In the day-to-day life of big corporations, agencies or consulting companies it’s easy to forget the target consumer’s reality. Although consumers are on the core of everything that is done, thought and designed, oftentimes stakeholders know them through figures and reports, but rarely see them in flesh. It is a challenging task to make consumer insights known outside the CMI (Consumer & Market Insights) department and engage more of the company’s staff in the process of understanding the target consumer.
Today there is an increasing tendency to value big data and artificial intelligence – which we, at CBA B+G, totally support. However, we can’t forget the great value of building emotional and human ties throughout the research and innovation process, by using tools that promote an empathetic immersion in the lives of consumers.
But what exactly does empathy mean? According to the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric, it’s about finding shared humanity. He believes that we are urgently in need of empathy to create the ‘social glue’ to hold our society together. From a business point of view, empathizing with consumers is not only ‘cool’; we believe it also leads to transforming, effective and positive results, in three different ways:
Storytelling is at the heart of any empathic process, and there are countless tools, non-digital, hybrid or completely virtual which engage the spectator in the story in a simple, touching and impactful way. Here are some tools and examples that can be applied to society and by brands.
A. Step into someone else’s shoes … literally
If empathy means to step into other people’s shoes, then why not literally do that? That is the proposal of the initiative called “A mile in my shoes” from the Australian National Maritime Museum, which invites visitors to wear shoes that belong to other (real!) people and listen to them telling parts of their stories. In São Paulo, the exhibition “Diálogo com o Tempo” (Dialogue with Time), hosted by Unibes Cultural, has created an immersion environment in the universe of old age, inspired by the same principle.
At CBA B+G, we have applied the same idea during an Innovation workshop held for Plenitude – a brand of disposable underwear, designed for people who suffer from incontinency. We have asked the participants to wear the underwear for three days, to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes and better understand their needs.
B. Capture moments of life through films, audios and photographs
Films and photographs are powerful empathy devices. This thought led the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei to create the film “Human Flow” to raise global awareness about the refugees crisis. Brands also make use of empathetic films to create impactful campaigns. “Thank you, Mom”, the most successful campaign in the history of P&G is really touching because it effectively puts spectators in the place of mothers, creating a strong sense of identification.
At CBA B+G, we have been running ethnographic surveys and online diaries about consumers’ journey, asking them to film moments of their lives using their mobile cameras. For one of the partners we work with, from a hitchhiking app, we used the methodology ‘fear accounts’, through which we kept in touch with the app users via WhatsApp during a week, asking them to send us an audio each time they got scared when using the service, telling us what happened and how they felt. This method allowed us to capture real and touching stories, spontaneously.
C. Immerse in someone else’s world with Virtual Reality (VR)
The VR technology uses a headset to place the spectator in a virtual environment with a 360 view, providing a more intimate and active immersion. For some people, technology is undoubtedly the best way to step into other people’s shoes. Technology has been used in games, science and arts, to recreate the way autistic people perceive the world, and as an invitation to reflect upon the effects of global warming.
At CBA B+G, we have devised for Nestlé a VR Project – Consumer Connections – to immerse in the lives of the target-consumers of three major brands of the company. One of the project’s expectations was to give everyone in the company – regardless of work department or position – the possibility to get to know the daily lives of people from different realities. The tool made it possible, for example, to follow a typical day in the life of Luiza, a teenager who lives in São Paulo and loves KitKat and skating. To Cibele Rodrigues, Research Manager, at CBA B+G, “the project was enriching and powerfully delightful. It refreshed the target, putting everyone on the same page. Moreover, we escaped the traditional reports, showing more humane journeys. At the end of the day, the figures made more sense, allowing executives to take more assertive decisions, closer to the consumer”.
D. Blend consumers with clients, breaking barriers
Who says we cannot mix consumers and clients, spectators and artists, experts and laypeople? Breaking these barriers is also a powerful way to connect people and develop empathy.
We introduce this concept during our processes, joining clients and consumers to work face-to-face, without one-way mirrors and with no condescension. Today, we do the same remotely. Alex Espinosa, CBA B+G’s managing partner and Head of Innovation, explains that the objective is to “create ecosystems where clients, consumers, mentors and experts co-create together with a common purpose, enabling a multi perspective view of the challenge and incorporating experiences that boost the developed solution”.
E. Join virtual with real, using Augmented Reality (AR)
AR has also been gaining space in our lives. This technology make it possible to mix elements from the virtual and real worlds with the advantage of being much more accessible, since it doesn’t require a headset and can be easily developed in an app. It has been largely used, both by entertainment games (who remembers the Pokémon Go fever?) as by brands that provide a product trial without the need to leave home. That’s the case of Ikea, that simulates how your sofa would look in your sitting room; or L’Oréal, that offers the possibility to virtually try on different lipstick colors before choosing one.
