• Alice Bodkin

The Brand Zeitgeist for the Next Roaring Twenties? Responsibility.

What is brand communication and marketing if you don’t understand the sign of the times? How can you hope to connect with people if you can’t resonate with their sentiments and values? It's essential to understand the zeitgeist.

Not too long ago, I read an article on WWD.com that asked the question: Are the Next Roaring Twenties around the corner? The words ‘roaring twenties’ inspires images of flapper dresses, women exuding a ‘Bernice bobs her hair’ style pushing boundaries amongst a backdrop of art deco design. Jazz age aesthetics also come to mind. This decade can be summarised by the desire to go out and celebrate life following the devastation of the war. The ‘roaring twenties’ as WWD.com puts it was to see and to be seen again.

Whilst of course the details of this article were fashion based, I cast my mind back to the debut of 2020. When I think of the word roaring, I think of the fires that engulfed Australia. As of the 9th March 2020, those fires that horrified the world had burnt an estimated 46 million acres. This conversation reverberated throughout 2020 with record-breaking fires across the Brazilian Amazon, California and South America’s Pantanal wetlands. Fires were roaring worldwide and the conversation surrounding climate change was heavy and felt, pushing consumer attention towards sustainability and the environment. The sign of the times is being depicted to us by the planet and consumers are taking note. Furthermore, Covid19 increased the trend for conscious consumption. Accenture published research showing that since the outbreak of the pandemic, 72% of consumers wish to limit food waste and 66% are making more sustainable choices when shopping and 66% intend to carry on to do so. Ethically driven consumption is essentially the new currency and this is where spending power lies.

So what does this mean for brands moving forward?

Rethinking business models

The impact of culture on brands is directly linked to people. Why? Because people build culture and through this, they build brands. Just scrolling down Open Education's instagram, I came across the words: ‘sustainability isn’t something you buy, it is a culture’.

When it comes to brands identifying their own personal cultures throughout the 20s, they should come back to this quote. It should be their blueprint for every choice they make moving forward. Why? Engaging with the cultural zeitgeist directly ensures that a brand can become a part of that culture, which ensures we collectively work towards reducing the impact of climate change. This in turn means that brands deepen their relevance and connection with their customers who resonate with this culture.

Responsibility is the zeitgeist and brands must channel this through their business models and marketing. The next decade will be defined by conscious consumerism - perhaps it will see the death of fast fashion. As Papermag put it, the 20’s are looking like a promising pendulum swing away from short-term and wasteful thrills to a more conscious and considerate direction that embodies investing in ethical fashion, buying second hand and renting. The challenge is for brands to explore ways to mitigate the impact of negative environment impacts.

A favourite recent example of a brand with a responsible focus is Roscomar. Dubbed as ‘circular sneakers’ the brand’s tagline states that their products are ‘designed for reincarnation’. The footwear company invites people to purchase sneakers they don’t own in order to prevent them from reaching landfill. When the customer’s sneakers wear out, Roscomar asks that they send them back so they can return them to their original owner, nature who then gives them another life.

Redefining marketing metrics and measurements of success

Yet whilst establishing responsible business models is key, we also have to ensure that we are working towards responsible marketing. If you google the definition of responsible marketing, one definition that arises is ‘what is in the best interest of society and the planet in the present and the long term’. The key here is thinking about the long term. Responsible marketing is moving away from short term wins and strategising to have a long lasting impact. However, if we break down the term marketing itself, the word summaries a business goal of efforts generated to incur revenue for a business or organisation. When it comes to measuring the success of marketing, often we refer to ROI, cost per sale or cost per lead or click. However, at present, most performance metrics are centred on brand awareness or profit generation. In order to measure responsible marketing, we have to change the metrics. If brands are to be serious about their commitment to responsible marketing, they must hold themselves to account through KPIs that reflect this. For instance, what would an environmental P&L look like? How are companies ensuring they are ' ‘net positive” and doing business in a way that ensures they give back to society and the environment more than they take out?

As we continue to make our way through the ‘roaring twenties 2.0’, taking responsibility will be imperative. Brands that fail to do this will become extinct. Success will be centred on a brand’s commitment to responsibility and how well it creates its culture surrounding it.

Key takeaways:

Is your business prepared for the zeitgeist of the next decade?

How does your business model embrace 'responsible culture?’

How does your business measure responsible marketing through KPI’s?

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