CSR Thoughts: Brands and cultural shifts of the future

Benefit Cosmetics is known for their positive and empowering tag lines.

I recently came across an article on Sustainable Brands about the cultural shifts that brands should adopt or focus on more in 2019. The following cultural shifts were listed by copywriter, Henry Richards:

  1. Redefinitions
  2. Tribalism
  3. Activism
  4. Naivete
  5. Conscious consumption

It almost goes without saying nowadays that the most agile organizations will do better: they are more equipped to withstand unforeseen stormy markets or changes in consumer behavior, etc. However, it is culture that is at the core of an organization; it’s the values that the organization has and furthermore how this affects the services that they provide. This does not always take into account all of the factors that affect why or how services are used.

From the list provided by Richards, his first point is most important for brands to be most thoughtful of: “redefining” can entail roles, structures, and ideas – and it can make or break how organizations are able to adapt to external factors. Through this concept of redefinition, there can also be more emphasis on accountability internally and externally for organizations. That can be part of an organization’s redefinition of self. An ability to be highly adaptable in constantly changing times is what allows for brands to be most formidable.

A sense of extreme adaptability leads into his next point… tribalism. Tribalism is being seen in negative lights because of complex political climates globally. However, it’s natural to rally around something to understand it as part of the cultural ethos of something: for example, Benefit Cosmetics is synonymous with pinup culture of the 1950’s, which is what consumers expect from the aesthetic of that brand. Benefit has also generated a large community of women who are inclusive and support each other. Brands can generate communities for positive outcomes if they are keen to how this plays into their brand’s identity.

Communities beyond brands can be activist communities as well. Never before has it been more simple to generate capital for a specific cause (GoFundMe) or to sign a petition for change (Change.org). The most important aspect of these tools, however, is remaining authentic, though. Richards states, “No matter what your product or service is, there can be huge benefits in aligning yourself with a relevant and worthwhile cause. Meanwhile, the risks of being called out for inauthenticity are enhanced.” His statement is absolutely right; when companies miss the mark, they will hear about it. It’s important to be conscious of what causes you take ownership of.

Last, but not least, Mr. Richards mentions “naivete,” and “conscious consumption,” as important cultural shifts. Naivete presents an opportunity for brands to create joy and novelty in consumers lives, and there is still a plethora of opportunity for that. In hard times, it can be small joys that make one happy. And lastly, “conscious consumption,” is something that brands always need to keep top of mind; this plays back into the accountability aspect of the topic of redefinition. Consumers will hold brands more accountable these days, and it’s a world of opportunity we have towards a more sustainable future.

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