But how is augmented reality used in research and Innovation? We have recently developed, together with one of our business partners, an app that used AR in a disruptive way, to make a survey about absorbent pads products. Consumers were able to try different shapes and sizes of new products, simulating real use by projecting them in their panties or bikinis. To Alex Espinosa, “technology allows prototypes and products to reach millions of homes without the need of physically producing any of them, in real-time tests that result in products that better fit the target-consumer. It is the fastest and most effective way to validate your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with consumers and find the added value and possible improvements within minutes”.
We may safely assume that extended reality will continue to evolve and improve to achieve astounding results. We bet on the use of Augmented Reality and other hybrid formats that explore the best of technology to project reality as perceived by others without disregarding human contact. Definitely, digital and analog realities are complementary in capturing insights more sensitively.
To delve into this issue of empathy and its tools more deeply, we recommend watching the TED talk by the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric about how to start an empathy revolution, as well as the New Yorker’s beautiful immersive animated short-documentary film about detention camps in China. If you don’t have a VR headset or cardboard yet, it’s worth buying one and start playing with these new possibilities.
And of course, don’t hesitate to contact us to understand better how we can help your brand use these tools on your behalf. And if this topic inspires you and if you are or know someone who is a business professional, strategist or designer interested in joining our team, write to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us about your expectations, objectives and history. We are always looking for talent!
This article had the contribution of: Carmen Beer, Ana Cerqueira, Giuliana Sanchez, Thaísa Miyahara, Ana Paula Moreno, Alex Espinosa, Cibele Rodrigues, Demer Santos, Mônica Fernandes, Josy Lamenza, Daniela Irrazabal, Rosario Maglione, Renato Storni and Luis Bartolomei.
“…a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?”
My Dad would often sing these classic lyrics to my Mom when I was a very young girl, prompting me to perfect my eye-rolling skills.
It’s doubtful that a set of emojis would have been of much use to the writer of these romantic words as he tried to capture the beauty of his true love. 😥
The song acts as a stark reminder that even pictures have their limits. A thousand words might be stretching it, but a simple heart can definitely replace eight little letters.
So, what do these playful pictograms tell us about the world we live in? Read on to find out.
Emojis are a byproduct of the new technological opportunities available on phones and keyboards. Because we can, we do. Their creation was almost inevitable.
To give their age a little perspective, emojis are a year younger than the first episode of Judge Judy’s TV show.
When it was announced last year that her courtroom drama was to end, her millions of grief-stricken fans were limited to exchanging crying face emojis – there being no hysterical, ululating varieties (yet). The sad face emoji world had never been so busy since the death of Joan Rivers.
Judy Sheindlen may be queen of quickfire one-liners but modern technology is not her strong point. Her loyal sidekick, Officer Byrd, was often called upon to fill her in on the niceties of the digital age which cropped up in the cases she heard. Emojis. Sch-emojis! “Do I have stupid written on my forehead? Case dismissed!”
In Judyland, things are always clear-cut. The kinds of emoji-type images brand Judy could conjure up would be few but definitely extreme.
Emojis, not to be confused with their cousins, GIFs and Memes, may well give us emotional clues when we communicate, but in fact, they come from the Japanese word meaning picture character.
“Emojis increase the precision and nuance of our often super-brief and open-to-misunderstanding communications,” Alizah K. Lowell, Psychology Today.
Suzanne Moore has a point, but the truth is that many of us don’t have the time or inclination to write exactly what we mean or feel. We’re so often glued to our phones that multitasking has become the norm and some jobs need to be quick.
Texting a pictogram of a thumbs-up, a bottle of bubbly or smiley face 👍🍾 😊 is irresistible while concentrating on the latest offering from Netflix, for example. It’s instant, fast and says what we mean. Job done.
So sophisticated have we become at using emojis that we can be caring, confrontational, passive-aggressive or sarcastic, all at the touch of a single button or emoji. (And, sometimes we don’t even mean to be any of those things.)
Given their simplicity, lazy artwork appears to be behind the controversy some emojis have caused during their relatively short lives.
“Clotted cream or jam on your scone first, madam?” It depends where you are, of course. Our very British Design Director, Chris Martin 💂 informed me of the war waged between Cornwall and Devon about the right way to make a proper cream tea. It’s as old as the ‘milk in first or last’ conundrum when making a cup of English Breakfast tea. 🫖
In a similar way, some food emojis have almost created international incidents. Users could be forgiven for not being truly grateful for the original cheeseburger emoji Google served up. The company got its emoji chef to recreate it with the cheese on top rather than underneath the patty.
Apple’s first attempt at a bagel emoji was enough to evoke a string of Gordon Ramsey-style expletives. Anemic and plastic-looking, it was replaced with something more realistic, tempting and filled with cream cheese. I’d have added a little smoked salmon myself.
Harmless water pistols have pushed real guns down the emoji pecking order. Even innocent-looking vegetables have found themselves caught up in the controversial world of sexual, emoji innuendo.
