Kindness or mindless?
Pierre Berget is founder and creative director of Paris-based branding agency Be Dandy. He argues there's too much goodness in a world of bad eggs. If every brand wants to save the planet then they may end up boring us to death. He questions whether good intentions make for good strategies.
Don't make waves, don't rock the boat. Those are the rules if you want to stay afloat. All kinds of crises and issues have made ‘anxiety’ part of our everyday vocabulary. And brands have stuffed themselves into the gap in the market for kindness. The word is as over-used as it is omnipresent, no matter the industry. Being good to people, taking care of our environment, being kind to ourselves, helping others... For all their good intentions, what do they tell us about the brands and their reality?
True kindness is having common sense rather than the right attitude. Knowing how to keep away from trends, even if it's divisive. Bringing audiences projects with body and personality. Showing your true colours, putting your beliefs into action rather than following the crowd. Apple didn't apologise for sweeping the rug from under Microsoft's feet. A lot of fiery claims and speeches were made without ever being disrespectful. The friction sparked creativity and brought exciting concepts to life. Going against the grain, if the trend doesn't fit the brand, is a good way to be noticed and be heard. You need to have courage in your convictions if you want your community to join you. That way everyone can do their bit to change the world.
Some industries are indecipherable because they've spent so long doing what's expected of them and making the same trendy pledges. Everyone in finance, from M Capital to BlackRock, is promoting responsible investment. These businesses are showcasing their social and environmental values. As if just being decent during a crisis deserved a medal. Is showing off about it appropriate? Being responsible nowadays isn't a brand position and it definitely doesn't reflect character: it's the basic minimum new generations expect of us. Unfortunately, we're jumping on the bandwagon and forgetting what fuelled the brand in the first place.
Novaxia is going against the grain in this very area. As a pioneer in urban transformation, they design and make financial products to empower the city. Inventing new office and housing models, promoting never-before-seen diversity, focusing on regeneration rather than demolition, building avant-garde science laboratories. Their projects reflect their motto, ‘oser l'inhabituel’ (dare to be different), rather than flatly promoting their ethics. That said, Novaxia is a company that has a real social and environmental focus. All its investment vehicles are approved as ISR (Socially Responsible Investment). Its game-changing strategy is worlds away from greenwashing; it has turned the industry on its head but has always stayed true to its roots. Novaxia was founded 15 years ago and is going from strength to strength.
Having a secure position and focusing on questioning schools of thought rather than bolstering them is what makes a long-lasting relationship. We can counter mainstream communication by creating a real and honest brand territory. A glossy brand will always see its audience move towards a brand that may be less polished but is, more importantly, more human. That's what the branding's rough patches are for: to give us something to hold onto.