Turned tables

Brands used to be desirable, mysterious and superior. As consumers, we used to buy into their myth, their dreams and their lifestyle.

But has our receptiveness to seduction shrunken with our pockets?

Instead of it being us buying into a brand’s supremacy, it is now often the brand who is ‘buying‘ into us. It‘s about them showing how their offering fits into, and contributes to, our lives.

Take Nike as an example. Their marketing used to focus on endorsing famous athletes and their performance.

Their 2012 ‘Find your Greatness‘ campaign was instead about how greatness is in everyone. It follows the direction Nike has moved in for the last few years – to deliver on their mission to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete (regardless of ability) in the world.

Now look at Burberry, a brand that has opened its catwalks to the ‘common people’, striving for ‘democratic luxury‘. Their site ‘Art of the trench’ shows ‘ordinary people‘ wearing the coat in their everyday life. It‘s inclusive instead of exclusive. Luxury is offered through customization, allowing the high-end users to tailor the trench to their taste.

The artist Lady Gaga has also shown this tendency, of stepping down off the superstar pedestal to stand on the ground with her fans. She showed herself to be vulnerable in a recent outcry to her fans, after being attacked by the press for an implied weight-gain, revealing her battle with eating disorders and posting images of herself in her underwear. Her fans have responded with the same openness, showing their own physical insecurities, calling for a ‘body revolution‘.

This turn, of how brands must act beyond self-interest and gain real trust, was discussed at the Be a Brand conference held in London this month.
It was stated that brands are seeking their purpose, ‘shifting their business view from short term profit to long term purpose driven performance‘.

We can see this new relationship being fully developed in the digital world, where the product so often is dependent on its users.

Take the Google Chrome adverts as an example. Google shows how their products enable us to experience emotional connections to others, over a longer period of time. It is no longer our relationship to the brand that is central, but the brand’s role in our relationship to others.

Brands are no longer in control of our lives, we are in control of them. We build their reputation, we take the roles as their brand ambassadors, we give them their content – as long as they treat us with the love and respect we deserve.