Emojis by their very nature are caught in the crossfire of diversity. It’d take a very brave person to try and come up with a range of emojis which fully represented humanity in all its different colors and shades.
The founding father and mother of all emojis is arguably the smiley face. It began with a simple 🙂 in texts and emails long before colorful, designer emojis became de rigeur.
Some researchers claim our brains even process and recognize facial expressions made up of characters in the same way as real ones. Who knows? We might one day start responding to an emoji as we would to a real bottle of red wine or beer. It’d certainly be cheaper. I’ll take two of each, please.
As I was researching for this article, I learned that Fatboy Slim, the international DJ aka Norman Cook, is a smiley face aficionado who’s gathered what’s possibly the biggest collection of smiley fashion items in the world.
The smiley he’s such a fan of was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1963 when artist Harvey Ball was asked by the State Mutual Life Assurance Company to make badges that would improve staff morale.
“The first ever 12-inch single I bought was Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads in 1977,” Fatboy Slim explains. “That had a picture of a smiley T-shirt. That was the first semi-ironic use of it – it was everything that punk rock wasn’t.”
The smiley symbol has been rediscovered by generation after generation. Adopted as both a corporate logo and acid house icon, it’s inspired artists like Banksy and even featured in the noir superhero Watchmen movie.
It’s reassuring to know that during such challenging times modern versions of a happy face are still the most used and most popular emojis.
This article was written by Isabelle Narciso, Designer, New York.
I’m thrilled to announce that the next Design Series article will be written and illustrated by CBA Design Director Arturas Janusas on the topic of space!
Brand activism is nothing new. The importance of having a clear purpose has been extensely discussed for decades. Aligned with this foremost intention comes the necessity to define which causes a brand wants to support, meeting the demands of an audience that craves for more humane and coherent stances. Nowadays, brands have to stand for more than just profit: they are expected to contribute to building a better society.
The uncontrolled pandemic, the polarization of society, the stronger presence of social media and the growing cancel culture have boosted the game. What used to be an opportunity, is now a requirement – at times, essential for the survival. Brands have to build a positive impact territory; the mere position of trading goods and services, coupled with the neutrality towards relevant issues such as racism, gender, feminism and environment, is no longer a strong enough offer. Not taking a stand may give rise to the impression of consent, while stating an opinion can be seen as hypocrisy – if the talk is not followed by concrete actions, aligned with the brand’s DNA – depleting the brand’s value.
Thus, brands must take a clear stance and genuinely commit to one or more causes to remain competitive. The challenge faced is how to approach it constructively, being faithful to the brand’s values and not sounding self-serving, besides being careful to minimize the risks of boycott in an increasingly demanding environment where one slip can be fatal.
Bearing this challenging and intriguing setting in mind, we propose some reflections to help brands understand the different possible types and levels of activism, the risks and benefits of speaking up. Paths that, when followed with truth and transparency, can lead to a real and long-lasting commitment.
We all know, there is no single way to engage, and there is no right or wrong. We suggest below an ‘activism profile classification’ based on the brand’s DNA and its intended relation with its stakeholders, more than on the company’s size or category. Here they are:
Brands that are activists since foundation, deeply engaged with causes related to the brand’s core values, and supported by the founding partners or CEOs themselves. They believe that action speaks louder than words, and they take to the streets with its public to be heard and actually aim to achieve social change. They create a strong emotional tie with its fans, so much that they usually become brand ambassadors.
Innovative brands, pioneers in their respective businesses since foundation. Their own core products or services are their flags, since their proposal is to change patterns and break a category status quo. They usually forge an emotional bond with their consumer base, for meeting previously unmet needs.
So, when is it worth to engage and get political about a current cause or issue? For Carolina Barruffini, CBA B+G Branding director, brands have to be more daring: “No doubt there are some risks involved when brands engage in relevant causes. However, many real examples have showed us that taking action is better than not taking a stand, even if there’s little impact – provided that the action is driven by truth and transparency.”
We listed below the pros and cons that every brand must consider before taking a stand.
How then, can brand activism be a long-term, authentic and minimal-risk commitment? We suggest 8 steps to make it happen. It is a long journey, however it can surely put you on the right track to remain relevant in the future.
The 8 steps for achieving Positive Impact are:
1. Define a clear and powerful brand positioning
What is the brand reason for being, its beliefs? What is the brand’s DNA, its personality, its target audience? Branding for the future – a playbook with thoughts on how to reconnect brands, consumer and market – the three fundamental business spheres (which are still more importante in times of pandemic) – is a way to help you understand the brand context and its actions. Learn more about it here.
2. Choose your battles
Based on the brand core values – and aligned with them –identify the causes that the brand has credibility to support.
3. Define the stakeholders
Besides the target audience and brand consumers, who else does the brand impact, directly or indirectly, externally or internally? Stakeholders include employees and their family, board and investors, influencers, specialized media, government and social agents.
