Changing of the Guard: From Building Longevity to Living Brands

Margo Jay
6 min readFeb 8, 2021

With the growth of digital technologies, it sometimes feels like the world is changing faster than ever. Change seems to have sped up even more over the last few months too.

It’s little wonder that the techniques our brands used in the 1990s or early 2000s no longer resonate. The Internet and social media promised a revolution in the way brands connect with people. Gone are the days of mass-market broadcast advertising. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify let us watch and listen to whatever we want, whenever we want. That means no more gathering around the ‘tube at a designated time to catch this week’s episode of our favourite show. (In fact, there’s often no waiting at all-we can binge whole seasons of shows.)

The speed of cultural consumption has increased. A new show drops on Netflix, we talk about it on social media for a week or two, and then we move on to the next thing. The same is true with the news: the ongoing protests in the US dominated the news cycle in late May and early June. Now these stories have all but disappeared from people’s timelines, even though they’re still ongoing.

Breakneck speed and individualized service means we can’t rely on the techniques of a bygone era. It also means we can’t focus on “building” longevity for our brands. That requires a stable base, and we live in a very unstable world.

As culture evolves and changes, we need to shift from building longevity to creating living brands.

What’s a Living Brand?

The living business has cropped up as a response to the speed of information and culture. Think about memes. In 2005, you could jump on a meme months after it was first created, and people would still think it was funny. Flash-forward to now, and memes generally peak within a couple of days or weeks.

Brand managers trying to capitalize must be ready to jump on any cultural flashpoint. But this can be tricky to do if we don’t have a guiding philosophy. Take a look at some of the “social media fails” out there, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s all too easy for us to misread the room.

This doesn’t just happen with memes, though. We can misread other cultural flashpoints…

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Margo Jay
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