Can one person create a movement?

For our second instalment of Fan Club, we invited Sophie Walker, the leader of the WEP, to talk to us about how she is building her movement. And Fearne Cotton, who is creating her own movement around openness in mental health, to interview her.

 

Brave brands go over the barricades

When we think of brands, it’s all too easy to think of them as entities that exist in their own right, remote from the product or service they represent and separate from the people who do – or don’t – use them.  Yet in today’s environment can we really afford to see the brand as that separate from the changing needs and challenges of its users and followers? Shouldn’t brands be in the thick of it, tackling the barricades along with their users, rather than trying to lead from a distance?

At Red Brick Road, we try to take our inspiration from all kinds of sources. So we invited Sophie Walker, the leader of Britain’s. newest political party, the Women’s Equality Party,  to talk to us about how leaders build movements. And Fearne Cotton, who is creating her own movement around openness in mental health, to interview her.

We learnt a lot that’s highly applicable to successful brands operating in today’s open and fluid environment.

Think like an outsider

Stepping away from your usual perspective makes you more able to assess the situation objectively. Which means you are more likely to spot the real and big opportunities for your brand.

Sophie’s experience at Reuters had exactly that effect. As she told us, “I felt like an outsider” and that caused her to question how women were treated and to start looking for new, radical solutions to women’s equality.

Having an enemy is very useful

People unite against an enemy and the WEP is fortunate to have a very high-profile enemy to take on. Sophie quite simply says “Trump is the best recruiter to the cause”.

 

 

But a positive, practical approach gets results

But having an enemy may not be enough. If you want people to act, to speak up about mental health, to vote for a party or to buy a brand, you need to help them. Fearne reminded us of the positive value of ambassadors of openness to mental health. And Sophie told us about her positive and practical approach – “I went into the WEP thinking ‘I want this to work’”.   

So pick the right battles

“You don’t need a party line on everything. Don’t worry about the people who say you’re not a proper party if you don’t have a policy on fracking.”

What battles should your brand be fighting? And just as importantly, which issues should it be ignoring? Focus is key. Look how successful Apple has been by remaining focused on superb design.

Above all, use people power

Don’t just include your followers and brand users, let go and let the followers shape the solutions. Take Sophie’s very modern approach to leadership to build a more successful brand – “My job as a leader is not to stand on the top of a hill. I’m going over the barricades beside you”.Follow Google’s example of continuous testing, learning and re-shaping its products and services.

And never stop learning

In a world that is now embracing AI, this is critical. Amazon’s Alexa is the living embodiment of this approach. But all brands can listen and learn, in their own ways, just like the WEP does –“Canvassing is the most effective thing we can do”And all brands can be humble enough to know there’s always more to learn. Just like Sophie is – I’m always just starting to learn how little I understand”.

 

So here’s to lifelong learning, to positivity and to genuine involvement in shaping the future. Here’s to building brands that can fight alongside their followers.

 

Ben Mitchell

Head of Strategy