4. Look at the brand’s track record (and its present moment)
Although the brand purpose may have evolved over the years, the brand’s past cannot be ignored. It’s important to revisit previous actions, statements and campaigns to assess the credibility of engaging on a topic. And, sometimes, make a mea culpa (Skol has done this in 2017, who remembers?). Also, reputation must be considered; if it is fragile, spotlighting your brand may not be the best move.
5. Define the brand activism profile
Among the different profiles – superactivist, paradigm breaker, daring, responsible – which makes more sense for your brand today and which it aspires for the future?
6. Identify potential risks
The more renowned the brand is, the more important it is to assess the risks and benefits of taking a stance – or of staying neutral.
7. Walk the talk
Promises, great speeches or fierce campaigns are not enough to guarantee a brand’s survival without significant and real actions to support them. Consumers expect the brand (company) to engage in a realistic and tangible way, and if it doesn’t, they will ask for it.
8. Listen to feedback
Stakeholders feedback deserve attention. The brand must learn from its mistakes and successes and act quickly. Monitoring the brand’s “promises versus deliveries” can be decisive for the brand’s health and reputation.
Would you like to delve deeper into the topics of activism, brands and branding? We recommend: watching the interview with Rose Marcaria – Patagonia President and CEO – for Stanford students; listening to the episode Ativismo nos dias atuais (Today’s activism), from the podcast “O Tempo Virou” by Giovanna Nader, with the social activist Alessandra Orofino; and last but not least, reading this excellent article on the importance of taking risks, written by brand strategist Jasmine Bina.
You can always get in touch with us if you wanna chat about the challenges and opportunities for your brand. And if this subject inspires you and you are or know business professionals, strategists and designers who are interested in being part of our team, send an e-mail to email@example.com with expectations, goals and stories. We are always looking for new talents!
The content of this article had the contribution of: Carmen Beer, Ana Cerqueira, Giuliana Sanchez, Thaísa Miyahara, Carolina Barrufini, Ana Biselli, Renato Storni, José F. Ramirez, Fabiana Quiroga, Josy Lamenza, Daniela Irrazabal, and Luis Bartolomei.
With the rise of feminist movements and the fights for gender parity in society, we questioned the place of women in companies in France. Although actions, such as the equality index, have been put in place, women represent today (2020) only 18% of management positions in our country *. Of course, gender diversity is more and more accepted, standardized, and demanded in different fields, but women are still too rare when it comes to leading. (Since Isabelle Kocher was disembarked at the beginning of February from her position of Managing Director at Engie, there is no longer a woman at the head of a CAC 40 ** company).
Design has long been a man’s business.
Women more often than men tend not to feel legitimate in certain positions of responsibility. The world of design is no exception. Indeed, design has long been a matter of man. In fact, the most famous designers have often been men; women having been completely excluded until the 1930s. A phenomenon that could be explained by the following fact. Women have long been seen as simple housewives, unable to understand the business world and run a business or a team. Another explanation could be that of “impostor syndrome”.
However, there are exceptions! Some women still manage to find their way in this world long dominated by men. Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand or Florence Knoll. These names mean nothing to you? Understandable. These are women who, despite their talent and skills, have remained in the shadow of men. For example, Charles and Ray Eames have long been thought of as two brothers. Now, Ray is a woman. And what about the furniture designed by Charlotte Perriand that was signed Le Corbusier? But still, you surely know the Nike’s swooch ? One of the most recognizable symbols in the world. It was also created by a woman. And no, this is not the achievement of one of the brand’s co-founders! The artist’s name is Carolyn Davidson; yet, still too few people know her name. And finally, let’s talk about the Knoll furniture publishing house, inspired and founded by Florence Knoll, and not her husband. It is important to keep in mind that in the 1950s, when women were supposed to stay at home, a young woman like Knoll was able to build what is still the biggest furniture publisher today! If this has been possible, it is because all women can do it and, above all, be legitimate to do so.
The stories of these women remind us of how important it is to fight for your passions. These design pioneers, who at the time were not rightly regarded for their work, are now among the most recognized female designers.
So, to all future generations of designers, DARE!
But then, beyond the place of women in design and their positions of responsibility, do the latter influence creations? Can we, with the naked eye, recognize a feminine creation from a masculine creation?
Emotions have always been considered a gender marker. The men are in the reason, the logic, the pragmatism while the women have a more sensitive and in fact more intuitive approach; which will make them more inclusive and emotional in their approach. However, one is not better than the other. What makes design so interesting and powerful is the combination of the two influences: sensitivity and pragmatism, emotional and functional, compassion and logic. Creation is therefore an act that goes beyond genre. When you are a designer or a creator, there is necessarily a more important dimension of sensitivity, which goes beyond the genre. However, when the council looks at more technical, performance-oriented design registers, there may indeed be more men, such as architecture. We can then wonder if this is related to emotional creation versus mechanical creation?
