The Moral Dilemma of Brands —
Finding New Meaning


 Volkswagen publicly acknowledged that they lied about nitrogen oxide emissions in December 2015.

Volkswagen publicly acknowledged that they lied about nitrogen oxide emissions in December 2015.

We no longer feel safe or reassured by what people say. Amidst so much uncertainty, brands need to be pathfinders and people guardians. They need to reconnect with every day, to become our social and spiritual ambassadors. Why? Because consumers believe that brands, and retailers put profits ahead of safe, reliable products. Many also believe multinationals have too much power, and that companies now care even less about staff and customers than they did in previous decades.

To win that loyalty, companies must
replace mission statements with consumer covenants,

to encourage dialogue and foster involvement at all levels of the sell-through process. Those that refuse will face serious obstacles in the future. Surveys show that people are more lifestyle orientated than ever. That they are less interested in social status and more interested in self actualisation, personal development and increasing the knowledge of self and the world around them, than they are in price or being conspicuous consumers.

 Uniqlo's quality basic garments have earned the title  Made for all .

Uniqlo's quality basic garments have earned the title Made for all.

Words such as soul, emotion, awareness and spirit carry great significance. People are attracted to the idea of the civic company, or the corporate citizen or citizen brand. Brands once sold an attitude, a lifestyle and an emotion. Consumers responded to this until marketers upped the pace and started using tools like disruption marketing to make brands seem alternative and hip. The result was that it became mundane and the so called alternative became every day. 

Now it's time to return to brand basics, transparency, simplicity, clarity and focus on people's needs as much as wants.

Brands for a long time have just been about the wants, that hankering factor. Brands are becoming seamless from the store itself to the most humble member of the company which manufactures the products. It is about having a focused voice that is prevalent throughout the company. In the advertising, in marketing, the product, the entire culture. It has to be consistent and not just some catchy skin deep proposition.

 Converse's ' Made By You'  campaign considers shoe as canvas, positioning the brand as an ally to a range of designers and artists.

Converse's 'Made By You' campaign considers shoe as canvas, positioning the brand as an ally to a range of designers and artists.

This means going back to informing the customer about the product difference, its innovation, building trust over unswerving quality and reliability, and establishing non-intrusive communication whilst operating from a strong platform or at least the position of realistic honesty. Do this and customers will see the brand as an ally, rather than a fair weather label to be dropped when times are hard.

It was inevitable that at some point everything came to look like everything else. Product parity and now brand parity.

If marketers are to escape this never-ending search for the unique only to turn it into the mainstream, and if they want to rekindle the notion of brand as a creative, original entity they have to start redefining the word 'good' not in terms of tasteful, hot or fashionable but in terms of meaningful, different and original. It's means no copying.

Such breakthroughs are only possible with design led thinking from the edge. Each end of the bell curve as Simon Holbrook calls it. So often it's where you see that insight which you have been walking over and experience that ‘oh shit’ moment.

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