With the rise of digital, and more specifically of social media, a wide range of solutions and tools have been developed, allowing brands to become more embedded in consumers’ daily lives. Those who succeed in being integrate in a natural way thank empathy offer valuable insights on their uses and consumption habits, thereby transforming the way they are perceived by brands.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Many other tools allow companies to adopt a more empathetic approach with consumers and thus build a more emotional and human relationship with them. In the next issue dedicated to empathy, we will explore together how different digital tools, such as Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, could be effective solutions to better meet the needs of targets and formulate meaningful insights.
Cet article a pu voir le jour grâce à la contribution de : 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.
On the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, we gave a voice to the women who bring design to life at CBA. Today, we wanted to go further by asking ourselves the question of the influence of gender in design. And yes, if design had a gender, what would it be? Do female and male’s influences differ that much? And what is the final impact, on society, on uses?
Men have always had an important, even dominant, place in the world of design, echoing their place in society. Although some female artists have stood out, offering innovative creations, especially for their time, the most famous architects and designers remain mostly men. Thus, the majority of the products and services that we use on a daily basis were created by these gentlemen.
Having always had the monopoly, one can wonder if they ask themselves the same questions as women do. In terms of ergonomics, safety etc. men and women do not have the same life experience, the same culture and often do not have the same education, not to mention biological differences.
The impact of the male influence is such that products and services tailored primarily to the male gender are still found today.
For example, let’s talk about car: even if less affected by road accidents, women have 47% more risk of being seriously injured, 71% of being slightly injured and 17% more risk of dying than men. ** The reason? Crash test dummies have long been based on male builds. Therefore, the design of the belts and airbags did not take into account the difference in mass and muscle distribution between men and women, which can be fatal for the latter.
The automotive industry is not the only sector where gender has an impact on society. The same goes for furniture and architecture in general. In 1945, the architect Le Corbusier conceptualized the Modulor, a universal silhouette making it possible to design the structure and size of the furniture. The only thing, this silhouette was imagined on a male build of one meter eighty-three, which is far from the female standards, whose average height is equivalent to one meter sixty. Another more recent example: the current trend is for smartphone screens larger than 4 inches, in order to make the most of multimedia content. However, according to a study conducted by Strategy Analytics *, women would prefer a smaller screen, around 3.5 inches; ergonomic logic, knowing that most women have smaller hands than men.
But make no mistake, not all designers have come up with products that are only suitable for men.
To name but one, Henry Dreyfuss, one of the forerunners of inclusive design, set out to put the user at the center of his designs. “Let’s keep in mind that this object that we are working on is going to be used by people, individually or in mass”, he said. Considering that a design project must be able to integrate all social, ethical, aesthetic and practical requirements, in 1955 he published a book entitled “Design for people”. He was not the only one: many other male designers are showing design innovation. Victor Papanek, a pioneer in eco-design, has dedicated his life to promoting responsible design for the planet and for society. Speaking of society and inclusion, did you know, for example, that some everyday products were originally designed for people with disabilities? This is the case of the remote control, an idea of Robert Adler, which was to be intended for bedridden people unable to move around to be able to change channels.
In terms of design, as in marketing, we find for most products, a separation: there are those intended “for men”, and those “for women”. We observe the same thing with the famous: “pink for girls, blue for boys”. Where did it come from? Did you know that a few centuries ago pink was the color of boys? Indeed, since antiquity, the color pink was rather attributed to men, because it was considered a sub-color of red, which at the time, symbolized power, authority and war. Blue was for a long time the color attributed to women, in reference to the blue mantle of the Virgin Mary: it symbolized purity. It was at the end of the Middle Ages that this fashion was reversed, with the Protestant Reformation, blue became a symbol of gods and strength, and red became the symbol of love and femininity. It was in the 18th century that the Marquise de Pompadour, who had fallen in love with this color, would have made it fashionable in clothing but also in decoration, which would have made pink popular for women.
But ultimately, does this gender classification really define design? Not necessarily. We have seen that fashions and influences change at the same rate as society evolves. Male and female influences are unique to everyone, depending on their personal experience. There is no longer any question of gender separation. For some time now, fashion has been “no gender”, and more and more brands are investing in this niche. This trend is influenced by the changing codes of society: according to a study published by the advertising agency Bigeye, half of Gen Z and 56% of millennials believe that the binary value of gender is outdated.
As a result, more and more brands are deciding to follow this trend: many toys are becoming gender-neutral, with neutral colors in order to break out of this restrictive dichotomy. The same goes for the fashion or cosmetics sector where a certain number of collections are made unisex.
A more “gender neutral” youth and why not freer, in its choices and its own influences.
One by one, social stereotypes are being deconstructed. Inclusion and compassion are not just about women, logic and reason are not just about men. It’s not the gender but the experience and approach that will create the design; and it is mostly the people, the personalities, the eras, the visions and the genius of each one that allow progress.