So, the question could be: does the genre has an impact on the perception that the designer has of what surrounds them and what feeds their inspiration, on their approach ultimately? A designer is someone who observes the world around them and who responds to issues. The world around us does not look the same for a man as it does for a woman, so they tackle different issues.
A concrete example: at the end of the 1940s, Charlotte Perriand invented the open kitchen; why the kitchens should always be relayed to the back of the house, isolated? House in which the woman would only have the right to appear with the finished dish. With an open kitchen, she can cook, chat with friends and family, have a glass of wine, etc. A purely design issue that a man might not have thought of; and it is in this sense that the genre has an influence. This influence will allow women to be more attentive, especially to brands, which are more collaborative with consumers and their customers.
The future of women in design looks bright and promising.
The future of women in design therefore promises to be flourishing and very promising; even if it will always be a rocky road. This notion of resilience that women have, this courage and this selflessness make them forces capable of creating designs that are more respectful, more durable and more human. We have gone beyond the demands, and arrive in a logic of appeasement, and recognition of the strengths of women, without comparison. A balance, a complementarity.
Fighting today goes way beyond what it was even a few years ago, and is gender-neutral. At the moment, society is moving at high speed on the issue of gender. The new generation takes up subjects with greater heights, focusing their struggles on equity and diversity. In addition, there are more and more collective movements, led by women, which are flourishing, in all fields. These collectives will make it possible to break these glass ceilings. Women, just like men, will finally be able to show their talents and be recognized for it.
Thus, female influence is therefore present in the approach and analysis of a problem. But in the end, the expression is done in the same way since all designers are passionate about their profession and sensitive by nature.
In short, the design is therefore non-gendered.
And, because design is a mirror of society, and society is multi-gender, it must address all targets, and all walks of life.
A resilient territory can be defined as having the capacity to anticipate, react and adapt in order to develop sustainably regardless of the disturbances it faces.
Additionally, as a branding agency, we believe in design as an element of positive transformation. Since 2017, we have been convinced that the successful brands of tomorrow are those that will place people at the heart of their approach, embody a cause and have meaning, to leave a memorable mark beyond what they sell. Indeed, beyond local elected officials and mission-oriented companies, brands can also become actors.
They will always keep their primary economic role: to create jobs and to have an impact on the purchasing power of consumers. But they have the ability to go beyond their primary purpose and thus have a key role to play. A support role but also a driving force. Why? Because they are anchored in a principle of reality that brings them closer and connects them to citizens. This allows them to act as a support but also as a motor, a mirror of society. In addition to their commercial value, they participate in progress through innovation, their discourse, pedagogy, and give consumers the means to act.
Some brands have transformed at the pace of consumers. They are anchored in a principle of reality that brings them together and connects them. They bring them a notion of dreams and pleasure by making their daily lives easier and by being more attentive to their needs. Indeed, there are those that adapt to the desires of consumers, without neglecting emotional value and pleasure. Those that meet their engagement needs. And finally, those who try to combine it all.
It is these useful brands, with a sufficiently rooted and embodied purpose that have a role to play in the development of territories. As a brand, how not to get lost in the twists and turns of its existence? How to elevate its utility beyond a simple functional response? How to impact the territories by developing sustainable and accessible solutions? Questions to which a few brands have already answered thanks to the consistency of the evidence and actions attesting to their purpose.
It is these useful brands, with a sufficiently rooted and embodied purpose that have a role to play in the development of territories.
Blablacar, whose mission has been declared since its creation “The good for all”, has demonstrated its agility and its contribution to the resilience of regions, thanks to the creation of its Blablahelp application: a service that connects neighbors in order to support and to support people who are isolated. A surge of solidarity around a community already well established and in perpetual growth, allowing the brand to have a significant impact on the territories and legitimacy to take part in them.
The startup Né d’une seule Ferme has also contributed to progress. The brand’s mission is to enhance the profession of farmer, by providing them with fairer remuneration, while promoting farms through the creation of the first national multi-local brand. Unique yogurts with a taste specific to each region.
In short, alongside citizens, local actors and governments, brands also have a role to play in the resilience of territories and more generally in their environment.
This is not just an exercise in style or tendency: it involves rights and duties. Having an impact on society, and therefore gaining relevance to local issues, requires honesty demonstrated by thoughtful and consistent actions. Without this, the actions taken by the brand may be perceived as opportunistic, thus diluting its impact through lack of consistency.
These are levers of action in the resilience of territories.
In May 2019, our IMG report Direct to Consumer revolutionappeared, dedicated to DTC brands, native digital players who, by disintermediating the value chain, are redefining the frontiers of certain specific industries.
From then on, many things have changed, and the DTC phenomenon, accelerated by the digitalisation attained during the pandemic, has affected the rules of the game in various sectors, even in Italy.
