Speed vs. Acceleration: How to Position Your Brand for Rapid Change

5 guardrails to consider before jumping in

Everyone wants to be the first-to-market in the buzziest and trendiest new spaces. Whether that's the metaverse, the latest Gen Z social media platform or NFTs, brands understandably want to be cultural leaders and innovators so they remain visible and relevant to consumers.

Tapping into this desire, advertisers like to talk about "moving at the speed of culture," which is now faster than ever. Movie star and marketing whiz Ryan Reynolds famously turns around ads within days, if not hours, to respond to big moments.

While the speed strategy has its advantages, the brands most adept at leveraging what's trending in the moment to build long-term relevancy and relationships are those focused less on speed and more on acceleration.

It's the difference between rushing to the next new thing and being thoughtful of your brand identity first when assessing how to step into a new space. 

Stick to these guardrails and you'll position your brand for smooth acceleration: 

Don't get ahead of yourself.

Understand the space you're trying to inhabit and how your brand can exist there authentically. Simply creating a metaverse presence because it's new can feel gimmicky (something your audience can spot miles away).

Nike, McDonald's and Victoria's Secret have strategically worked to secure patents for products in the metaverse, as well as hire new talent to focus on this area. It's more than OK to dip your toes in these new metaverse waters and aim for some headlines, but be cognizant that you are entering a community of which you are not yet a part and therefore you need to do so with respect and intention. 

Choose a trustworthy agency partner with a proven track record.

Change, of course, is nothing new. We are in a moment now similar to what digital-first agencies tackled 15 years ago, and internet pioneers faced 25 years ago.

The partners you choose to navigate this changing territory have to be brave and trustworthy. No one has a perfect roadmap for what lies ahead, but look for a partner that's transparent and has a solid track record for successfully navigating change. Your agency partner also needs to be comfortable with the unknown, ready to figure out a plan on the fly. 

Remember, nobody is an expert in new areas.

The most obvious recent example of calibrating speed vs. acceleration was the global launch of TikTok. Many brands recognized the enormous potential—and power—of reaching consumers there. 

TikTok excels at creating viral moments that rush to the center of the culture. But its users are also experts at sniffing out inauthenticity, creating a minefield for brands—or worse, canceling them. Start by really learning the visual language, internal rhythms and logic that occur organically within a platform before considering executions. And lean into working directly with the creators that make the platform what it is. 

Stay true to your identify.

Many of the most successful brands when it comes to acceleration are in the fashion industry, which, almost by definition, requires being at the forefront. Gucci is a great example of an iconic, venerable brand that has been able to establish its identity in a compelling way in the metaverse, through the creation of the virtual Gucci Gardens on the Roblox platform. Rather than change who you are to fit into a narrow understanding of a new platform, draw on the strength of your brand foundation to stand out within the aesthetic of that platform with your own recognizable identity.

Be open and ready to do things you've never done before.

Big, established brands, like American Express, a Barbarian client, face competition from startups, like Venmo and Stripe, that offer new services that aren't easily replicated. To respond, they have to be daring and break into new products to keep the brand current and fresh.

Relying on an advantage they enjoy in having considerable resources to do something new,  Amex created a line of travel wear featuring designs made in collaboration with the brand's social followers and a small-business leader. All of this was pulled off within two weeks to commemorate its membership week. 

The bottom line.

No one wants to miss the next big thing. Brands should absolutely establish themselves in new spaces so they can richly connect with consumers where they're paying attention.

However, speed for the sake of speed can backfire. The most successful brands at navigating change do not lose sight of what makes them successful, taking the time and effort to translate that success so it works organically in new spaces.

Profile picture for user Courtney Berry
Courtney Berry
Courtney Berry is managing director of Barbarian.

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