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Monday, June 15, 2009

Let Your Brand Embrace 'Spirit of Simplicity'

Nature's Magnifying Glass originally uploaded by Jeff Holbrook.
In Simplifying Has A Lot To Do With Green, I observed that green and simplicity go hand-in-hand. That 'spirit of simplicity' seems even more relevant as the marketplace re-evaluates priorities, in search of brand value that aligns with newly rediscovered values like simplicity, responsibility and community -- as several recent articles reminded me.

For example, Hugh Hough's 5/13/09 article The Sky May Not Be Falling, But The Ground Is Definitely Shifting. He identifies three developing consumer themes that brands should embrace -- chief among them being simplicity.

1. Simplicity - with many consumers being forced into scaling back, they are rediscovering a return to basics and "more simplified version[s] of their daily lives." Furthermore simple takes on new meaning as "simpler will coexist with smarter."

2. The conspicuous absence of conspicuous consumption. Also part and parcel of the simplicity move: a "rejection of ostentatious displays of wealth. More and more, these will be seen as evidence of greed and selfishness, or at best, cluelessness." The solution? Have your brand embrace substance and meaning relevant to your consumers.

3. The community will get broader and deeper. This point is fascinating and ties into why social networking and the tools of social media offer so much potential for those brands that embrace the spirit of simplicity and community [including with employees!]. The author writes: "When people aren't confident, they look to others for help. Acts of collaboration, while borne of necessity, will forge a spirit of solidarity that will carry on once times get better. A larger sense of community will emerge."

Sustainability Is More Important Than Ever by David Almy from 5/27/09 states that companies taking sustainability to heart have unique strategic advantages available. The reasons?

1. Green has entered the mainstream [in support of that, read AdAge's 4/20/09 article titled Green-marketing revolution defies economic downturn by Jack Neff. Note the 4 tips for Green Marketers: combine environmental with economic sustainability; retailer support matters; opportunities remain; address skepticism about price & quality more than the actual green claims. Also learn about Government Solutions Group which helps forge private-public partnerships to support state parks, something that Coca-Cola for example has found more beneficial than doing sweepstakes.]

2. Brands perceived as ethical benefit

3. "Sustainable" brands may increase in value

4. Consumer and Business focused brands both benefit from sustainability

5. Sustainability-aligned brands can weather tough economic times.

BBMG -whose co-founder Raphael Bemporad I met at the LOHAS event referenced in the first post above - recently conducted the second national study on purchasing behavior and social values titled BBMG Conscious Consumer Report. The study, per the "BBMG Study Finds 'Green Trust Gap' - Interest in Green Holds Despite Recession, But Consumers Lack Confidence in Green Claims press release, reveals the challenges inherent to pursuing sustainability because of deep consumer skepticism over green claims. Nonetheless, "consumers are redefining what truly matters and evaluating purchases based on both value and values." Price, performance and purpose matter.

The way to bridge the 'green trust gap' is "by telling authentic stories and empowering a consumer tribe to share ideas, experiences and influence" -- which gets us back to community and the powerful tools of social media.

For more on that subject, I recommend a fascinating post from Richard Matthews at The Green Market Blog: Social Media and Sustainability.

Simplicity, responsibility and community make total brand sense to me. Does it to you? What is your reaction to this Spirit of Simplicity? And, how might your brand embrace it?

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