Jordan Wayne Lee
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Metamodern Design : Chapter 7 – The Future of Brands and Business

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“There is no expert of tomorrow. Only an expert of yesterday. Don’t be evil is not enough. Do good things for the world.” – Jack Ma, WEF 2019

We have differing views of what a brand is. Those who work within the landscape of branding have differing thoughts. Those who design for brands may see it as the expression through visual or marketing or identity efforts, and those who experience brands think of it as the end-consumer experience. The definitions are wide and broad.

A brand exists much deeper than the expression. It is the combination of understanding the purpose, vision, mission and values of a business and embraced by those who run the business and understood by the audience who experiences those attributes. It is then up to the audience to determine how they feel about those ideals. The feeling about those ideals from the audience is what the brand actually is. The roles of messaging, marketing, communication, advertising, social media, logo, identifies, photography, film, broadcast are all efforts for the brand to support and reinforce their continued beliefs about their purpose, vision, mission and values to their audience. The consistency in those experiences related to the makeup of the brand identity determines the effectiveness and impact that a brand has on their audience.

The brands that understand this build a brand that plays a role within the audience’s own journey. They exist to help them along their journey beyond their own expression through products, services, marketing and advertising efforts. This is a human-centered empathy driven approach to build a brand. As consumers are becoming smarter and better at understanding their roles within a brand – they want to participate. The company and customer make up the brand as a community or tribe of people who hold a shared value system and are along for a continued journey.

Brands of the future will need to integrate their business practices, understanding of their audience and goals to achieve their purpose, vision, mission and values in new ways. The single-line of communication is gone. The two-way channel of communication is the current landscape and brands are trying to engage and capitalize on this. But the future will be a community of people holding a shared set of valued defining and evolving the brand from the consumer side more heavily. Holding true to a companies purpose, vision, mission and values in the future will attract customers and allow them the space to continue to evolve and help shape the brands of the future.

Greenwashing will make brands irrelevant. Advertising will cease to be effective. Trying to convince your audience through clever and witty marketing ideas will fail time and again. The Mad-Men style marketing, advertising, and creative dinosaurs of today will become extinct. The creative agencies will dry up. The power of the brand of the future will exist within a more sincere relationship between the company and the audience.

Revolutions change culture.

Culture changed during the postmodern movements in an attempt to break away from the modernist ideas of society.

Singular people impacted generations. Modernism built the world in which postmodernism has a voice.

Collective brands will lead the next revolution. A communal tribe of people joining together and allowing the audience to build and define the brand will be the next revolution.

Brand must evolve via metamodernism because the old tired ways of modernism are ineffective and the newness of postmodernism will soon wear off and consumers will grow tired of the postmodern approach to brands and business.

But brands cannot be seen going backward to modernist ideals because they have already spent their brand equity on nostalgia through a postmodern lens. The only option is to move forward and if forward looks like choosing modernism or postmodernism, the brand will essentially be fighting an uphill battle and lose half of their audience. This is about the audience, the customer, the consumer, the person on the other end experiencing the brand. They will be the ones to control the narrative of a brand. They will be the ones to build and determine the value of the brand.

The modernist approach of one-way communication and ideals through marketing and advertising will no longer work – and in fact may alienate a brand who continues this route. The alternative disruptive approach through the lens of postmodernism will fall of deaf ears of the consumer as they have evolved beyond the tactics of a business. The audience wants more. They want to feel. They want to be heard and contribute in meaningful ways. If they cannot create, they want to consume in ways that define their own purpose and meaning.

Metamodernism is a vehicle to create power and opportunity for the audience to decide for themselves the value of brand or business similar to the way someone may experience and decide the value of a painting in an art gallery or the new indie rock band they discovered in a record store. When you allow the audience to sift through their feelings and make a decision about how they can and should feel without selling them anything other than an experience, you create a new way for communicating value beyond the tired old tactics.

The current problem exists because we live in a hierarchical societal order. Whether you like hierarchy or not – it exists. It’s a natural occurring state of humans that has been around since the beginning of time. If you aren’t going to change the hierarchy, you must wait it out or take your turn when it comes. If not, you must look for new ways to explore.

