It is glib to talk about ‘The New Media Revolution’, or ‘The Digital Revolution’, or, more recently the ‘The Social Network Revolution’ – but if we look closely at the brand stories, they seem to follow the narrative of a revolution. From the start-ups in silicon valley, through the dotcom boom and into Twitter and Facebook, the analogy of the progress of a brand revolution parallels the storylines of such events as those of 18th century France and the United States, or 20th century Russia.
Consider the chapters:
- Chapter One – the visionary sees a need for change. He or she progresses their ideas, perhaps working in close co-operation was a very small group of like-minded associates.
- Chapter Two – the manifesto is published and immediately meets opposition from the establishment. Status quo is threatened and the revolutionary ideas are dismissed, ridiculed or oppressed.
- Chapter Three – the revolution gains momentum. First zealots flock to the banner, then the more cautious population. The establishment can no longer ignore the revolution. Battle lines are drawn: people must choose between support or conflict or be swept aside.
- Chapter Four – revolution is successful. It is swept to power and its commune achieves heroic status. The original visionaries are almost deified. The people are happy and reap the befits of the new order.
- Chapter Five – the revolution becomes the establishment. Revolutionary leadership begins to be observed as self-serving. There is dissent about direction and leadership faction emerge.
- Chapter Six – disillusion sets in. Followers become disappointed; perceptions of corruption begin to be whispered. Factions break away as agendas conflict. The population becomes discontented and leadership increasingly distant.
- Chapter Seven – centrifugal forces pull the revolution apart. There may be destructive factionalization or the fermentation of counter-revolution. The leadership is seen to have feet of clay. The population cries out for change and the regime has lost support. Conditions are right for a new visionary, a new messiah… or the return to the old reactionary ways.
Perhaps this is a bleak view of revolution, but I think the narrative metaphor can be applied to many of the brand histories that we have seen since the dawn of the digital age. I hope that a view of the potential dangers can help the visionaries avoid some of the pitfalls that the story of revolution holds.
There have been positive revolutions, successful over time and every revolutionary brand should seek to emulate these and not let their brand narrative become that of ‘Animal Farm‘.