08 Jan The Future is Transformational Branding
Published in SECONDSIGHT Issue 38 2014
Self-actualisation is an important recent trend. In a world that is more open than ever before, with unlimited choices and freedom, people are discovering their inner selves. Taking guidance from the inside instead of from the world outside. If brands want to be trusted by this more conscious consumer, it is clear that they have to change. Time to be aware about how unknowingly we are deceived by our consumer society. The future is in transformational branding: from misleading to sincere seduction. An equal and respectful relationship between consumer and brand.
Killing us softly
Women must endure a lot of opposing messages. In Sunny Bergman’s documentary (Limited Shelf-life) about the unrealistic beauty ideal of women in the media, Bergman shows how women are constantly being criticized about their appearance. The cosmetic industry leaves no opportunity untaken to make women aware of their shortcomings. Why are the glossies focused so much on appearance, while they also preach that women should be independent and spirited? The movie Killing Us Softly by American Jean Kilbourne (Jeankilbourne. com) shows how the advertising industry responds more and more subtly to women’s uncertainty about their looks.
So why do we unconsciously tempt ourselves? Advertising is often successful because it feeds our ego and makes us feel a bit better – for a while. A powerful commercial aims at weak traits like vanity or pride and offers a ‘solution’: use this cream and your skin will look more beautiful. Or it targets our jealousy: If my neighbour has a new car, I want one too. Ditto lust, an intangible variant of greed and the reason why ‘sex sells’. That too appeals to an emotional need. Though it too promises us friendship or love, we only end up with a new BBQ or lingerie set. People caught up in the rat race are also targets. Philosopher Alain de Botton has written a book about ‘status anxiety’ in which he says that what others think of us determines the way we see ourselves as a winner or a loser. If the expectations of your environment and yourself are high, a healthy self-esteem is almost impossible. Especially when it depends on many factors over which you have no control. This causes restlessness and makes us insecure. How can we escape? The inside, how we value ourselves, should be separated from our appearance. Our self-esteem should be less determined by the value that others assign us. As Schopenhauer said: ‘Other people’s heads are too wretched a place for true happiness to have its seat.’
The School of Life
One way to distance ourselves as consumers is the realization that a new conceptual framework is needed to transcend this problem. It’s safe to say that we’re on the right path to more awareness because we see, for example, the success of The School of Life in London. The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. Founded by Alain de Botton, there are now initiatives in Paris, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro and Melbourne. The international success of magazines like Happinez and Flow, and the rise of yoga schools and mindfulness workshops show that we attach increasing importance to intangible property, and that we are making a trip to our inner selves. This increases a sense of self-worth. When we are not afraid to look inside, we make our own choices and look for a sincere relationship with brands that add real value and relevance. Living a conscious life, we discover that the human ego is the cause of all suffering. We realize that letting go of the ego takes us further in life, that we live then in our true identity. We are focused more on ourselves, we don’t care what others think, and we stop comparing. With the result that we can resist commercial temptations and that we are also less prone to addiction. As savvy consumers, we are more sensitive to real emotions and less likely to identify ourselves with ads. False advertisements that address uncertainty and the fear of not being good enough for others just doesn’t exist for us anymore. Brands that want to connect with smart consumers will need a true personality and a strong character. Brands that understand this will also dare to show their vulnerable side.
It comes down to real values. Not externally devised by marketing, but from the inside through a creative process and knowing the true purpose. Through creative and empathic ‘right-brainers’, as Daniel Pink in his A Whole New Mind writes about the dawning of a Conceptual Age. In short, the intention of the brand should be ethical. You can’t buy trust. You have to earn it. And if you win, you can trust that brand best entering the game of seduction. From the identity and power of your brand. No manipulation or deception but communication from heart to heart.