There’s only 7 weeks left (this is going quickly isn’t it!) until we visit the Guardian Changing Media Summit being held in London. Every week we have been giving you an instalment of our top 10 talks from last year – with a little commentary from our team. Without further ado therefore, we bring you number 7 in the countdown of our top ten talks of 2015!



John’s take on this talk 


This talk was of interest to me because it got me thinking about what is possible for a brand to achieve when attempting to conceive of and communicate what Peter Koechley calls their “core message”.


The value within this talk was the way that it opened up the opportunity of thinking a little bit differently about the way in which branding operates, what the fundamental motivations behind branding and marketing are, and how this is inherently connected to what can be a genuinely meaningful and affecting message.


While Koechley’s talk may have been a little rough around the edges in terms of how it is possible to do this as a brand, it breached the important point of thinking differently and not paving the well trodden path as a safe bet.


Branding shouldn’t be afraid to show its soft side


Peter Koechley explains in this talk that “consumers today aren’t just looking for a company that makes a product and sells it at a price, they are looking for a brand that they can believe in” – and argues that there is a psychological urge on the behalf of the consumer to interact with brands that comes from what he describes as “a really good place”. As he explains however this requires some level of vulnerability on the behalf of the brand – and brands do not tend to like to display vulnerability.


Koechley argues that there is a great deal that brands can learn from the ways in which publishers operate and communicate with their readers or followers. It is by having what Koechley describes as a “deep connection with their community” and “by understanding how to communicate with them empathetically” – traits that he argues are inseparable from this kind of vulnerability – that publishers such as Upworthy and the Guardian are able to succeed.


The blurring of boundaries


As we have seen in our previous Changing Media Summit post about the future of agencies, with advances in technology the boundaries between different services and departments (and also between consumers and brands) are becoming increasingly blurred. When we consider how easily consumers can now immediately interact with brands – whether that be via social media or elsewhere – this inevitably has a knock on effect on the way that brands are required to operate and subsequently how they identify themselves.


So when Koechley describes the role of publishers and how brands can succeed by emulating this formulae he is implicitly pointing to the ways in which these walls between these particular services, departments or people have been broken down and now require shaping in a different way altogether. By becoming more like a publishing or editorial house Koechly is arguing that brands can begin to fulfil the increasing desire on the behalf of customers for some kind of empathetic connection or relationship with their favourite brands.


Our thoughts


While vulnerability may cause some functional problems for brands and branding – vulnerability after all implies weakness, and weakness implies incompetence – there is a great deal of value that can come from attempting to make the leap as a brand to getting in the head space of different kinds of services or departments such as publishers or editorial houses.


Whether or not this reaches out to some “higher purpose” and truly connects with people on a deeper level is ultimately, as Kate Russell of BBC Click points out, up for the audience to decide. What is undeniable about this strategy however is that it gives the opportunity (at least) to make a real and genuine difference to the world, in a way that – with technology that allows media to reach more people than ever before around the world – has not until now been possible in quite the same way.


By Team HS