Leveraging a crisis to become a better brand.

July 19, 2019

In the context of a global health pandemic and economic crisis, people are looking for a reset rather than a return to the status quo. However, despite the significant challenges facing the world, they are are more optimistic about the future than older generations. Young people are looking for bold leadership from brands to meet the challenges facing humanity. They will support brands – or reject them – based on whether and how they take action. They strongly believe that brands are essential to meeting the challenges facing humanity – and they will reward meaningful action. 

The voices and values of a new generation reflect a desire for significant change. And for brand leaders, we are entering an era of shifting paradigms – not just shifting preferences. Today, marketers don’t just have to build great, compelling brands that delight consumers, they also have to address the major reckonings of our time. But wrestling with global issues wasn’t part of the training or job description. These used to be things that only issue experts and politicians had to worry about. 

So, how do we lead with confidence when the playbook is out-of-date? It’s time to think and act in new ways. We believe it’s time to become “Impactful Brands.” Impactful Brands are a necessary evolution of “sustainable” and “resilient” brands. Sustainability and resilience are fine qualities, but they mean a continuation of the status quo and an ability to survive.  Impactful Brands seek to create value for all beings for all time. They have higher aspirations to deliver more value, and they grow stronger by challenging the status quo and improving the system for all of us.  Impactful Brands are designed for leadership by using what they’re best at to fix problems beyond their own business, consumers and shareholders. They don’t wait to take the lead on issues that can’t wait. There are three key qualities Impactful Brands must cultivate to win in this new era. They need to be aware, additive and alive. 

Becoming an impactful brand

Sense and serve our deepest human needs 

1. Impactful Brands are aware of the tensions, challenges and aspirations in our lives. 

They sense and serve deeper human needs by embracing the context and contradictions inherent in today’s society. They honor the gap between brand promises and lived experiences by asking three key questions: What do people want? What does the world need? What does my brand uniquely offer? And, by bringing empathy and awareness to the task of design, Impactful Brands are better able to create new products, services, and experiences that deliver meaningful connection, brand loyalty and indispensable value in people’s lives. 

2. Give More Than You Take

Impactful Brands recognize our fundamental interdependence as part of a living ecosystem and create solutions that delight their customers and transform their categories. 

They unite what’s meaningful for consumers with what’s material to the business to unleash shared value for all, and the long term. They bring an additive mindset and a “yes, and” approach to challenge conventional norms, spark innovation and drive change. Impactful Brands are committed to delivering more value, more positive impact and more enduring progress with and for all of their stakeholders, today and tomorrow. 

3. Shape Who We Are and How We Live 

As our culture and society are being radically transformed every day, Impactful Brands adapt and evolve in creative relationship with the people and places they serve. 

This symbiotic relationship allows them to continuously create energy, influence and momentum. To be alive, Impactful Brands show up as an active, living, breathing and evolving part of our culture and the world. They are space holders, platform builders and co-creators of ideas and stories designed with – and not just for – their audiences. Being alive creates deeper, more personal relationships 

with the people brands want to reach and leads to more thoughtful and better-designed products, services  and experiences. 

Looking Ahead 

How we understand and act on the story of this moment will make all the difference in realizing who we are and what we can be together. For brands, this is a moment of truth and an opportunity for transformation. 

As humanity looks to 2021, we are confronting the confluence of five crises that have never happened all at once before – a global health pandemic, economic crisis, racial justice reckoning, existential climate threat and a crisis of democracy driven by social media-powered disinformation, distrust and divisive tribalism. These intersecting crises are not merely temporary trends that can be waited away. These are fundamental challenges to a broken status quo that all of us have to face, reimagine and solve together. 

By listening to the values, experiences and aspirations of a new generation of citizens, workers, designers, community leaders and culture creators, we find great reason for hope. The next generation is calling out business as usual, and they want brands to lead 

the way forward. With great urgency and passion,
the next generation is hungry for change and eager
to be part of the solution – whether that’s by co-creating breakthrough ideas with you, or by taking to the streets and boycotting brands to right the wrongs they experience all around them every day. 

Like never before, a new generation is ready to meet the moment we’re in – and create the future they want.

By Kasparas Sipavičius

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