Does design have a genre? And if the woman had an influence in the design, what would it be? Whether a muse or an artist, women have always been present in the world of creation and design. Although they has long been in the shadow of men, what is it today?
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, these 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.
The resilience of territories is an omnipresent subject, to which we, citizens, are all confronted and sensitive. For the past year, we have been questioning the role of policies in territories and their resilience. The growing mistrust of them might suggest that their impact has been minimal; and yet mayors have a level of trust twice as high as the government.
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.
Where our consumption patterns are doomed to change, the agri-food sector also has its role to play. How? ‘Or’ What ? By developing the concept of Sustainable Food.
At CBA, we are proud to support brands and companies that bring meaning and constantly seek to improve their practices. Come and discover some of the brands with which we have collaborated in the development of projects that promote Sustainable Food.
Through design, we advance their Critical Imprint.
For this project, the CBA teams created:
Since then, the identity of Maggi Marketplace has been rolled out in several key markets, such as Germany, Australia, France, Poland and the Netherlands.
Today we have repositioned the Daddy brand by deploying an iconoclastic and atypical differentiation strategy driven by packaging design, innovation and activation.
Since November 2019, the cane sugar range has been offered in doypack packaging made from 100% recyclable kraft paper, with a new design for better emergence on the shelf.
Concretely, a project that reconciles meaning and utility for this historic brand!
Good Goût is a brand created in 2010 by parents who wanted to reinvent the “baby food” category.
In collaboration with a Chef, they were able to launch small dishes for babies, around 3 strong and ambitious drivers: the Good, the Beautiful, the Organic.
The company called on our teams to develop dialogue between the brand and parents through the logo and its brand signature.
Secondly, for babies who have grown up, the agency created the graphic register for the Kidz range.
Finally, we take you to discover Naturalia! Centered on pillars such as responsibility, transparency, diversity and daring since 1973, the brand is committed to offering an organic alternative in the heart of cities.
Naturalia called on CBA for a global overhaul of its identity based on its original values: a brand that advocates the freedom to live organic in its own way!
The graphic concept is based on the brand’s DNA that is bold, unconventional and transparent; concept that fully contributes to increasing Naturalia’s Critical Imprint.
It’s a safe to say that many French people do not know what they will be doing for Christmas; and that it is only the weekend of December 19 and 20 that each family will organize itself. In the face of uncertainty and anxiety, the very idea of Christmas, its light decorations, its colorful dishes, its too many gifts, etc., seems almost indecent. Even downtown retailers prefer to dress their windows with their private label to talk about price rather than Christmas.
More and more consumers expect a positive transformation of society from brands and companies: 90% of French people expect brands to demonstrate a real CSR commitment (Denjean et Associés study, March 2019). They all want a more united, more sustainable and more respectful world.
In this gloomy environment, the brands that stand out are those that quickly meet the needs of consumers.
Alongside the hustle and bustle of Advent calendars which are becoming too marketing and too expensive, clever initiatives that revive and play with a certain idea of tradition are performing.
Do you know “The Elf on the Shelf”? This is the story of more than 14 million little Santa Claus elves around the world who come to share the daily life of a family from November and who, every night, fly to the North Pole to report to the Santa Claus. Every morning, it’s a pleasure to find where this mischievous little elf is hiding and it’s a nice help for parents to bring some calm; for a wise child will have the attentive ear of Santa Claus. A tradition that is still little known in Europe but is so successful, especially in Canada, that Kellog’s chose it to create its limited Christmas series to strengthen its bond with families.
And you, how do you want to talk about Christmas?
79% of people surveyed by Balsam, a brand of artificial trees, plan to spend the Holidays at home so as not to contaminate their loved ones (source: emarketing.fr). This change, certainly binding but more than necessary, brings its share of opportunities. Opportunity to rethink Christmas to go more local and open the door to a few neighbors or locally close friends to be together.
Opportunity for seniors to invent their Christmas “silver” so that they are not alone but that they get together with friends. Opportunity to create Christmas Apéros, moments of digital conviviality that are shorter but more visual, and above all more fun and conducive to the “finger food” trend! Opportunity to embark on a social Christmas by delivering good meals to caregivers, the homeless, those who need support, reminded them that they are not alone. Because yes, Christmas is above all a collective and united moment. It is not too late to launch a partnership operation to support an association! And the Mars Wrigley company got it right. This year, the brand is teaming up with Dons Solidaires for the operation “A magical and united Christmas” to offer the most fragile of beautiful end-of-year celebrations.
What are you going to do?
Between partial unemployment and repeated confinements, the year 2020 has been complicated for the pockets of all French people. Brands will have to take this into account for these holidays. All the more so as consumers are increasingly convinced that the circular economy promotes a more virtuous and more sustainable society; This is evidenced by the growing success of second-hand digital platforms such as Vinted, Le Bon Coin and Backmarket.
