Last year I helped friends to create the idea of the “platform brand”. This is the kind of brand that enables partners, employees and clients to do things they couldn’t do before.
But I wanted to know: what’s next?
Then the Coronavirus crisis hit us all and made that thinking much more urgent. Throughout history, pandemics have accelerated change, and I hope that this situation should be the opportunity to a better way of doing things.
So what does this mean for brands? Deep in the crisis, we all live in
moment, with an undertow of stress. Our mood jumps between holiday and “no future”. So it’s hard to get a clear idea.
But here’s what I think is happening.
The crisis has shown us how technology can help people talk, stay in touch, work together, learn, experience, and a lot more - all online. It’s speeded up the move from cash to digital payment and many bureaucratic processes. The education system adopted online teaching over a week or so, having been wary of it for a while.
At a deeper level, vertical values have shifted rapidly into more collective values. In a crisis, we help each other. We’ve rediscovered the idea of family and neighborhood. In most individualistic cultures globally, here’s a new sense of solidarity. We have re-evaluated the meaning of time, space, and the power of nature. After the crisis, some habits will be back but underlying mindsets will see a lasting change.
So the crisis is changing how we live and why we live. All this will give rise to a new kind of brand.
By brand I mean an organisation that doesn’t just sell stuff but also entertains people and means something to people. In the industrial revolution, brands got applied to products, as a guarantee of quality. Then with the mass media revolution, advertising became a way to give a product an emotional charge and enhance people’s image or self-image. With the rise of the global corporation, brands became a way to create a sense of belonging and loyalty. And in the last fifteen years, brands became platforms, enabling people to do things they couldn’t do before.
Now we’re seeing a new kind of brand - the conscious brand. By which I mean, organisations with a strong sense of responsibility. Not corporations exerting power, but people playing their role among all the other people of the world. Not selling to consumers, but convening people. Not just supplying individualistic desires, but forging a sense of solidarity. In many cases, they’ll aim not to stimulate consumption, but to reduce it. Rather than enabling me to do something they’ll enable us to change something.
The conscious brand isn’t just responsible, it’s also responsive. Conscious beings are alive, awake and aware. They’ll adapt to changing needs and moods among their customers and employees. They’ll be unfinished, constantly morphing, and even able to laugh at themselves. They are organisations not with a contrived “purpose” but with an resiliency spirit. They will be organizations, offices, brands and places where knowledge is shared.
The human being is therefore on to be the first fully conscious brand.
I think the “conscious brands” will be the best at attracting people in. And if the Coronavirus pandemic is also an opportunity, now’s the time to push through this opportunity: not just to be ready for the future of brands, but to create it.