatives get consumers to be loyal? These days, it’s less about “Stop, Engage, Persuade,” and more about “Choose, Connect, Commit.”

“Choose is about identifying,” explained Marie-Thérèse, describing the initial phase of research and development. “Connect is about the experience, what is it like to use, and commit is about the relationship—how attached am I to the brand and will I become a brand advocate?”

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Editorial photograph

By following The Three C’s, designers have a blueprint to follow while still leaving room to develop something unique for each client. “It’s essential that brands and creators acknowledge the stops in a journey in order to surprise and delight,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a cookie cutter experience.”

Ultimately, brands can no longer only be available for the moment of consumption. With social media and a constant connection to technology, brands of today (and, more importantly, tomorrow) need to present themselves almost like a lifestyle brand—something which integrates into daily life and feels natural. This requires learning everything about a brand’s ideal client so it’s possible to create that experience specifically for them.

No, it’s not just about packaging. “That’s integral,” she confessed, “but it’s not the whole story. It’s important to have the experience-led mindset so that the whole thing becomes a dialogue with consumers.”

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Editorial photograph

Additionally, it’s important to avoid tunnel vision. Technology changes at a rapid pace, social media evolves, and consumer preferences can alter seemingly overnight. Too often, clients place too much strategy in only one touch point, and it’s her job to think beyond that.

“If you have a piece of packaging, allow us, the experts, to help you make that touchpoint work optimally,” she stated. “We want to make sure the consumer is not confused or spending too much time in one place. The journey should be consistent and coherent.

“We problem solve,” she said. “We come up with ideas and look at brand propositions and decide where it will be pertinent and easy to understand from the consumer’s perspective. We have to take a strong strategy and make it much more digestible for a consumer by walking in their shoes.”

Being called FutureBrand, Marie-Thérèse mentioned they’re always thinking five years on the horizon with their clients. “We don’t predict the future, it’s always changing’” she added. “None of us has a crystal ball. But we are very aware of the trends and forces that specific brands face, and we always make sure what we create is ready for a future that is rarely set and almost always changing.”

There’s no guarantee, she admitted. But she makes sure that FutureBrand talks about the future in a way that feels tangible. This means coming into a project with a deep understanding of the brand’s starting point, where they want to go, and the potential impact of microtrends.

“We make sure all of the work is aligned,” Marie-Thérèse said. “We paint the future for them.”