Just consider what has happened here with us over the last six months:
The reason why even established brands are making their moves – no longer timidly – in DTC can be explained in terms of three fundamental objectives
However, these three forms of leverage, absolutely crucial for consolidated structures, are no longer something innovative for consumers, who in the meantime have developed new expectations: the bar has been raised, to the point that the public does not just desire, but positively expects, an impeccable customer care, excellent design, faultless wow experiences, a website and social media packed with entertaining content, backed up by an exciting community.
Many, above all at an international level, have interpreted this moment in history as a wave to be surfed, a golden opportunity for standing out on the market. But the result is exactly the opposite. In other words, there is a standardisation in terms of what is offered, created by the desire to follow “DTC laws” to the letter: considering a product category, such as electric toothbrushes, we see that the market is becoming saturated with identical products, with the same business model, the same design, the same communication strategy and tone of voice. We are witnessing a progressive uniformity of supply, and consumers find it difficult to find their way around, because all brands are responding to the same need in exactly the same way.
We are also seeing an increase in CPA(cost per acquisition), precisely because the powerful model based on social media communications, adopted early on by DTC brands, has become the principal sales channel for most DTCs, pushing costs sky-high.
There is yet more: DTC brands, in their DNA, have a specific response to the needs of a niche target. This “obsession” with a specific niche, something that for some time has denoted these brands’ power and success, is now beginning to crumble: by now, the niche has beenreached, if not by the brand itself, by one of its competitors, and growth, in terms of volume, has become very hard to attain, unless by applying new strategies for expanding the portfolio and/or services.
What is the added value that big brands can bring to this by now saturated market?
The entry of big brands into this market could make waves and bring some interesting innovations at a moment of notable difficulty for the smaller players:
BUT… There is still a big BUT.
Both DTC brands and big brands will soon find themselves fighting a shared enemy…
Having eliminated the old intermediaries is no longer enough. New middlemen are appearing and they will steal the privileged position of direct contact with consumers. Just think of the inexorable growth of voice shopping.
In an ever-nearer future, voice assistants will choose for us, according to our purchasing habits, but also strongly promoting proprietary brands, or those willing to pay in order to be selected automatically. This will lead to the arrival of incidental loyalty, in other words, the birth of a fidelity linked to decisions over which the user has no control.
So, the fight for disintermediation continues…
The concept of business by women, for women lately applied in the world of brands has been calling our attention. Of course we are intrinsically interested in approaching the topic from a branding, design, research and innovation point of view, but in this case, what makes our eyes sparkle is more the women share than the business one.
If on one hand we are living a chaotic situation, when feelings of radicalism and neglect seem to reign – and we are not speaking (only) of politics, on the other hand we have to value the openness we are experiencing regarding gender issues, representativeness and empowerment of different groups in society. It has been, is and will always be the time to open dialogue on inequalities and let them take center stage in the debate.
Getting back to women, according to a research carried out by Kantar (WPP) in 2019, the brands are still not really listening to what women want. The survey, called What women want, analyzed Brazilian women’s self-esteem and classified it into five dimensions. The analysis guides brands to take a position, aligning their purpose so that they connect to the contributors of women self-esteem: freedom of thought/ expression, sexual/body autonomy, accessibility/visibility, social connections/network and financial autonomy. It’s a very interesting study. If you have already read it, take the opportunity to reread it – you can download the full file here.
Knowing that there’s much more to be done, but looking again at the bright side of this discussion, we looked for brands that are known for engaging with the female universe. We chose two lists that present brands created and managed by women who think, question, provoke and inspire. The first was drawn up by Obvious Agency, an inspiration in itself due to the revolutionary format of the content built about women – they have it all: women’s rights, maternity, self-care, sex, career, self-esteem, relationship, culture, trends. In September, Obvious shared a list with six small businesses created by Brazilian women and how their brands take a positive and affirmative stance. It is worth a look! The second is a list from an American magazine from California – Redbook, which highlights successful foreign companies run by women, which aim to wield a positive influence on other women. Learn the stories of these 13 business women and their brands.
Cristina Fernandes, the entrepreneur from Atelier Lady Brown mentioned in the Obvious list, told us a little about the adventure of owning your own business. In addition to her will to create, she counted with her qualification in fashion, her mother’s techniques and, joining talent and discipline, added one more element – a learning that can be regarded as a good piece of advice for other creators: “I have learned that we must not be afraid of pricing our product. Trying to please is not the way to go, but rather understanding the value and costs involved. The right clients will come and value our work properly.”
There’s also a growing and powerful movement around menstruation.
Many companies have been changing their brand language and products to keep up with a topic that, a short while ago, was considered exclusively a women’s issue. Now, they see the need to represent the diversity of experiences, when addressing people with periods. Therefore, apart from women, they include transgender and non-binary people – who have always been neglected by brands – generating a buzz, and affording visibility and demystification in campaigns such as How You Period, #TheWholeBloodyTruth.