In a world where humans are rapidly evolving within themselves, seeking strength within, building stronger identities, understanding their roles within a global and local society and becoming more in-tune with the internal feelings oscillating from the external world; it has created polarities within ourselves, our culture and our contributions to society as a whole. We are trying to make sense of our existence while being pulled in every direction to be told what to think, how to think and uncovering truths and discovering lies. The dominating factor of media, entertainment and content at every turn has created a world of massive advertising, messaging and a fight for attention. We are driven by consuming yet left feeling fulfilled by the pursuit of consuming. Brands constantly trying to sell us products, services or ideas without any responsibility of the outcome or effects.

Brands are continuously fighting for attention. Fast following technology and trends and adopting campaigns to fit within the time and space. This resonates as insincere to an evolving human race who is seeking to make sense of their own existence, yet find themselves constantly bombarded by advertisements and messaging from companies who solely seek to convince them of their loyalty without providing any truth beyond consumption. The alternative to this is a vast group of companies pivoting into greenwashing, doing good and standing on pillars of virtue without any accountability from their audience. It’s a virtue signal in it’s purest form.

Brands exist and compete against each other in a hierarchical construct. Against other brands. Fighting for the attention of the consumer. Some brands have built hierarchical power over time, with any inability to compete. See Apple, Disney, IBM, Google. All of these companies started out at one time or another as a postmodern pursuit to create change, fight the “powers that be” and throw a wrench into the modernist system. And they won, in the end. However, the postmodern approach that these brands held evolved into a modernist corporate company. They hire postmodern thinkers who must align to their modernist structures. Built around open workspaces, free coffee, ping-pong tables and work from home fridays. Yet, it is now modernism disguised as postmodernism. Lipstick on a pig. These companies are focused on the bottom line. What was once a passion to build a revolution has now turned into appeasing shareholders and lobbying the government.

Younger, postmodern brands exist in startups with funding, bootstrapping a new company online, or creating a lifestyle brand to attract those who are still hungry for some sort of revolution. Yet, these brands leave the audience unfulfilled. And we, as humans, oscillate between the megalith corporate entities who connect us to (almost) every living person on the plant, while still trying to fulfill our hungry yearning for progress through postmodern brands who sell on the idea of rebellion, irony and angst.

The sense of brand communication and brand relevance in the world leaves the audience empty. There is no fulfillment. There is a sense of missing the deepest emotions and complexities to truly be loyal to, well, anything.

Tactics of modernism dont work. The one-way communication model for brands related to marketing and advertising are ineffective and today borderline on manipulation and propaganda.

Tactics of postmodernism are worn out. We see the influence of post-modernism throughout mainstream entertainment, adopted by brands and experiences and informing our current landscape of media, entertainment and culture. However, this post-modernism was not always the mainstream and as history shows, that which is in the mainstream will fade and we move toward something else.

Humans are actively seeking substance. The approaches that brands have today are becoming worn out, ineffective and we have grown to become less optimistic about experiencing brands in digital and experiential forms. The next version of our engagement with technology will exist in a less optimistic way as we yearn for more meaning and substance within our own lives, beyond what brands and media are telling us how and what we should believe and consume in our personal lives.

Why is this relevant to brands / the future?

The world has rapidly changed. We exist in a complex technologically advanced world. And the future of business and brands will be more impacted by the influence of design, design strategy and design thinking around an approach where the evolution of branding is going to evolve with the evolution of consumer habits and expectations.

Best case scenario: brands play a more humanity driven role and define their purpose. They begin to humanize their business where sincerity, vulnerability and honesty are at the forefront combined with the playfulness of irony and self awareness of their own existence within the lives of their audience.

Worst case scenario: Brands play to far into the oscillating extremes of their own identity without the balance combined with execution and strategy and it polarizes their brand into controversial, non-impactful, and a lack of sincerity as the undercurrent of their survival.

There is a deeper yearning for purpose, substance, understanding of one’s own role in a global society. Technology has connected us in meaningful ways, yet we feel more lonely than ever before. We are seeking depth and engagement to understand ourselves through the lens of a greater purpose and call to the betterment of humanity.