All brand initiatives relating to recycling, upcycling, waste reduction and anti-waste are and will be viewed positively by consumers. Thus, in this spirit, to offer sustainable toys, the startup Petite Marelle offers toy rental subscriptions intended for children from 0 to 6 years old. The principle is to move away from new purchases in favor of rental, while offering a wide choice of toys suitable for the awakening and cognitive development of children. Do not forget that 40 million toys are thrown away annually in France, ie more than 75,000 tonnes of waste.
What if, in the end, 2020 was the year that established use rather than property as the new benchmark for happiness?
Because we have seen the mental load of the French grow exponentially, because it has become difficult to take a step back, to recover, to escape or simply to let go, we dream that brands provide relief. Two main Christmas topics for a brand to consider: First, helping consumers make more useful and responsible gifts. We reserved food gifts for grandmothers who had everything. This year, it becomes smart and united to look into the boxes that know how to put together local creators and producers.
MasterBox was able to react with the confinement by offering everyone to join the collective to be the spokesperson for this great approach, especially since the Christmas markets will for the most part be suppressed.
Second subject: what meal to prepare? All the restaurants have shown initiative and openness: from palaces to home chefs, including starred restaurants, a new accessibility to gastronomy democratizes excellent cuisine. Le Gabriel, Le Meurice, La scène, David Toutain, Le Septime and so many others need us all! All you have to do is consult the Michelin guide website, or the Belle Assiette or the Flying Chef, and of course all the restaurants close to home, to combine pleasure and letting go!
And you, what are you going to do for dinner on New Years Eve?
Finally, to love is also to surprise! At Christmas, everything is allowed to share to laugh and smile: dare to be creative! In July, Burger King took the gamble of decorating some of its restaurants (in the USA) with Christmas colors to bring magic to the daily lives of its customers with the desire to speed up the transition to something else! Huge image success for the fast food brand!
To surprise, the ideas are multiple, not to say endless. How about a tropical Christmas, to get a change of scenery and feel like you’re traveling and getting away from it all?
Finally, to strengthen ties, draw inspiration from a tradition that smartphones have almost eliminated: sending Christmas cards and greeting cards. Rediscover the simple pleasure of choosing the right card, a few words to write, a drawing or a printed photo to send; and when it’s useful, ecological and fun, it’s even better! Does a card that blooms sound like you?
In short, at the end of 2020, brands still have something to surprise and support French consumers in their desire for positive and lasting change! How? Design through innovation and reincarnation of the brand through branding can be good levers to help brands be useful to consumers.
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.
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.
We are all facing the same situation. The current epidemic is forcing us to take a time out. More than three billion human beings are on lockdown, giving those not on the front line fighting the virus the opportunity to reflect on what they really need, and want. This represents a major spring-cleaning for end-users, consumers and local communities. What do we want to change in our lives and society?
Both individually and collectively, this current state of introspection is quite evident, but it is nothing new. We must not forget that in recent years, we have witnessed a growing current reflecting a deep need for change with the Yellow Vests crisis, general strikes, the #MeToo movement, eco-anxiety, and more.
The quest for meaning, purpose and being useful to society have all emerged in recent months. Enacted in April 2019, the French PACTE law is an example of humanity waking up to the need to get involved.
CBA has embraced this revolution for almost three years now. Through our Critical Imprint® initiative, we seek progress through design. This ideological, methodological approach has allowed us to establish a brand’s value with consumers and society, as well as to measure their concrete impact. We are also aware that major change does not happen by itself. Therefore, we have built a partner network tackling collective intelligence (Bluenove), brand value evaluation (Occurrence) and forecasting.
During this time of great reflection, how can we understand the deep changes that will result from the pandemic disaster?
Even though scientists had warned us about these risks, we must admit that our societies were not ready. Instead of plunging into a fatalistic attitude regarding a relatively unpredictable future, we must see the positive side of this situation: anything can happen. We are no longer confined by a gloomy narrative that defines a de facto future. We can take back our power by using our imaginations to envisage a new path.
At the end of this pandemic, it may be tempting to go back to the way things were before, but this is neither a viable, nor enviable, solution. However, building a new tomorrow by razing the current world to the ground is neither realistic nor relevant. It is up to us as citizens, nations, and companies to sift through, keeping what is good, improving what is useful and abandoning what was leading us off the edge of a cliff. Beyond everyday solutions, including mass remote working and medical phone consultations, changes in philosophy are also looming.
As a design agency, we must serve as a bridge between reality and companies: brands.
To understand the upcoming sweeping changes, it is necessary to know how to listen for and decipher weak signals. As a design agency, we must serve as a bridge between reality and businesses through brands. To do this, we need to go further than our Critical Imprint initiative. Discussing and listening to consumers through collective intelligence and analysing opinions are tremendous tools, and ones we will continue to use. However, in order to find, track and decipher weak signals, we must go out to meet so-called fringe end-users.
