Traditional brands had one goal: make money. They used to live within a commerce and communication environment with the end goal of selling emotions and products to the public.
Modern brands have become movements within a cultural and social environment that doesn’t focus on selling. Rather, modern brands share their passion towards a bigger cause.
Meaning, brands move away from a selfish purpose to the bigger cause of social change by sharing a passion and unifying against a common enemy. In order to succeed, brands will have to play a more cultural rather than a commercial role. This cause has to be serious and permeate the whole brand culture; otherwise people will see through any clever advertising and immediately feel cheated by the hollow attempt to sell. Aspiration as the ultimate goal for brands doesn’t sit well with the changing roles of people: They evolved from consumers to prosumers, journalists, thieves, producers, brand ambassadors. And they don’t buy stuff anymore, they vote with their wallets.
Our old form of communication was about seducing people with flashy stories and imagery. But those times are coming to an end. A brand that understands the passion of people and stands shoulder to shoulder with people fighting for a cause or against a common enemy has a good chance of being seen as a credible partner to enhance the culture and social environment.
The real question is: Will brands rise above the quarterly profit stranglehold of Wall Street? Will they pursue a better culture than a better profit? Global brands clearly have the firepower to change society and culture in unimaginable ways. It’s doubtful we’ll ever get another political ‘Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for the country’ ground swell together. But there’s hope a brand will say one day to Wall Street: ‘Don’t ask what this brand can do for you. Ask what you can do for the brand.’