Award winning PR thoughts: When eras end, and what brands should do

hunphreys-naughtie_3368011b

So you have the following and fan base, the customer loyalty and credibility. The problem is, though, nothing lasts forever, particularly in the oft-fickle world of consumer-related salesmanship.
Not everyone may have realised it, but today we’re staring down the barrel of the end to three eras, each representing a challenge, but also a fresh set of possibilities and opportunities. It’s just a case of seizing upon them properly, and making the most of what’s out there.
This morning, Radio 4’s long-standing Today programme concluded with the last ever sign-off from Jim Naughtie (pictured top) as studio presenter. One of the most respected broadcast journalists in the country (if not the world), he has been a stalwart of the show since 1994, helping Britain wake up to current affairs, news discussions and political interviews, all delivered in an impressively down to earth manner.
Known for calling Jeremy Hunt ‘Jeremy C*!t’ (by mistake, of course), and asking really, really long questions (one of his allegedly lasted a full 55 seconds before the respondent could answer), he’s also renowned for asking the right questions, and refusing to be swayed by party lines. Although his work with Radio 4 and the BBC will continue, those boots will be incredibly difficult to fill.
Our second passing of an age comes in the form of reports that suggest Apple’s iPhone has peaked in popularity and demand, meaning from hereon in the device- and any future updates- will be in comparative decline. As the best-selling of all Mac-related products, even if the speculative idea proves untrue, the fact people are talking about it should and will be of some concern to the Californian tech giant. Self-fulfilling prophecies and all that; if we’re told something is happening, oftentimes it will eventually. One look at the way the stock markets work is enough proof of that.
Finally, we’re now rapidly approaching the Christmas holidays, and therefore New Year’s Day 2016. Without pointing out the obvious, this means kissing goodbye to 2015, and all the securities it once offered. 12 months ago the media and marketing press was full of predictions as to what this last 52 weeks would bring in terms of trends, new developments in platforms and formats, never-before-seen products and so forth. This is happening again, but realistically the rate of progress is so rapid it’s anyone’s guess what will be available to professionals and the public at this point in the next calendar.
All very well and good, referencing a trio of (potentially) watershed moments from three very different walks of life, but what relevance does it have to brands? In short- plenty. Today, for example, must have been thinking very carefully about where to go in the post-Naughtie period. Is this time to freshen the format up? Should things remain exactly the same, just with a new voice accompanying John Humphreys? The producers don’t want to risk alienating their dedicated listeners, nor can they afford to, yet this departure represents a passing of years that’s also reflected in the audience. There’s a new generation of adults that may not respond to the same factors that the previous demographic did- so how do you ensure these upstarts will still be tuning in come 2036?
apple-shattered-iphone_large
In contrast, the Apple story is largely conjecture- next year the firm might release the best phone in the history of mankind that wakes you up with a stroke of the forehead, gentle kiss and warm brew. In which case it’s likely that sales will again skyrocket. But let’s say for a second that this isn’t the case, and a downward spiral is inevitable. New lines, such as the iWatch, have caused a stir, but remain pretty niche in terms of appeal, largely thanks to the fact they are not considered ‘essential’, and carry a hefty price tag considering the functionality on offer.
Rumours abound about an ‘Apple Car’, and chances are automobiles will be just one top secret file in near-endless rafts of R&D paperwork. Yet there’s nothing to guarantee any of these as-yet-imagined products will prove successful. Let’s not forget the brand itself was insolvent within many of our lifetimes.
The final point we referenced- the passing of a New Year- is perhaps the easiest to handle from a business perspective. We can’t halt the hourglass, we must face up to the challenge and embrace the future as it becomes the present, simply because that’s how life, the planet and wider universe work.
Nevertheless, there’s a heightened sense of stepping into the unknown on 1st January when compared with the first day of any other month, which is largely due to human nature as oppose to logic. Here at Smoking Gun, Manchester’s most forward thinking award winning PR firm, we’ve been planning February and March campaigns for some time already. Even so, metaphorically speaking, the calendar for 2016 is blank at the moment, and ready to be filled.
From a brand perspective, then, there’s only one solution to all these concerns. Whether trying to ensure the continued popularity of a well-respected programme, safeguard the future dominance of a company heavily reliant on one product above all others, or trying to make next year the most profitable yet, it’s all about applying what has been learnt in the past- both 2015 and long before that- considering the opportunities that are already beginning to emerge, and finding a neutral ground where both sit happily together. From independent research, to calling in the experts in predicting trends and developments, getting this balance right is the key to having a legitimate reason for opening those champagne bottles when we’re ready to turn the page over to 2017. And let’s face it, everyone wants to do that.