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    Big change is here to stay

    I wrote last week about the fact that everything has changed. You’ll see a growing narrative around not returning to “normal”. This week, I wanted to expand on that to see if you feel it too.

    The forces of change are driven by what people want, and how brands should respond.

    We have just lived through an age of tireless performance-driven culture. We have burnt ourselves out doing more, achieving higher, cramming the most we possibly can into a day. We run from yoga to work to a wellness bowl for lunch while listening to a self-love podcast to finish the day by checking off the to do list to a boot camp to dinner with friends. We’ve skimmed over all of it, stressed ourselves doing it. Yet when a pandemic hits, we realise all that hard work has achieved very little to protect us from the inevitable forces of change.

    Where has constant striving got us?

    Stop, I want to get off. And people are; in droves. The barrage of superficial experiences that we’ve filled our lives with have become non-experiences. They are little more than distractions from resolving a deeper need. The collection of moments for an Instagram bucket list is no longer enough. Suddenly it seems shallow, meaningless and little more than a one-dimensional sight gag.

    #soblessed? Perhaps not.

    Finally, we are tuning in to every self-love lesson we skimmed over and disregarded for decades; we have learnt to appreciate the joy of simple pleasures, to live in the moment for the moment, and to treasure quiet contemplation and gentle happiness. It’s much slower, and JOMO (Joy-of-missing-out) fills us up where FOMO used to create false meaning. Lock-down has changed us. We no longer subscribe to the Cult of Busy-ness.

    Sound familiar? For your sake, I hope so.

    Brands have responded to the ‘More’ drug with constant consumerism giving points to spend to buy more things. But as Marie Kondo has given us the new rule book to declutter the homes in which we needed to make space to actually live over the last year, consumerism now feels crass, tacky, shallow, plastic. Spruiking ‘stuff’ is making your customers lives harder, creating little more than waste, and is starting to feel all wrong.

    So what is the role of brand?

    While we’ve been stuck on the ‘More’ hamster wheel, many brands have chosen to make themselves little more than a platform for promotion, tactical manoeuvres designed to shout louder than the next guy. And when the time comes to work out how to appeal to consumers who are looking for more substance, brands are realising they do not know what their purpose is. The days of your brand being a ‘colour’, simply does not cut it for a consumer who wants to know if they can trust you to do the right thing with their buying power. Red or green? Who cares.

    What do you stand for?

    What does your founder believe? What was your brand built on? How do your beliefs shape your operations? How are you contributing to the solution, not the problem? What actions are you taking with your supply chain and distribution to reduce your carbon footprint? How are you helping your people to deliver this in their daily work? How are you using profit to create more equity locally, nationally and internationally? How are you reporting on your corporate citizenship?

    If you don’t know, you better find out.

    Meaning is the new currency. And if you purpose-wash, you will be found out. For every brand who brought in a consultant to create a purpose statement that lives on a wall in HQ, your tokenism will be seized apon by the irate masses who will vote with their buying power and actively use their voices to ruin reputation. Mark Ritson does a good job of explaining this. Starbucks, we don’t believe you when you say you will ‘inspire and nurture the human spirit’, when you are not paying your taxes. He gets on a roll about 12mins. Promises made and promises broken has created distrust.

    So how do you create loyalty if people want less things?

    Are you giving back dollars so you consumers can buy more stuff? They don’t want it. Are you building up points to spend on ancillary verticals? More consumption. You are making their lives harder. They just spent 6months de-cluttering and now you are taunting them with non-essentials asking them to return to the habit of buying to validate themselves. They want off the rat race. Instead, are you offering a service that leverages your beliefs and will help your consumers achieve their goals? Do you even know how their goals have changed?

    The new loyalty driver is brands who are helping customers live better.

    It’s a new decade. It’s a new world. It’s time to lay the foundations for doing better. It’s time to change the way we serve people. Let’s make some change.


    First published on The Design Thinkers.