7 May 2021

Introducing: Vanguard

The significance of brand is growing beyond just helping consumers make decisions. 

More companies are looking for their brand to serve as a 'North Star'. A point of navigation for their entire organisation and many different teams, initiatives and streams of work. This includes product development which, in some industries like automotive, can take many years to move from concept to reality. Because of this shift, the lifespan of brand strategy and brand definition has become increasingly important. With more people working towards it, on projects of greater length, companies need to future proof their brand. 

Taking a view on the future that a brand might exist in means asking questions like: How will out category change? What will be the forces shaping our market? What will be the impact of new technologies on our business? How will consumer attitudes and behaviours evolve? Where will new competitors and opportunities emerge from?

More pointed and significant questions for brand strategy include: What's our company's vision of the future? What's the world we want to bring in to being? What's the unique contribution that our brand can make to turn this vision into a reality? 

To answer these questions, organisations are looking for inspiration outside their own category and firm. When thinking about what change to expect and how to adapt to it, traditional consumer research has its shortcomings. With its focus on the 'now' rather than what's 'next' there's a limit what brands can glean from it. 

So, to help brands with these challenges, we've created a new global network to bring them the insight they need. Called Vanguard, it's made up of a base of nearly 5,000 individuals. Rather than trends analysts,  futurologists or forecasters, we've connected with those people who have more skin in the game and a more vested interest in their predictions, including: 

  • Entrepreneurs who are addressing new and emergent needs
  • Investors with a particular views or theses about how markets are changing
  • Researchers and developers experimenting with new technologies and use cases
  • Creators who are sensitive to change and are generating new languages to describe and interpret new realities
  • Advisors and experts on regulatory, government and public policy who are trying to anticipate change and legislate for its potential effects. 

Our Vanguard network is global, ensuring our clients get diverse perspectives that are far from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic). 

We're already working with brands and helping them find the right Vanguard collaborators to take inspiration from and work with. This ranges from interviews and insight to co-creation and concept development. Here are some examples of the topics currently being discussed and debated with ourselves, our Vanguard network and our clients: 

  • How big tech might have to present a more human and positive image to consumers
  • How people might spend more time online and how virtual words might be preferable to the real world
  • How economic, geopolitical and technological change will drive on-shoring and micro manufacturing 
  • How our urban environment will self-maintain and what that might mean for the construction sector 
  • How automation might affect labour markets and what lessons can be learned from previous industrial revolutions
  • How increased consumption of digital or virtual goods might change notions of ownership and perceptions of sustainability. 

All of this insight is helping shape strategies that have the power to keep brands relevant and effective over the long term, making them even more valuable to an organisation and useful to the stakeholders that have to navigate them. 

Matt Boffey - Chief Strategy Officer

matt.boffey@superunion.com