Screw 'the customer is always right': these 'demanding brands'
are taking the (painful) lead again.
If you don't believe that the number one raison d'être
for brands is to (profitably) help create a more sustainable, more
ethical society - and that brands that ignore this imperative will
regret it one day - then don't read on.
For the rest of us: this month we bring you a full Trend
Briefing on how ambitious, responsible brands are instigating
daring changes in the relationships they have with their customers.
Make way for DEMANDING BRANDS.
Definition: Switched-on brands that are embarking on the
journey towards a more sustainable and socially-responsible future
will demand that consumers also contribute. Even if that means some
pain - financial or otherwise - for their customers.
From Pain to Respect
Yes, consumers will be surprised to find a
brand making real, meaningful demands on their time, energy or
wallet. Yes, they'll feel the pain when it comes
time to make their contribution. But ultimately, consumers will
have deep respect for a truly DEMANDING BRAND: one
that pushes them towards taking action that - while painful - they
know to be right.
Indeed, being a DEMANDING BRAND might well be
the only way there is left to earn the
respect of consumers.
What makes for a meaningful DEMAND? Here are a few places to
- The planet: DEMAND action that is good for the environment:
right now, or in the long-term. Think reduce, re-use, recycle.
Start by looking at the examples below of governments from LA to
the Manila DEMANDING environmental actions.
- Society: DEMAND action that is good for other people. From
friends and family to the broader community.
- Lifestyles: Create products or services that DEMAND customers
live healthy, or behave well. Check out the Kitchen Safe example
below for inspiration.
- Nonprofits: Make DEMANDS on behalf of an established nonprofit,
and insist that customers do something to support them.
Truly DEMANDING BRANDS understand a few essentials:
NOT FOR EVERYONE
DEMANDING BRANDS, almost by definition, will
alienate some people. But brands that back down at the first sign
of resistance will simply come across as half-hearted, weak and
uncommitted. And, given that even the biggest, most successful
brands can't satisfy everyone, best to just get on and do
the right thing, before being made to.
SINCERITY IS EVERYTHING
Consumers aren't going to take painful action at the behest of
brands unless they believe in that brand's vision of - and
activities for - a 'better world'. So any brand being DEMANDING had
better be 100% transparent and be taking real, meaningful, painful
positive action itself first. If that's too much, then stick to
being a SERVILE BRAND ;-).
DEMANDS ARE NOT REWARDS
That means no money off, no added extras, no fun games with
prizes. DEMANDING BRANDS don't reward consumers for taking positive
action. They DEMAND it as a condition of engagement. And while some
brands might be unwilling to go all out and DEMAND action from
consumers, many governments around the world are
already moving ahead, especially in the
environmental arena, as shown by the examples below. Something for
brands that want to be seen as forward-thinking to consider.
ACTIVITIES SHOULDN'T BE ONE-OFFS
It's one thing being temporarily demanding as a stunt to grab
consumers' attention, like the Casa do Zezinho example below, but
quite another to make meaningful demands on an
WHAT GOES AROUND…
Ultimately, society is heading towards a more sustainable,
tolerant, progressive future. Don't believe us? Just look back 20
or 30 years and see the sweeping social and environmental changes
that have taken place during that time. Now look at what
governments are currently doing, and increasingly forcing
corporations and consumers to do too.
But then here's a challenge: name five big brands that are truly
DEMANDING. How about just one? Nothing? In which case, when was the
last time you had the opportunity to be first to a deep, lasting
Don't do it for the consumer respect, or the great PR: people
will see straight through you, and you'll get neither.
Do it because you - and your customers - know that taking
positive action for the planet and other people is the right thing
to do. And in the knowledge that today, brand Karma comes around
faster than ever.
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