The Dehumanisation of Artificial Intelligence, the Role of Platforms, Mass Telecommuting and an Extremist Conception of Woke Culture Could Wipe Out Brands… Or not!
By Cristián Saracco, Founding Partner Allegro 234 | CMO zenziya | President aebrand | Member Medinge Group
Some time ago I was reading on a young professional’s LinkedIn profile about her passionate advocacy for the company she had just joined -as an intern-.
Six months later, I could again read how she said goodbye to the company to join a new and challenging venture -also as an intern-, and a few days ago, again with goodbyes and giving way to another passionate speech about her new workplace -still an intern, although the name of her new position puts her almost on the same level as being the president of the company-.
If we look at this with some perspective and applying a bit of critical thinking -I’m not going to ask for excessive efforts either- we could conclude that the person is actually self-promoting, and despite his/her very well-structured and passionate narrative, his/her real interest in the company and brand he/she is talking about is little to none.
Yet, what could be the reasons behind these behaviours that result in a strong disconnection between people and companies?
A Shot of Artificial Intelligence
There are all kinds of developments using artificial intelligence (AI), with different depths and levels of maturity. Likewise, new alternatives are emerging all the time.
Just as when we were kids and our grandmothers used to tell us: “Dear, don’t play with fire because you’ll get burned”, today we’re all about trying and playing with every application that comes along, and since there are no grown-ups to take care of us, we might get burned at some point.
The truth is that AI is creating a new type of paradigm and, as Darwin said: in these changes, the fittest shall survive.
Much of what is done in companies today, due to repetitiveness, simplicity and above all, lack of human creativity, will be done by “the machine”.
Internal branding is worthless if the future of work is in danger of disappearing -soon. So how does one build a brand to make the experience of working in a company relevant and unique?
The Platforms Toast
The answer to the above could be simple -which it is not- if it were not for the fact that there are more things, all of our own making, that affect our relationship between company, brand, and people.
For example: If one works for a company whose products are marketed under a retailer’s brand -DOBs-, which brand would the employee be proud of?
• That of the company?
• Of the product?
• The one of the supermarket chains?
Increasingly, we are moving towards platforms that bring together a growing number of companies under a single brand umbrella. Think of Lidl, Aldi, Amazon, Alibaba... or the telcos with which, as customers, we relate to third parties and not to the company and brand that provides the service -from the call centre to the billing.
Internal branding efforts are meaningless if those who are part of the platform are not aligned with certain values that are -or should be- shared and translated into observable and measurable behaviours.
A Glass of Telecommuting on the Rocks
Telecommuting is a long-standing issue. Already at the end of the last century, it was common practice in service companies -especially in professional services companies.
The pandemic arrived and without entering into a discussion about the validity of some of the decisions taken by governments, from one day to another, everything began to be done from home -very much locked up-, offices became Terra Nullius, and the way of working found new old ways that thanks to technology could be implemented at warp speed.
Here the question is very simple: how do we make employees live the brand if they go their own way, at home, and with few elements that serve as binders and are representative of the company’s spirit of unity?
The Drunkenness of a Misunderstood Woke Culture
This might generate a heated debate; however, I believe we can all agree that, in some cases, woke culture has gone too far -good reasons answered with the wrong solutions. For a moment, I would like to invite you -dear reader- to put reason before emotion, truth before sentiment.
Without going into the question of imposing a single, uniform truth and narrative, what is at issue here is that certain values that shape our civilisation have been called into question and this has a direct impact on the relationship between people and business, which is intuitively built on the existence of shared values.
If we lose the notion of values translated into behaviour, we take the risk of reducing work to a way of getting money to take holidays. The idea of thinking of work as something that dignifies us and therefore generates pride of belonging is diluted. If this is not happening, what is the point of building
a brand internally?
Living the Brand Internally Is Like Going to Alcoholics Anonymous
Several issues arise and call into question our traditional ways of building a brand with the audiences of the system, of the “platform”.
In my humble opinion -and sincerely open to criticism-, I believe that we need to review the forms and understand a new context that in essence is not attacking us, but rather is disruptively changing those things that until yesterday we took as absolute truths.
We are in the middle ages of AI, in the deconstruction of platforms that are as useful as they are harmful, in accepting that we can go back to working as we did before the industrial era -from home and without splitting family and work-, in the search for a certain balance between respect for what is different and the imposition of autocratic models.
Let’s learn from AA, let’s think of internal branding as requiring attention to the five stages identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
• Denial: Let us accept that we refuse to admit that reality has changed and there is no turning back. It is to acknowledge that we have a sense of unreality or disbelief that does not allow us to see what is irreversible as time goes by.
• Anger: The frustration generated by trying to invite to live certain values that may no longer be relevant to the internal audiences of the system - which does not mean that they do not have values, but that they may be different, or that they may be the same but with different content.
• Bargaining: It is contacting with a new reality that needs a fresh approach. This will lead to different types of behaviour. It is about exploring novel paths that will allow for a new type of relationship that will be built on a different type of foundation.
• Depression: It comes from thinking that the old days were better -it happens to all of us. There is a sad longing for what is no longer there. Here it is worth thinking about co-creative approaches, where different actors agree and support each other while developing a new internal branding model.
• Acceptance: It means that you are now thinking in terms of solutions and benefits rather than unassailable problems. It is a state of calm associated with the understanding, not only rationally but also emotionally, that brand building is a phenomenon inherent to the life of organisations.
There is a way out, it will be different, and it is worth reflecting on what form it will take.