Society is constantly changing and so are brands that need to adapt and set new trends. Today, we stand on the threshold of a great brand transformation – not the first and probably not the last one. A good product or service is no longer enough for people – they want something more. They need a ‘conscious brand’. What is this concept, and why is it the future of branding?
The evolution of branding – how brands have changed over the years
To better understand what conscious branding is, let’s take a look at how brands have functioned up until now. You’ll probably agree that the most important thing for brands has always been to grow and make more money. To achieve this, they have needed to constantly expand their target audience. This, in turn, they’ve ensured by competing with the quality of their products or services and with their prices. Of course, brands also have used branding, marketing and sales methods to attract clients. For example, they’ve created a big idea around the brand and tried to build a society of clients. But at the end of the day, every big idea and every brand purpose have aimed to get as many customers as possible.
Trends in branding are changing now
Consumer habits have changed in well-developed countries. People have unlimited access to basic goods, and most of us own more than we need. So, how are brands supposed to persist when they have already satisfied the demands of so many people? They need to change the reason they exist.
Conscious branding – the new chapter in brands’ evolution
Conscious branding is a new trend, assuming that the main goal of a brand is no longer growth and more income, but first and foremost a visible impact on the world around us (both globally and locally). What matters the most to conscious brands are the values they stand for. The brand purpose, product and target audience (society) should be built around them. Conscious brands don’t care about building the largest community possible, but one that shares the same values and wants to change the world in the same way.
Why is it brilliant? Because people have already met their basic needs and want to have a real impact on the environment and society. This will now be possible by choosing brands they identify with.
How to become a conscious brand?
Above all, a conscious brand is a transparent one. It speaks clearly about what it believes in, even with the risk of turning some people away. Such a brand cares about a real community that shares the same values. It is not neutral in terms of worldview. So, if you want to build a conscious brand, answer the following questions:
What is wrong with this world?
What do you care about?
What is special about your brand?
What can you do with this specialty? What part of the world can you improve?
However, the most important thing is to be authentic. Storytelling is not enough in that case. You also need ‘storydoing’. The community watches to see if the brand is truly following values and taking action. There is no room for hypocrisy.
We know that this may seem difficult to do in practice. That is why most companies use the services of branding agencies responsible for their brand identity, governance, consistency and more.
Examples of conscious brands
Nowadays, we see that more and more companies are taking action related to conscious branding. A great example is Toms: “Our mission has always been using business to improve lives, and that includes taking good care of the place we all call home.” They really stick to it, as for every pair of shoes purchased from this company, another pair goes to people in need.
Another example might be Ben & Jerry’s. The company not only cares about the sustainability of its products, but has clearly-defined political views and values.
Among good cases, we must also mention Patagonia, whose chief exec outright said that the brand would slow its growth. The brand wants to focus on reducing the production of new clothes and reselling older models. The clothes would be bought back from customers, cleaned and repaired, and then sold at reduced prices. The brand is also considering renting the products. Patagonia is known for many other activism campaigns.
Is conscious branding a future?
In our view, the new order will replace the old one, although it’s difficult to predict how soon that will happen. But it will, because people want to have more and more impact on the world and they increasingly understand the need for change. Of course, companies will still grow and still make money, but that will not be their only goal.
Piotr Wiśniewski, creative director at Admind.