We live in a world where consumers are increasingly skeptical about the gap between what companies and organizations say and what they do, and are not shy about expressing their dissatisfaction (in words and euros!). In this environment, a significant opportunity is provided for brands that lead with authenticity, that is, align their promises and their actions. It is this group of brands that we call TOTEMS. They are the most loved, the most admired, the most respected, they are the ones that make a difference.
2020 has been the year of the RE. Reset, reskill, reinvent, renew, regenerate. This writing is about the latter, regeneration, in its intrinsic relationship with brands. Society had already learned about regenerative medicine, regenerative agriculture, the beginning of regenerative fashion, and finally the time for regenerative brands had arrived, for the creation or construction of a TOTEM.
A new way of doing
When I was writing the book TOTEM (Deusto, 2020) I was mapping the path of brands for this new decade. And although there is a mention of global pandemics, I could not imagine that the covid-19 pandemic would be declared a few days before presenting it. In any case, after the initial scare, all the content makes more sense, even, due to the coronavirus effect. An effect that accelerated the processes of change and transformation in all areas of our society.
As I write these lines, the year 2020 begins to say goodbye. The year of the REs and the TOTEMS. In the United States, they talk about regenerative brands, I think because TOTEM was only published in Spanish.
The word sustainable is increasingly on everyone’s lips. I hope that in 2021, in addition to words, it will be in deeds. In many cases it is not transferred from discourse to action, which is why in the current situation and in most sectors we see little of real and tangible sustainability. Respect for ecosystems, putting it into practice, means not using resources that cannot be regenerated or using any resource faster than it can be regenerated.
The question that arises is how will brands thrive in an era of changing paradigms? In the TOTEM book I share, develop and deepen the answers, but in this post I will refer more specifically to this new paradigm what regeneration is.
And conscious brands ask themselves three key questions: What does society want? What does the world need? What does my brand offer in an inimitable way?
A great brand is a great promise kept.
This is a new and challenging era for brands. To grow, brands must think and above all act in new ways. Some companies are beginning to incorporate the concept of “regenerative brands”. These are a necessary evolution of brands that seek to create value for all. They have higher aspirations and offer more value – they are strengthened by challenging the status quo and improving the system for all of us.
They use what they do best to solve problems beyond their own business. They are designed for leadership in the world we live in and for the future we want to build. And they don’t wait to take the initiative on issues they can’t wait. Because courage, speed and agility are part of its essence.
Some brands, even fewer than desired, have begun to take concrete action. Like Timberland, which has announced a new initiative that aims to make its products less impact on nature by 2030. The company wants to achieve the following goals through this proposal:
- That its natural materials come from sources that resort to regenerative agriculture
- That 100% of its products are designed following the principle of circularity
The future cries out for action
The voices of the next generation of consumers, employees, investors and community members are hungry for regenerative brands. It is data, not opinion.
Generation Z, also known as post-millennial or centuric generation is the one that follows Generation Y (millennials). They are those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.
Generation Z wants a significant change. They seek brand leadership: 80% believe that brands are an essential part of the solution to the challenges facing humanity today. And they want brands to make changes with them, not just for them: 84% want to share ideas and experiences with brands to develop better solutions.
This is a generation that already thinks regeneratively and is ready to reward the brands that lead the way. In these times of challenge and change, much is uncertain, but one thing is clear: the future belongs to the TOTEMS.
Better brands for a better society
As our companies, our society and culture transform, regenerative brands evolve in creative relationships with the people and places they serve and connect with. This symbiotic relationship allows them to continually create influence and momentum. To be alive, they appear as an active part, which breathes and evolves with our culture and the world. They are an indivisible part of a new world that needs brands to grow and evolve. They create a deeper and more personal relationship with the people brands want to reach and lead to more thoughtful and better-designed products, services and experiences that provide meaningful connection, brand loyalty and indispensable value in people’s lives.
They recognize our fundamental connection and interdependence as part of a living ecosystem. They generate more value, positive impact and lasting progress with and for all of their stakeholders, today and tomorrow.
They link what is meaningful to consumers with what is material to the business to create and unleash long-term shared value.
This generation of brands is aware of the challenges, tensions, and aspirations in our lives. They perceive and address deeper human needs by accepting the context and contradictions inherent in today’s society.
A new paradigm that reflects social changes.
The true transformation is not technological, it is cultural and social.
- From individualism to interconnectedness: they go beyond individualism to interconnectedness and interdependence. They recognize that success depends on a larger ecosystem of life and act accordingly by prioritizing higher-level needs and long-term brand equity over short-term profits.
- From Reactive to Proactive: They move from reactive decisions limited by blind spots and insecurities to adaptive and dynamic strategies based on data, core values and collaborative practices that prepare them for the cutting edge.
- From listening to feeling: they evolve from passive listening to active perception of the deepest human truths and dynamic tensions that define our real lives. They listen and bridge the gap between brand promises and lived experiences. They create and design with the diverse passions, perspectives and knowledge of their stakeholders, they design not only for them, but with them.
- From research to action: They go beyond consumer research to reflect on the role they play in all the lives they touch and face the facts of how social and environmental challenges impact their category, both past and present.
- From perfection to iteration: They go beyond the paralysis that comes from pursuing perfection towards the more fluid ability to iterate, co-create and reinvent together in the service of transparent, measurable and meaningful progress over time.
- From observation to sharing: They not only observe the people they serve and the communities in which they operate, they see the world through their eyes and act in relation to their true needs, anxieties and aspirations. They understand that leadership is not about maintaining power, but about sharing, elevating and giving more power and freedom of action to others so that we can all be successful together..
Brave Ones Wanted
In our unpredictable and unstable world, bravery is no longer the province of caped superheroes. Courage is an essential, though rarely explored, skill that all brand leaders will need to develop. Prioritizing bravery challenges leaders to seek unproven solutions to known problems; be the voice that defends what is right for the brand, its customers and the planet; or exemplify humanity by committing to inclusive marketing. A conscious focus on bravery is what our brands and our society need right now.
Empathy as a cornerstone
As organizations realize that empathy generates hard results and is the cornerstone of meaningful customer experiences, it will no longer be seen as just a soft skill. Seeing something different from our own point of view, learning from another’s perspective, stimulates innovation. The experience is amplified by seeing and listening to the activity around us, relating to the people we serve. Empathy is a driving force behind human connection that builds trust, fosters loyalty, and delights customers. To create memorable brand experiences and customer relationships, brands must start with the heart. Leaders will be chosen to adopt a leadership style based on empathy, resulting in better employee engagement, inspiring a more motivated and connected organization, ultimately the path to a brand’s success.