Melbourne, Australia. Simon Hakim (CEO at Hunter)
“We help simplify, humanise & connect the next generation of consumer-facing brands for the modern world”. How can you simplify and connect without losing the essence of the message?
In my opinion, most brand messaging is convoluted, generic and meaningless. Bigger brands are mostly guilty of this as they struggle to differentiate themselves in the modern world. To connect with your audience in an engaging and honest way… you need to speak with a genuinely human voice. Not a corporate, advertising or marketing tone. You also need to stand for something you absolutely believe in… not just something you’re supposed to say or do because it’s what the industry/category/board expects of you. By way of example, just take a look at what the major global FMCG/CPG companies write about themselves on their websites. They are cookie-cutter versions of each other. In contrast, start ups have strong opinions on purpose, but then very little detail on how they are physically making an impact.
Are audiences still connected to advertising even with so much overexposure?
This is a complicated question to succinctly answer. We are all in a pandemic at the moment so any messaging by our Governments will be consumed by the people. They all want to be fully aware of what’s going on and how the pandemic will have an effect on them, their communities, family, work, etc. So overexposure in this case is fine. Pandemic aside, if you’re a brand that resonates well with your audience, then people are always going to be interested and engaged. A great example of this is the indoor fitness / training app Zwift.com. It has built a huge global community around it and for anyone who’s into serious training then they would know about it.
How do you determine if a brand needs a reboot?
Brands in need of a reboot are typically well-established and reaching the maturity end of their product/service lifecycle. The signs are there for everyone to see; they are always discounting, have heavy sales promotion offers, and are undifferentiated from other competitors in the category. From a business perspective, they are losing market share, have declining sales, have little to no innovation in their pipeline… have a downgraded share price, etc. You’ll also see good people leaving the business because they’ve been trying to unsuccessfully create change or have been held back by senior executive ‘care taker’ teams or maybe a risk-adverse board. At Hunter, we get the biggest buzz when a new CEO comes in to turn a business around. They are the change agents with the strong vision and a plan of attack.
From your perspective, what elements define a successful brand?
I’ve seen many superficial good looking cookie-cutter DTC brands. I.e. they are on trend. However, they are empty inside. They offer very little value, nor do they give anything. They spam your social media in the hope someone will make an impulse purchase. I’m sure everyone can think of 10 or more examples of these sort of brands. Just look at mobile phone cases, comfort blankets, cleaning products, clothing, etc, etc. Now consider a brand like Hiut Denim. It’s a jeans company that not only wanted to restore the craftsmanship of making jeans, but also give the people in the town something to rally around. They’re not interested in mass market or fast gains. They have purpose and they do everything in a highly measured and considered way. It’s super humble and as real as you’ll get. That to me is a successful brand in the making.
What elements define a brand that is doomed to disappear?
Brands that don’t stand for anything. Brands that are superficial. Brands who stand still and don’t look to innovate. Brands that are bad for you and the planet. A lot of these brands live in the FMCG/CPG world. They are big global brands, producing highly disposable products and have been destroying our health and the planet for a very long time. They sell gloss, good times and a so-called ‘better’ version of you. Thankfully they are showing signs of decline on-mass and for the first time, the heads of these organizations don’t know what to do to turn it all around.
Cheaper, not necessarily better. Let’s talk about that statement.
When a product or service is ‘cheap’, invariably, someone or something in the line is getting screwed. The planet, producers, workers… all to create a cheap, low-quality product. But ‘cheap’ is ‘cheap’ for a reason and ultimately, the product will break or wear-out faster and need replacing. And the cycle continues. This is why companies like Everlane exist. The antithesis of ‘cheap’ brands, they are super-transparent in everything they do. They are against cheap and show you why it’s bad. You’re now seeing this become the norm across many industry sectors. As consumers we have a growing appetite for knowing everything we can about the products we buy. Whether that’s organically grown and sustainable farming practices through to heritage and region… we want to know and understand more about where things come from and how they are made.
And, in the case of retail, how can we humanize and connect in a sector where the price and the supply continue to lead?
Sometimes you can’t. For example Amazon. It’s a horrible online user experience… but you go there because it’s convenient and they most likely have what you want in stock for the cheapest price. The whole business model is built off price, distribution and supply. At the same time, people want experiences and they want to connect with real things, real people and community. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s the move back to a more simplified, local living experience. If you walk into a Walmart store, are they going to know your name? No. Stores like this are built off the back of mass-market convenience. However, the local coffee shop will know your name and how you prefer your coffee in the morning. You’ll also know their names and most likely the other regular customers. You’ll get a sense of familiarity about the place. What I’m excited about are places like the Pop Up Grocer. This is a curated experience for audiences to connect with DTC brands IRL. Just look at how much love has gone into this place. Finally, as a passionate cyclist you can’t go past what Rapha has done with its cycling clubs. As you walk into these places, the sense of community and belonging literally radiates from the walls.