4 Ways Brands Can Transform Fear Into Hope

Chris WrenDecember 21, 20173414 min

In a piece earlier this week, Geoffrey Colon reminds us that, “Trends and behaviors aren’t committed to calendar years, time is not their master.” An ongoing trend of late is fear brought about by a highly valued ambition to innovate. Witness self-driving cars, AI, Bitcoin, Blockchain, machine learning, data privacy – it’s a lot of change that is often over-hyped and largely misunderstood.

Everything considered, brands are rolling out innovations at speeds that haven’t allowed consumers to catch up. The response to this has been noted by many, including Tom Goodwin who years ago foresaw a digital backlash coming, and in the piece mentioned earlier, Geoffrey Colon points to ‘the slow social movement’ as a recoil against platforms which have profited off personal data and in doing so, have strayed from their original intent and purpose.

But the worst thing about fear is that it either paralyzes, which is never a good thing for market economies, or it prompts hasty reactions that often have negative, irrational and hurtful consequences. With much of our political leadership preoccupied with maintaining status-quo left-right paradigms instead of synthesizing the best ideas to move forward, brands, as a pillar of trust, can help us find a way through.

There are four ways your brand can transform fear into hope.

1. Be Open About Your Vision And Purpose (And Provide Evidence That Proves You Live By Them)

2017 has thrust many issues into the spotlight. Immigration, race, the role of women — have all been of such significant social importance that many brands were compelled to join in the conversation, and not all did so successfully. Going forward, if diversity, inclusion, equal pay and opportunity are priorities for your brand (and they should be), consumers will want evidence that you are taking action to create the future you claim to desire.

Check out the MakeHers report from Intel, offering a look at ways to engage girls and women in technology through making, creating, and inventing. Prioritizing the hiring of women and underrepresented minorities has been such a priority for Intel, their CEO Brian Krzanich has received threats, to which he says, “We stand up there and just remind everybody it’s not an exclusive process. We’re not bringing in women or African-Americans or Hispanics in exclusion to other people. We’re actually just trying to bring them in and be a part of the whole environment.”

2. Take Time To Explain Change

In an age of head-snappy acceleration the potential for misunderstanding is as relevant as those who might exploit misunderstanding to serve their own agenda. This is why leaders like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are excelling at transforming their brands and leading positive change. In his book, Hit Refresh, he shares, “I knew that to lead effectively I needed to get some things square in my own mind—and, ultimately, in the minds of everyone who works at Microsoft. Why does Microsoft exist? And why do I exist in this new role? These are questions everyone in every organization should ask themselves. I worried that failing to ask these questions, and truly answer them, risked perpetuating earlier mistakes and, worse, not being honest.”

Brands in all categories should empower senior leadership to communicate directly with employees and customers about the impact they see happening to their industries, brands and societies. The danger in this direct communication is that story is porous and outrage on social platforms is always in ample supply. Direct communication is no longer one way, and no longer impermeable. Deal with it. Smartly.

3. Create Growth Pathways That Allow People To Flourish

Last week, I provided an example of how AT&T is providing the ‘scaffolding and incentives’ to offer much of their workforce a chance to evolve skills the brand will need. More brands need to be doing this. The janitor of today might, in a few years’ time, be responsible for monitoring a multitude of IoT sensors feeding dynamic dashboards.

The very worst thing a brand can do is plow ahead into the future treating their workforce as static cogs incapable of growth. Some may choose not to grow, and that is their right. But those brands which can provide opportunity for employees to learn and adapt, will show themselves to be interested in the sustainability of their precious human resources.

4. Partner To Make Things Less Complex

In the modern world, complexity is abundant and free. The days of exclusive, siloed systems are in decline largely in thanks to software, which when designed well, can bridge systems that were previously thought to be incompatible. Mark Di Somma wonders, “When you stop thinking of competition as a take-what-we-can struggle, and start thinking about your competitors as colleagues grappling with the same issues as you, it strikes me that there are real opportunities to agree to common goals that benefit all.”

In the past year, we’ve seen lots of unlikely partnerships that show the customers’ experience is more important than the territory a brand owns. Microsoft’s Cortana is able to talk to Amazon’s Alexa. Amazon Prime Video can now be watched on Apple TV. Nike and Apple have enjoyed great success through complimentary partnership.

As Leonard Sweet once said, “The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create.” Brands that can alleviate fear in the world can help provide leadership in a world hungry for leaders, and be more memorable and meaningful in the hearts and minds of customers.

The Blake Project Can Help: Accelerate Brand Growth Through Powerful Emotional Connections

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Connect With Us


Branding Strategy Insider is published by The Blake Project, an independently owned, strategic brand consultancy with extensive experience helping businesses and brands gain an emotional advantage, a distinctive advantage and a connective advantage.

Subscribe and Grow

Choose how often you receive our insights.

© 2022 Branding Strategy Insider. All Rights Reserved.