How the rapidly changing consumer market is changing the nature of branding
Yong Ng is the creative director at Singaporean agency Somewhere Else. He discusses here the tension between consumerism and the environment, and how brands in the modern day must offer consumers more.
If you had to pick out your favourite brand from the shelf and stand by it with faith, who would it be? The market has gotten so saturated, spoiling us daily with new options to choose from. In such an atmosphere, how can businesses set themselves up to become future-proof brands? It all boils back down to first recognising your business’ potential and responsibility to be a proactive driver of change.
Unlike before, we know when a brand is just all fluff. We’re asking the questions, “Where does this come from?” and “How is this any different from the rest?” People have become increasingly discerning of the brands they transact with, and brands need to shift their gears from ‘what we can take’ to ‘what we can give’. In hindsight, we might say that all businesses from the beginning of time have the agency and responsibility to be a brand that is a force for good; to love people in their special ways. But as individuals look to brands as personal associations of their choice, brands that continue to be fixated on their own businesses’ best interests are completely oblivious to becoming anything of value for the people they serve. They are bound to be left on the shelves.
When we first met with the founders of Oatbedient, we were moved by their earnest desire to create a product that was truly better for our bodies, not just a greenwashing marketing ploy. Their goal? To be a well-loved brand providing the best nutrition through delicious, clean, plant-based products. Convenience and affordability shouldn't equate to fillers and junk. What does a delicious, no-nonsense product we’d gladly feed our own families look like? We took this to heart when designing for Oatbedient, giving attention to building delightful touch points that create a thoughtful experience for customers who take effort in choosing products they believe in.
The consumerism that brands have advocated over the years has shaped our desires for too many of the wrong things. This led us to convince ourselves that environmental devastation, cultural loss and displacement are all ‘part of the process’, or ‘others’ problem’ to fix. However, as we’re all more aware of the disastrous consequences we’re reaping today, the inherent perspective of branding as a tool used for the sole purpose of benefitting businesses is losing its authority as fast as the changes we see in the market.
Through our work, we also got acquainted with No Harm Done – a brand that provides convenient and sustainable product alternatives in a manner that takes responsibility back from the consumer to the business. Birthed to preserve Singapore’s Kopi culture through the use of coffee capsules, the founder realised that conventional capsules, while convenient, were a huge problem for the environment. Many find it simpler to throw them away instead of recycling them, producing a significant amount of waste. To navigate this problem, No Harm Done worked towards producing 100% bio-based capsules that are ‘OK Compost Home’ certified. If one chooses to compost them, that’s great. Otherwise, disposing them with regular trash is perfectly safe too as they cause no further harm than any other organic waste.
Ultimately, all business growth and the purpose of pursuing profit should benefit both people and the planet because there is no economy without a thriving ecology. When businesses choose to align themselves with what humankind and the Earth needs, they’re investing their efforts into becoming something of value; recognising their potential, and rising to their responsibility to be a force for good. It’s worth questioning whether a brand’s existence makes the world better off. Is it worth dedicating our limited time on this earth to ensure a brand’s success? Are your businesses’ ideas worth being communicated and spreading like wildfire? Does your brand extract more than it enriches?