Oscillation between modernism and post-modernism has been emerging since the 1970’s, though we have witnessed the influence and acceleration over the past decade. We have sought to try and find and define meaning through supporting products and services that directly communicate with us in, what is now, archaic messages. We have been accepting of one-way dialogue and messaging. We have been conditioned to accept everything as a sales-pitch. Since the advertising days of Mad Men to the angsty cultural revolution of MTV.

The future of brand and business relies on our ability to take action now related to our own responsibility, ethics and design of a future in which we envision. We must seek to impact our audience first, build brand loyalty and connect to create a lasting relationship in honest and transparent ways. To build meaningful brands of the future, we must deliberately and intentional create a higher sense of purpose within ourselves, our business and express this to our audience. ROI will not be an impact of clicks, likes, follows and clever campaigns, but through long term audience engagement as we guide them on their own journey of life. Through open, honest dialogue, we are building deeper substance and meaning that reflects through our purpose translated first through engagement and secondly through our product or service.

The challenge of this approach is that it is a long-term plan that can be difficult to execute once the strategy is in place. Organizational changes may occur, priorities may shift, competitors may arise, the cultural landscape may change, uncertainty will happen. However, the foundations built in thoughtful brand strategy will help to guide the business and weather storms far beyond the constant chase of trends, relevancy, campaigns, advertisements and marketing efforts. This shift is coming and you either embrace and adapt or you watch your audience fulfill their meaning and purpose through other companies and organizations who “get it”.

Brands during the modernist movement were giant ominous figures. Brands in the post-modernist movement were young angsty reckless indie companies tearing away at the modernist corporate behemoths. However, the future of branding exists where the barriers between customer and company will deteriorate. Customers will exists as an interactive and integral audience member on the brand stage.

A collective eco-system of people helping the brand to build greater good in the world. This eco-system will exist collaboratively, transparently and require contribution from the audience, business and all humans involved within the brand experience.

An extension of the humans involved within the brand as employees, and simultaneously an extension of the customers they serve. Barriers between the faceless brand, masked by logos, style guides and social media barriers will dissipate. Brand identities will be informed and shaped by the relationships between the company and humans. The future brand will care less about the brand image, the brand logo and the overall brand presentation and more about the experience in which they offer – the expression will inform but not lead.

A deeper value system will emerge for the audience. A brand must first identify their values and live through those beliefs. These values must consist of the people within the organization as a collective purpose and vision. The values must also be a realistic representation not just through a well-crafted mission statement, or a set of values hung in the office, but a true representation carried out through the actions of everyone involved with the brand. It will not be contrived, fake, misled or a feel good belief – but a true representation.

Brands will be more aware of their role within culture at both a global and local perspective. They will be sensitive and cognoscente of the impact they have both locally and globally from every aspect of their business – products, services, experiences and communication.

Brands will embrace vulnerability. They will celebrate their strengths and openly acknowledge their weaknesses and shortcomings. Being honest and transparent along this brand journey. They will stop pretending to be something they are not – both informed by modern and post-modern ideals, because the interactions with their audience will not need convincing. The audience is now highly evolved and smarter than the tactics we have been conditioned to from decades of marketing and advertising. Be exist beyond.

Brands will seek to be more playful without fear of losing their own face-value. They will take on the idea of not taking themselves so seriously. There will exist a proper balance of playfulness related to the inherent DNA and archetypes of the brand.

Brands will exist as a platform and community for conversation, connection and growth. Open dialogue will be accepted and welcomed. Conversation will engaged between the audience, the community and the brand itself. A brand’s responsibility in the future will focus on connecting with humans in an open and transparent way. The face of the brand will be less about the logo and identity and more about the human to human experience. The experience will help the audience grow, learn, explore and discover new ways to define their own humanity. The brand will work as the guide.

Brands will be more transparent in their mission, vision and operations. There will be an expectation far beyond the current state of “greenwashing” where these beliefs carried out through action will be transparent and open-sourced.

