Nov 29, 2017

Know thy self: How looking inward is working for the modern brand

Transparency, creativity, diversity, sustainability. These pillars are transforming the way that brands are connecting with consumers – adapt, or be left behind is the message coming from a new consumer segment asking brands to go deeper. As consumers take stock of their priorities and ask themselves what they truly value, a new segment of consumer trends have emerged. These include the sharing economy, experiences over possessions, frugal innovation, environmental consciousness and radical transparency.

The human race continues to collectively experience world events. Happenings that may have only had an impact locally are now part of a new global dialogue and awakening. Moving from armchair to public square, to in-store and online — ideas are what drives dialogue. Commerce isn’t immune to this trend, and brands who don’t tune in will be tuned out.

In the past, brands shied away from revealing a left or right footing. Today, many are now taking a firm stand.  Politics matter. Brand values of the past such as quality, fairness, trust, safety and community have been updated to diversity, authenticity, transparency, sustainability and innovation.

Here, we outline the top 5 ways that brands can look inward, evaluate and connect with things that are important to today’s new consumers.

1. Brand Values

Know thy self. Brand values fuel the stream of energy that is the consciousness of your brand. It’s the centre core of it all – driving message, voice, design and relationships with other brands and stakeholders. A defined set of values set the tone for cultivating a brand’s personality. In a world where people know the ‘real deal’ when they see it, a company’s ability to embody a sense of self is a valuable currency.

For example, fashion brand The Modist is a first of its kind, luxe style destination, dedicated to dressing modestly. The brand’s vision is led by the desire to create an inclusive platform for modest women everywhere and targets women who are informed, empowered and stylish. What defines dressing modestly? They leave that up to the consumer, providing a selection of clothing that varies in length of sleeves, hems, necklines and opacity.

 

2. Transparency

Transparency. It’s how people know you’re for real.  It builds credibility, and now more than ever, consumers want to know how things are made and who made them. With more and more brands practising responsible supply chain management, being transparent about how you do what you do is the perfect way to put your brand’s beliefs into practice.

Take Rove Concepts, a direct to consumer modern furniture brand that manufactures small-batches of furniture by artisan partners around the world. Part of its mission is to demonstrate how and why Made-in-China can be ethical and sustainable, and they do this through telling the personal stories of the artisans who make its products.

Photo credit: themodist.com

Transparency in pricing is another way to take this practice to the next level. Let’s look at Everlane, a sustainable fashion brand whose tagline is ‘Modern Basics. Radical Transparency’. For each item, they break down costs for production, labour, materials, transport and profit. With pricing coming in higher than fast fashion, but lower than most luxury, Everlane consumers sleep tight knowing that what they’re wearing was created in an ethical way from start to finish.

Photo credit: everlane.com

3. Be(e) Sustainable

More and more companies are prioritizing sustainable practices that embody integrity, honesty and responsibility. With the effects of global warming becoming more evident each year, sustainability is no longer an option – it’s a must. Brands like Modular Farms Co. build its product from the ground up with these values in mind. Modular Farms is a first-of-its-kind farming system that is designed to grow food virtually anywhere, in any climate, using ultra-sustainable practices. While many innovators use eco-ways of thinking to inspire new products, brands can also tap into this value by practising sustainable behaviour.

Generally, shopping centres are not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about sustainability – but some are making a huge difference. Hillcrest Mall recently took a hard look at its environmental impact and is incorporating modern, sustainable practices in a number of ways. Some are seen, and some are unseen. For example, in just one year, Hillcrest has doubled its waste diversion rate from 43% to 86%. It’s also installed electric car charging stations, installed a water cistern, planted bio-positive perennials around the mall and installed beehives on its roof. The mall has proven that going green doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated, or expensive. It just has to be part of a conscious decision-making process to be sustainable.

Photo credit: alveole.buzz

4. Create Memorable Brand Experiences

Creating brand affinity can be one of the most effective ways to engage with a consumer audience, and it offers a huge return on investment. The idea? Create a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience. House of Vans is a textbook example of experiential done right. For the House of Vans activation, which has visited Toronto two years in a row, Vans took over space, installed a free skate park, and topped it off with super-cool programming. They collaborated closely with local skaters, musicians and artists to bring House of Vans to life, celebrating sports, music, art and street culture.

5. Amplify

Whether you’re introducing a new product, announcing a new initiative or looking to do some quick market research, an active community on social media can offer a highly valuable return on investment. Keep your community engaged through being friendly, interactive and a source for valuable information. Don’t be sales-y. Don’t be too promotional. Be inspirational.

Successful communications is not a one-pronged magic bullet. A multi-touchpoint strategy is key to any brands’ success, so don’t rely on just one medium if you want to break through. To be successful, be sure to cover all bases, be in many places and manage each piece of outreach thoughtfully and individually.

Matte PR is the Public Relations Agency of Record for Modular Farms Co. and Hillcrest Mall