With the same demystification context of the menstrual taboo, another Brazilian example of awareness campaign is the #ChegadeEstigma, by Intimus – Kimberly-Clark®’s brand of feminine care. “The campaign challenges society to break paradigms and negative perceptions about menstruation, which usually picture women in a fragile and limited situation”, explains the category’s Marketing Director Samia Chehab. “It is more and more my role to give voice and make room for these causes and also meet consumers’ current expectations about an active brand positioning in society”. Another woman, Thais Hamer, CBA B+G’s responsible for Intimus brand, shares Samia’s view: “the freedom I experience at work today and the purpose of the brands I assist, such as Intimus, in synergy with my values, fulfill me and motivate me to keep building a fairer world, where there’s room for all, men and women.”
And there is more! A recent collaboration of Pantone® with a Swedish brand of menstrual cups has resulted in the red hue Period, in a campaign to promote menstrual positivity, encouraging people, regardless of gender, to feel comfortable and at ease to discuss and normalize the topic.
Transcending business, the role of women in this pandemic – that is outlasting people’s patience – should be highlighted. As you must have already read, an important fact that deserves attention is that the UN High Commissioner has appointed that, from the 12 countries that have better coped with the Covid-19 pandemic, nine are governed by women. The positive role that the feminine view and handling can play in the leading of possible solutions with respect to the pandemic scenario, becomes clear.
Speaking of view, what do we see when we look inside? How are we behaving, in our CBA B+G community, towards women? From which stance are we discussing this struggle for social change and evolution?
Women are nothing short than 70% of our total workforce, and they hold more than half of the managerial positions (54%). Considering this large representation, simple but impacting initiatives have been sought and implemented. In 2019, we introduced an internal policy aimed at mothers, aware of the fact that during the first year of maternity it is hard for them to balance the roles played in their family, social and business life. In addition to the maternity leave time secured by law, a short-time and gradually restored work schedule – in a home-office regime – was introduced, allowing mothers to resume the regular work activities 12 months after giving birth.
Working on the assumption that we are all exposed to structural contamination, gender issues are being closely observed, beyond the figures. As for example at the Board of Directors, where only one of the four positions are held by a woman. “Balance is the key-word”, says Shirley Rodrigues, HR manager. “The search for equity is one of the reasons for the internal study we are conducting to understand, historically, how our recruiting process and career development program have been driven, so that we are able to realize, in the course of time, if we are promoting gender equality, for example. And if not, what are the factors that cause this imbalance, in spite of our mostly feminine management environment – which has an active voice concerning promotions and bonuses. We want to understand which causes are structural – and therefore invisible to the arguments; which are cultural – and must be reviewed; and finally which are contextual and temporary… an on-going analysis and adjustment motion which, in spite of the two decades of operation, we are examining in-depth for the first time.”
The 1970s motto #thefutureisfemale has been fighting for decades the misogynistic culture. More than just a simple slogan, the statement carries meanings that are renewed over time. Some years ago we have conducted a study to understand the power of feminine and its impact on the understanding of the brands’ role and positioning. Our analysis has revealed that the feminization of businesses would come to stay – and indeed it has – showing that the feminine view and attitude would not only attract and retain women, but also more people, regardless of gender, by achieving balance and the universal transformation of purpose. It is a comprehensive and detailed study*, built and discussed in forums in and outside CBA B+G, that still inspires us and is worth remembering:
* To view this content in English, click here.
From brands to products, personal stories to social policies, across countries and continents, and in all spheres, women carry the power of change in a world that longs for balance through pro-women solutions. Finally, we would like to indulge with a time capsule, recalling now and forever, some of the icons of feminism. To print and fix on your fuchsia, cyan, black, period – or whatever color you please – wall!
The content of this article had the contribution of: Ana Cerqueira, Cristina Fernandes, Samia Chehab, Thais Hamer, Shirley Rodrigues, Thaísa Miyahara, Giuliana Sanchez, Ana Paula Moreno, Josy Lamenza, Daniela Irrazabal, Renato Storni and Luis Bartolomei.
The quest for meaning and usefulness brings a lot of changes; especially for brands that had chosen omnichannel. Signs that brick and mortar retailers are losing consumers along the way. The same is true for Digital Natives brands which only have a virtual relationship with their customers.
Why? Simply because Retail is a tool, not a purpose. It must be thought as an ecosystem and each brick has its importance when it comes to usefulness.
Today’s technologies are not the enemies of Retail. On the contrary, they make it possible to improve relationships, to facilitate advice, personalization and listening, and to manage inventories and the supply chain in real time, thus making it possible to better adapt to market expectations. The new digital tools also give every consumer a voice, creating more opportunities for brands to understand and respond to consumers and to create unique relationships on a large scale. On the other hand, brick and mortar stores are tangible proofs of a brand’s seriousness and credibility. Street stores appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell), allowing consumers to immerse themselves in the brand’s universe, and thus to retain a stronger emotional memory of the brand.