Brands of the future will be focused less on selling a product or service, but equally important, the will focus on their contributions to society and how they can help and encourage their audience to grow individually through the brand experience and guidance. The products or services will help them accomplish a greater sense of self. The focus of brand communication will shift from selling through marketing and advertising to education, guidance and human connection.

A brand will exist as an ever-changing and evolving organism representing a culture, system and business of people who have come together to sell a product or service. They will no longer have customers. They will have audiences. Every person will be a potential customer will always be a human audience members, a part of the community, first and foremost. With so many choices to find a product or service, a brand’s impact will be how they engage with their audience. The engagement must be real, tangible and seeking to break down barriers of traditional branding through technology, media and advertising. Humanity will come to the forefront. Helping others without the intent to sell, but the intent to grow.

Humanity will greatly benefit from this paradigm shift of brand and business. However, those who still support the polarizing oscillating extremes of either modernism or post-modernism will be harmed. They will still emotionally exist within a space where the ideals, politics, and global beliefs a brand from the old-world represents will need to be articulated beyond their current mindset. The uncomfortable fear of personal growth, uncertainty and self-discovery is polarizing within itself and this shift will emerge deep fears from those who exist within the polar extremes we see today in society.

The choice to make this shift is at the helm of thought leaders, visionaries, designers, leaders, executives and cultural tastemakers. They can positively prepare and impact the future of humanity at both a local and global level by recognizing the need for change within the internal culture of a business or organization combined with deeply understanding the emotional needs of the audience beyond a product or service.

Leadership and creatives will be the key pioneers of this movement. Those who are brave enough to see the long-term benefits, the path of culture and society combined with the courage to make a shift into the future of their own business. They must reflect on the honest representation of their own self and break away from examples of corporate brands trying to perceived as young and hip, or early startups trying to feel nostalgic.

Brands will be expected to grow, mature, evolve, celebrate their successes, and be open about their weaknesses. Pivoting on campaigns to appear relevant, conscious, political, or activist in various ways will fall flat. Brands must use their voice in appropriate ways without the intention to distort, diminish, or deceive the audience through traditional communication methods. We dont need corporations trying to speak to millennials like they are hip and with it. It’s insulting. We don’t need new brands playing into the post-modern ways of reckless angst to be cool. Brands must step back and really be honest with themselves about who they are. Their strengths and weaknesses are not defined by themselves, but by their audience. The audience is not necessarily a customer, but a cultural observer to the brand’s interaction within the world.

Throughout history, businesses, companies and organizations have evolved and changed to be effective and impactful by promoting their image to a consumer with the intention of selling something. That something might be a product or a service or a way of thinking. In any case, the goal within the modernist and post-modern movements was to buy something or become anti-that-something and seek to buy something that was the counterculture of that thing we were being sold.

Brands of the future will need to develop massive self-awareness. Intentional brands will be effective and influential. Creative execution within irony and sincerity will emerge as it creates a deeper sentiment for the audience to engage emotionally with the brand – building loyalty and brand equity.

Small to medium sized brands will be able to pivot quickly, take risks and adapt to change that will disrupt. As we watch the struggle of the current SP500 companies, the infusion of capital from the Federal Government to keep large businesses afloat, we witness the opportunity emerging each day where small to medium sized companies who have a long-term thoughtful outlook on the future of humanity can develop long-term strategy that takes their own relevancy beyond the traditional business models to sustain long term growth, emotional connection and the ability to weather financial disaster.

How should brands approach this safely?

Strategy

Brands need to build a solid foundation of who they are, who their audiences are and work endlessly to understand both. A brand needs to understand themselves through an open and honest lens where they recognize their strengths and weaknesses without trying to be something they are not.

A brand needs to identify and understand their audiences(s) at a deeper level. What do they care about? What drives them? What are their needs and what is their purpose and meaning in life? This extends far greater than demographics and psychographics and arbitrary data about a user group. Knowing the emotional needs and purpose of your audience will help you find alignment between your brand values and their values. From here, you can begin to communicate effectively.