By definition, something on the fringe exceeds normal boundaries. A fringe user pushes things to their outermost limit. We increase the possibility of seizing real opportunities for innovation by taking a problem out of context and framing its development beyond its target users.
In 1872, Alexander Graham Bell believed he could use emerging electronics to help deaf people to hear, by creating a machine that sends sound via telegraph with a transmitter and a receiver. That’s how he invented the telephone. For the same reason, 100 years later, Vint Cerf programmed the first messaging protocols for the newly-born internet. Emails were the only way he could communicate with his deaf wife when he was at work. The vast majority of users of phone or email users are not deaf, but two major innovations emerged from addressing the unique communication problems of the deaf.
Fringe users refer to two opposite extremes of the spectrum for the use of a product or service. Their needs and desires are amplified. They find workarounds to existing problems or frustrations, unlike average consumers. They launch trends and thus become early adopters of a new consumer movement. For example, veganism was considered niche only a few years ago, but is becoming increasingly mainstream.
We can speculate as much as we like, but we are still in the midst of the storm at the moment, and everything is too unclear to know what will happen in the future. The only certainty is the belief that tomorrow’s consumers and end-users will have been pushed to the extremes in terms of their desires, requiring a profound change in the rules of the game. It is up to us to find those who have something to teach us, to listen to and observe them in order to understand how today’s world is evolving into tomorrow’s horizons. In this context, the lens of Critical Imprint® does not bring certainty in knowing what tomorrow will bring, but it can certainly contribute to an improvement in a brand’s value, resulting in increased engagement, commitment, simplicity and efficiency.
The role of the brands in our society has changed and this is no big news for anyone. Brands can no longer exist only to be a source of revenue for their entrepreneurs. Today, the ticket to enter or maintain a position in the market is to (re)think the brand’s fundamentals with much more conscience of its impacts in the world and find a reason why to exist that goes beyond profit. Some of the biggest companies, such as Unilever, have already started this mindset switch.
In a society where change is the key word, brands (and of course the companies behind these brands) have more responsibility than ever and have to use their social and financial influence to be useful, in some way, to the world and to their surroundings (Figure 1).
brands have a strategic role to play: they must convey an experience, a culture (including attitudes, worldviews, behaviors, ideological positions, etc.) that the individual will be able to adhere to and reproduce. But giving one step forward, more than generating identification, brands can also engage those who are sensitive to their purpose to generate positive changes in the way they think, behave or consume to, consequently, drive positive impacts in our society (Figure 2).
Daniel Bo, in “Brand content”
In this new dynamic, the relationship between brands and consumers moves from a purely transactional one, focused only on the product and its price to another, much more human and collaborative, based on the sharing of similar values and beliefs (Figure 3).
Within this scenario a challenge appears: since forever marketers and communicators are used to track their brands using KPIs such as awareness, consideration, leads, preference, affinity, ROI and etc. Until now, all these metrics worked as ways to monitor and predict purchase and therefore, profit.
As said at the very beginning of this text, brands play a larger role in our society nowadays and we need to review the way we measure their performance to keep pace with their own evolution. Besides sales capability, we have to be able to capture if the brand manages to define a recognizable and truthful purpose which people can relate to (purpose awareness) and then its ability to mobilize people towards this belief (brand engagement power)
The way to measure this new type of brand performance is still being built and tested in different research and consultancy firms, and each one will probably come up with its own BPI (brand performance indicator), with a different naming and a different methodology in 3 or 5 years from now. However, two key points need to be taken into account in all these approaches, regardless of who built them :
Brand-building is not an exact science and so it shouldn’t be measured using only numbers. It’s factual and emotional at the same time and created in the sum of various experiences : from the consumer identification with the brand offer and positioning to its design ecosystem (logo, store, pack, site, colors…). This last one being responsible not only for the materialization of the brand promise and purpose, but also to the consumer’s reaction/response to it (performative design).
This explains why we need to craft a plural approach to encompass it all, mixing hard data with human knowledge and quantitative with qualitative methods. This mix is indispensable to have a full picture of a brand’s real life.
– We are talking about a long-term brand-building here.
In an age where digital marketing has unleashed an obsession with efficiency, leading marketers into a short-term mindset, this may sound crazy, I know. But as Peter Field of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising says “A lot of people in management are judged quarter by quarter, and they want results, by quarter. I wish we had more CEOs and CFOs that understand if we restrain brands to the quarterly cycle, we stuff it”. So, be patient.
In short, our society is living huge transformations and brands have to adapt to it if they want to survive. It’s then a question of natural selection for us, “brand experts”, to be part of the change as well.
Natalia GALLUCCI, planneur strategic