Banning averages, understanding different types of intelligence and studying retro trends can help brands future proof themselves according to Geoffrey Colon, head of Microsoft Advertising Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising. 

Speaking at Advertising Week in Sydney today, Colon outlined how these three strategies can future proof your brand. 

Until April this year Microsoft Advertising was known as Bing Ads. The rebrand means the company is reflecting on broader capabilities, data and a strategic focus on AI. 

When it comes to banning averages, Colon said most of the time brands forget to realise that not everyone is the same and where they work for the “average person” they miss many people on the edge. 

“We’re missing a lot of marginalised groups and this is important in terms of understanding how personalisation works.”

To start banning the average companies first need to understand people. 

“We have a tendency of forgetting a lot of about that in advertising. The last 10 years has really been about technology systems integration, we’ve almost got away from the psychological standpoint of what it is to understand audience,” Colon explained. 

Examining Intelligence

Colon highlighted the importance of understanding different kinds of intelligence, including existential intelligence, natural intelligence and spatial intelligence.

These concepts are important to learn, Colon said, in world where people question their role if a machine can perform a task better than they can.

He suggests looking at the various forms of intelligence with a growth mindset that people can become stronger in, in particular emotional intelligence and empathy.

“Things that are maybe more interpersonal, understand context, these are things we have to think about in terms of how we look for a skill set, not just in the next couple of years but right now. How are we actually developing those skill sets now to help enhance our business models?”

Geoffrey Colon, head of Microsoft Advertising Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising

Organisations can use emotional intelligence to understand sentiment around passive loyalty. 

“What we should be asking is, How happy are you using our service day to day? That’s when we get a better answer, usually, not when the transaction is taking place, within the day-to-day evolution. So this is questioning again, are customers as loyal as we make them out to be?”

Colon said brands should think about how they apply intelligence to their business models. In particular, they should consider where do they move in areas that might not make sense for the business but does make sense from a customer standpoint? He used the example of Netflix sending DVDs to customers to creating a streaming platform to illustrate his point.

History Lessons

The third way to future proof a brand is by studying retro trends. Colon stated humans are not good at coming up with original ideas but are good at reinvigorating ideas that have already been invented. 

He said there is a tendency for people to ask how they can study the future? 

“The problem is they look at the current and then they try to figure out what the future is. What they should be looking at is the last 40 to 50 years.”

He said a great example is the “dad sneaker” trend that has been happening over the past two years, what one of the Kardashians was doing in 2019, Britney Spears did in 2001. 

Colon asks, “Who do you have in your organisation that can recognise patterns? If they’re so new to the world the room was going to say, ‘hey, this is the freshest trend’, without really understanding the context of where it came from. 

“We have an ageist problem in this industry, we need to think about how we actually incorporate everyone because they may see some of those patterns and develop on those.” 

The conjoint effect is how businesses can recognise all these different patterns. 

“Something we all need to understand is people, brands, celebrities, content creators are all acting like each other. Now they’re all stealing each other’s ideas.

“What does that mean for future proofing? It means that the people who come up with the most interesting ideas are your most important resource. 

“The conjoint effect is where we are in the world because everybody is an agency and everybody is a media company.”

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