Both / and

Brands have hinged themselves into a group of attributes. They create positioning statements and lead with these attributes to propel themselves into the future. However, metamodernism is about “both-and”, whereas the brand attributes must also encompass the polarity of those attributes. A brand must seek to address and examine the opposing attributes that which they do not obtain. A brand must utilize the opposing attributes in balance to their intention and execution. Creating a balance of the brand and causing an oscillation with the audience. This oscillation creates a tension within the audience and allows the audience to decide on their own feelings.

This deciding factor is outside of both modernism and post-modernism. Where the messaging has previously been strategic, decided upon, given a focused outcome and targeted to a desired measurable state with a wide array of personas within an audience. Metamodernism approaches this differently, saying “both-and”. Where the audience is left to decide and make sense of their own feelings.

Executed in balance, the tension creates a sense of feeling with the audience that encompasses a broader worldview in their own lives and allows that feeling to also resonate, in whatever way it may, with the brand message. This “both-and” approach is unconventional from decades of studying brands, measurable outcomes and desired effects, however, given the landscape and the future of our culture, both globally and locally, brands of the future will need to address this sense to connect with audiences at a deeper, more meaningful place. A brand of the future contains depth, complexity, pastiche and light-heartedness all wrapped into a single experience – or oscillating various experiences to the audience.

“The metamodern structure of feeling evokes an oscillation between a modern desire for sens and a postmodern doubt about the sense of it all, between a modern sincerity and a postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy and empathy and apathy and unity and plurality and purity and corruption and naïveté and knowingness; between control and commons and craftsmanship and conceptualism and pragmatism and utopianism. Indeed, metamodernism is an oscillation. It is the dynamic by which it expresses itself. One should be careful not to think of this oscillation as a balance however; rather it is a pendulum swinging between numerous, innumerable poles. Each time the metamodern enthusiasm swings towards fanaticism, gravity pulls it back towards irony; the moment its irony sways towards apathy, gravity pulls it back towards enthusiasm” (“Notes on Metamodernism”, 2010)

A shift in communication from a business will be important for the future sustainability of the brand. A focus on openness, honesty, transparency and humanity will be driving force of vulnerability from those who operate the business. The messaging and tone will be a blended mix of sincerity and irony. Mapping the messaging to real values while balancing the polarity of both sincerity and irony within the brand expression. For example: The Gillette ad that focused on toxic masculinity was a politically driven ad rooted in sincerity and it fell flat. Car commercials take a sincere approach to their new vehicle and it feels old and reused. Gieco hinges on the comedy of their advertisements but miss on creating trust and deeper value. Super Bowl advertisements are the most watched and viewed where nothing is taken seriously whether they are either sincere or ironic in nature – because the medium in which they exist has become a cultural trope.

Discover new mediums to engaged the deeper communication and the ironic communication. Podcasts, long form content, social media, commercials and advertisements are tactics in which the balance of sincerity and irony can exist in content, context and expression.

The expression should visually balance the polarity of sincerity and irony. Sincere intent with ironic execution though tone, colors, photography, film and visual expression. Or an ironic intent with sincere execution through tone, colors, photography, film and visual expression. The balance within the execution allows the audience to feel different, to take on the feeling for themselves and decide how they want to feel at various touchpoints of the brand. Visual expression and messaging balance the polarity of both sincerity and irony. Sincere visual with ironic messaging, or, ironic visual with sincerity messaging.

A new creative approach will emerge where sincerity and irony will simultaneously exist within the visual expression. The intentional balance between visual, audio, film, creative and messaging combined with the intentional balance of sincerity and irony to create new works. This will give a sense of tension within the work to allow the audience to decide how they should feel, an inverse effect of how traditional advertisements and marketing is designed to effect the consumer. Traditional creative briefs hinge on the intentional outcome of a feeling – warm, inviting, hopeful, funny, rugged, empowering, adventurous, magical, etc. New creative will exist to pair a tension between creative efforts within a work to allow the audience to decide how they should feel within the experience. Art direction and creative direction should seek to balance the creative efforts.

How does this benefit the business?