This is why it’s important for the future of Retail to take both of these aspects into account in the quest for reinvention: digital access combined with physical experience in-store.
Moreover, the newest consumers (Gen Z) are curious, engaged, actors of their (virtual and real) lives, in search of adventure and highlights. They like to perform on stage, social life is like being in a play. These “consum’actors” like to be part of a tribe and to think collectively: they like carpooling, co-working, co-living, etc.
They carefully consider their relationship to a brand, which must be true, intimate, surprising, unique and diverse.
Therefore, if I had to invent a new brand today, as a designer, I would start by asking myself about the target audience and what their personality, tastes, habits, lifestyle and values are. Then, I would try to define a meaning and purpose that responds to a lack, or to a need for change. And I would finish by building an ecosystem for the relationship, making sure that each building block is at the right place at the right time. This could be done seamlessly by:
Tomorrow’s Retail is ultimately a tool to fully experience the brand with your head and your heart. Experiencing the brand before, during and after the act of buying, because customer loyalty is the best proof of success.
The Retail we once knew is dead; let’s invent the Retail of tomorrow by developing an ecosystem of physical and virtual experiences.
We know that the fact that more and more people are buying on-line is changing dramatically the buying experience. The products that were once seen on shelfs, are now purchased on a screen. The virtual environment reduces the natural interaction offered by physical stores. The on-line version of the product must take this change into account, however, should not alter completely its real characteristics.
Therefore, we believe that balance is key. The information of the product’s benefits must be kept, while the communication method must be adapted. In other words, we should keep the purpose and change the execution.
To find the right balance in this new purchase journey, we have developed a methodology to boost packaging assets, so that its advantages can still be offered, even on the on-line environment. The packaging must be impressive and appealing, to result in a purchase decision. The ‘e-pack’ mindset can be adopted for any category, observing the brand’s stage of development. Shapes, shades, contrast colors and messages – all elements are rethought to call attention and make the new e-shopper’s life easier.
The new e-pack methodology was developed by our Strategy and Design teams, guided by an innovative view, and matching the needs imposed by the new reality, respecting people’s needs while preserving the positive brand and product experience.
Something is useful if it serves a purpose or a person, or if it satisfies a need or creates the conditions for a need to be satisfied. An individual can be useful. So can an object. So can a service. All kinds of things can be useful, and all kinds of other things can be useless; something that is useful for one person may seem useless to someone else. So who is the judge of what is useful? And what criteria make it possible to judge?
To understand usefulness, it is interesting to observe how we define it over the course of a lifetime.
As children, usefulness opens up the field of possibilities. We constantly ask ourselves, “Why?” and “What’s that for?” These two questions shape our worldview, our understanding of what surrounds us, and the future we wish to create. The main criteria for assessing usefulness are logic, common sense and ideals.
As adults, usefulness becomes a means to an end. “How?” and “Why do that?” are the questions that guide us. We study for a career. We work to get paid. We make a life for ourselves in order to leave a legacy. The criteria for assessing how useful something is include how much time it will save, how well it performs, whether or not it can make money, and what kind of legacy it will leave.
The shift from childhood into adulthood turns our field of possibilities into a life path which is all mapped out.
It is a chance to ask ourselves the questions that we stopped asking. It has made us realise that we can no longer carry on as before.
So the “downtime” opens the door to three opportunities. One is to create an ideal world with the aid of logic and common sense. Another is to establish new criteria for usefulness, criteria which define usefulness as whatever enables us to improve society, to contribute to the well-being of humanity or to preserve the planet. Finally, we have the opportunity to act collectively, since we have realised that we cannot succeed on our own.
Some brands have already led the way, proving to us that it is possible. Too Good To Go is putting an end to food waste. Yuka is encouraging manufacturers to offer healthier recipes. Farmers’ drive-through stores are helping consumers to eat locally. Engie is rewarding those who consume less energy. Daddy is getting rid of its plastic packaging. Patagonia is repairing damaged products.
Others want to follow this new road as well, making use of their resources and their visibility to serve the world of the future. But how can brands achieve this?
Design is an extension of usefulness. What links them is the task and intention they both share: to make everyday life easier and thereby facilitate change. Design is a tool for transformation, and it makes usefulness visible and tangible. In a way, it is the voice of a brand’s commitment, which means it can help to raise consumer awareness and thereby create change, a positive action that may lead to progress.
So for the brands, what we’re talking about is designing business models that make it easy to change our behaviour, by getting citizens involved in the effort. So we need to design positioning that motivates people to make a positive impact. We also have to design identities that have a beneficial influence. And we need to design products and services that embody this new approach.
That means designing useful things, with honesty, flexibility and commitment.