A brand of the future will develop more self-awareness. It will better serve the employees, because the sense of purpose and meaning within the company is not built within the hierarchical structure of the business, or the lackthereof as a post-modern experiment. A brand willing to accept that both hierarchy and post-modernism both have their place in the values of the company create an oscillation within that will resonate out. The business does not become an echo chamber but a place to explore and balance within it’s own oscillation of brand attributes. The business must accept that there are benefits from both a modern and post-modern philosophies By shifting the brand to internal employee development and focusing on better personal development for the audience, the brand can utilize both modern and post-modern approaches By recreating processes within the business, a brand can evolve into new ways by harnessing both modern and post-modern philosophies

As society evolves and humans understand the polarity of their individual impact on a local and global scale, a brand must also evolve to understand their impact. The future of consumers will shift from deciding to spend money to embracing and connecting with humans are various touch-points. How can we evolve and change with this knowledge for our own good? If we look at the cultural landscape and accept that their exists cultural extremes that oscillate from our current human experience both anchored in modernism and post-modernism ideals, and we can agree that the term “metamodernism” is a way to capture the feeling where the tension between both exists of not “either/or” but “both/and”, then we can start to make sense of what the future might look like. And we can start to better design this future knowing that this feeling has emerged from local, global, technological advancements, politics, religion and economic shifts within the past decade. And it’s not slowing down. We can embrace this idea and create open dialogue. We can seek to understand this ever changing landscape and evolution of the human condition.

Marketing campaigns will drastically change. If an ironic commercial is meant to make people laugh with the intent to sell the brand but shows no sign of vulnerability, the campaign will have little impact. If the campaign is hinged on beautiful over-dramatic imagery and messaging to evoke an emotion, it will fall flat. We are pulled in these various feelings constantly. Our guard is up. Our radars are fine tuned and we won’t buy it anymore. There needs to be a balance of both irony and sincerity within a brand’s voice. Depth and substance over 30 second ads. Tapping into the values and ethos of a brand cannot be fully communicated within traditional media. It tries, but will come across as insincere even though the intention is sincere. It will cease to have impact. Long form continuous dialogue will build upon the emotion of sincerity. Short-form dialogue will create opportunities of irony. Both must exist for a brand to build a deeper connection with the audience and allow them to decide how they should feel about the brand. Podcasts, editorials, books, documentaries all exists as meaningful places to be sincere – combined with short form advertisements, videos and comedy sketches to build upon the irony of the business and their own self-awareness. 

Geico is a great example of brand who embraces the short-form irony, however they lack long-form sincerity. Joe Rogan is a great example of metamodernism in the sense that he has long form sincere podcasts combined with a stand-up routine with short form ironic jokes about culture.

The future will exist for brands who focus on serving the values and ethos of the customer without the intent of selling. The future of brands will engage in sincerity and irony in communicating these values. Simultaneously being vulnerable, open and honest while being aware enough to ensure there is irony in the message, the communication and the engagement of the audience.

Business of the future should empower their audiences to be revolutionaries. For themselves. For their community. And for the world. Business should advocate for open dialogue and true transparency. To allow the audience to create the brand experience along with the business. Doing good in the world, having a greater purpose and living through that purpose with a vision and mission will not be a selling point in the future. It will be an expectation that is observed, measured and evaluated from consumers. Any hint of disingenuous  practice, alternative perceptions or lack of transparency will be an emotional signal to break ties with a business. The future brand will adopt the value of serving others over selling products.

Design strategy to clarify, focus, prototype, test, and revise every aspect of their living brand through products and services

Metamodern Strategy:

  1. Honesty: The sincerity of our work, the intention behind the work being sincere and honest. The messaging and delivering of the output of our work being rooted in honesty.
  2. Vulnerability: The intention to create a deeper sensibility of humanity within our work.
  3. Humanity: To create new ways to allow our audience to experience sensibilities where modernism and post-modernism can both exist within our work.
  4. Creativity: Approaching new creativity beyond the modern or post-modern approach.
  5. Design-led: Putting the foundations of design at the forefront of our initiatives in business and brand at both local and global levels.

Execution:

  1. The anti-brand: To be a brand that exists outside or beyond the current expectations of what a brand is today.
  2. Faceless yet human: To be a corporate faceless behemoth that is humanized and incredibly personal.
  3. Sincerity and irony: To embrace both sincerity and irony in a combination of work, or to oscillate between the two in various mediums.

Traditional media will be obsolete

The formulaic approach to advertising, marketing and driving business will cease to be effective. If the overall goal is to sell you a product or service, you will fail. We as humans are evolving within ourselves. Seeking internal strength. Seeking our internal revolutions. Seeking growth in mental, physical and spiritual wellness. We expect our brands and companies we support to do the same. We expect these companies to be an extension of the values we believe in. We expect the brands and the people who work for those brands to understand us at deeper levels than demographics, psychographics and data. We expect to grow as humans and we expect the brands and companies within our lives to grow as well.

Going green. Sustainability. Giving back. Donating proceeds. These are all tactics to align with a certain ethos, but these will be expectations without question in the future. Brands will not be able to market and advertise on these sentiments as humans evolve. We will expect that companies and businesses do their part in the world because they are ran, owned and operated by humans.

Brands will need to take on a more human form of identity

The modernist approach of ominous brands formed under “Co.” endings shrouded with Helvetica bold typography will cease to be effective. The post-modern brands hinging identity on reckless, rebellious, nostalgic and carefree business will be seen as childish and angsty. There needs to be a balance. Brands cannot mature as humans do in a way where they constantly shift and pivot to stay relevant. Brands must seek to evolve internally the way humans are evolving internally today. Fill the empty hole within the brand as an organism that serves to reflect the ethos and values of the company. Humans are complex, full of emotions – brands need to be complex and not trendy.

Stop selling

The future of branding must focus on development and less about selling a product or service. The product or service will be secondary to the values of the company. With the over-abundance of content, data, services, products and access – a successful brand will shift the focus from marketing and advertising with intent to sell, to share their story in a truly meaning way where sincerity and irony play integral parts to this story. Both need to be balanced and included. Lifestyle brands of today only tell half of this story. Hinging on overly dramatic or sincere approaches to their brand campaigns, with the subtle notion of trying to get people to adopt to their brand.

Our future role

“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Chuck Palahnuik, Fight Club

Our future role of business, brand and creators exist in deeply understanding our individual self before we approach having any impact within a business or brand. We need to address our own self-awareness, personal growth, mind, body, spirit and seek to find our own truth within the cultural oscillation of modernism and post-modernism. We should consider aligning with those who seek truth and support those who focus on love and making peace within the world. That being said, I believe there are some inherent truths that we have learned throughout ancient civilization where culture has abandoned these ideals en-masse.

The truth beyond the doctrinal differences of faith, where the church was the cultural epicenter of creativity dating back to ancient civilizations and seen around the world in art, architecture, sculptures and creativity, was once the inspiration for humanity.

I personally believe there will exist a resurgence of this idea to become the future epicenter for human creativity beyond the landscape of current brands, business and culture of today. I say this because as AI becomes more real, unemployment rates are growing, economic disaster is happening, pandemics are on the rise and all of these things are impacting humanity at global scales, humans will find a need to believe in something greater than themselves. To seek purpose. To find meaning. And to embrace this meaning as a human with the part of us that separates us from other species on Earth, the ability to create.

I believe that the old ways of religion will become irrelevant, in the sense of doctrines and dogma, and the truth of these ideals will emerge and inspire an exodus from the current cultural landscape. Not from choice, but of necessity. For humans to rediscover the self in which they have lost amidst the cultural expectations and polarities we have been conditioned to believe. We will seek to fill the hole in our soul and it will exist in a translational post-industrial digital-age that begins to capture the essence of humanity at a global level.

The workplace will embrace a purpose driven employee who will be activists, consumers will expect companies to take a stand for beliefs, communications will encompass a greater purpose and call to action, purpose-washing will be an idea of the past as it becomes the expectation, long form content will be a way to emotionally share and connect, experiential storytelling will provide a means for brands to express emotions and vulnerability while engaging the audience in a more emotionally driven-narrative.

REFERENCE LIST

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