We all know we need a new kind of consumerism. More sustainable and ethical, healthier and fairer for EVERYONE. And right now, there’s a consensus answer on how we build it…
That answer tells us that big (often legacy) brands are the PROBLEM.
They are polluting our skies, pushing us sugar, exploiting vulnerable workers, invading our privacy and even lying to us to boost sales (yes, we're talking about you, Volkswagen). Their legacy processes, infrastructure and thinking means they wreak massive and often avoidable damage on the world around them - all in the name of profit.
The consequence? Millions of consumers feel distrust, distaste, even hatred, for the big brands that surround them. And that isn't about to change any time soon...
Meanwhile, a wave of startups show a new way forward.
Think buy-one-give-one shoe brand TOMS. Or electric carmaker Tesla. These startups have values of sustainability, ethics and fairness baked in from the start. Compact, agile and smart, they're able to intelligently minimize their damaging impact. They point the way towards a new kind of consumerism.
The consequence? Millions of consumers actively want to engage with – and work for! – a host of startups dedicated to serving consumers AND building a better world.
But what if we took the way we thought about big brands...
...and turned it on its head?
The idea that all big brands are causing massive environmental, social and health damage – while all startups are shiny, clean and ethical – is a gross simplification. Still, it’s inarguable that many big brands currently cause more harm than good.
And if many consumers don’t actively think that (because they don’t think about these things at all!), then millions instinctively feel it. After all, when was the last time YOU were proud of your engagement with a big brand?
But there’s an issue with the idea that, when it comes to building a better future, big brands are the problem and startups are the answer. Sure, many of today’s iconic startups do have great values baked in. And starting from scratch means they can effectively build better processes, business models, infrastructure and more. But these startups are limited in reach and resources. They lack the scale to effect truly massive, widespread change.
Big brands, on the other hand, have real POWER…
What if big brands stopped being the sustainability, ethics, health and fairness PROBLEM, and started being the ANSWER…?
Big brands as the world's most powerful force for good?
These brands have massive scale and reach, and vast material and human resources. It's time to put them to better use.
It might sound like a crazy idea. But isn’t a crazy idea long overdue? We’ve all spent years talking about the need for change. But are we really any closer to the system-wide trajectory shift that is needed?
It’s time for a fundamental rethink. Instead of assuming that big brands must always be the problem, what if we started to see them as a powerful answer waiting to happen?
Big brands have the scale, reach, resources and human capital – as well as decades of accumulated skills and knowledge – needed to effect massive change. They can do things that no one else – in some cases, not even national governments – can do. They have the potential to be the world’s most powerful forces for good.
Yes, we’re a long way from that today. And the road to REDEMPTION is an arduous one. But it’s time to start putting one foot in front of the other.
Big brands need to ask themselves: why do we exist at all?
Take Coca-Cola. It’s one of the most effective mechanisms for manufacture and distribution ever devised. The Coca-Cola system (the company plus local bottling partners) employs 700,000 people in over 200 countries.
Can we afford – as a society, as a planet – for that organization to exist solely to make money? Will Coca-Cola even survive long-term if that is its only purpose?
What if Coca-Cola became the world’s largest humanitarian distribution network, funded by the sale of (sugar-free) soft drinks? What if Toyota became the world’s largest anti-climate change organization? What if Unilever became the largest champion of global health?
This is about repurposing a big brand around the epic problem that it’s best positioned to solve. And if you work inside or with a big brand, that journey could start with YOU!
You may say we're dreamers...
Hold on: many big brands are more profitable than ever! And most consumers don't care about this stuff: they just want MORE, FASTER and EASIER, and they want it NOW! After all, in Q1 2016, McDonald's reported a sales bump of 5.7% thanks to the introduction of the all-day Egg McMuffin breakfast.
Hardly REDEMPTION. But we're not saying we're there yet. Or even close. We ARE saying that this is – and must be – the direction of travel.
Okay, but what can I do?
You're right: a brand can't start on the road to REDEMPTION without buy-in from the very top. But who is going to light the fuse that leads to that change? YOU, of course! It's time to start a MOVEMENT inside your brand. But first, you need the argument – and the examples – that will persuade those early adopters...
A powerful convergence of changing consumer mindsets and shifting social and economic realities is driving this trend.
Rising numbers are trapped in a GUILT spiral.
Yes, millions of consumers are happily chowing down on their afternoon Egg McMuffins. But millions of others feel rising guilt over the negative eco, social and health impacts of their consumption. And as the consumer arena becomes more transparent, and customers become more educated and aware, that guilt is set to spread. Brands need to change accordingly, or face irrelevance in the decades to come. For big brands, REDEMPTION is simply enlightened self-interest.
Eight out of ten people say it is the responsibility of business to lead the solution of social problems.Edelman Trust Barometer, 2016
An appetite for radical answers.
Global monthly average atmospheric carbon climbed above the landmark 400 parts per million in March 2015. Germany received 1 million refugees last year, mainly from the Middle East. Divisive and nationalist politics are on the rise in Europe and north America. Automation threatens to wipe out jobs and worsen inequality. One consequence of these historic challenges? A renewed appetite for new, radical answers. After all, who was talking about the universal basic income five years ago?
Pretending to be a startup doesn't work.
Big brands know they're losing the perception war against a new generation of ethical and sustainable startups. But the faux-friendly (actually cringeworthy) Twitter accounts and the endless skunkworks and hackathon days – all attempts to sprinkle some startup magic dust over their brand – won't change that. Instead, big brands have to compete where they can win: on size, reach, and potential impact.
REDEMPTION is the only way big brands win.
So how can big brands win again? Not by trying to pass themselves off as startups, but by leveraging their massive resources for good, in ways that startups just can't match. Remember, some big brands can combine scale, global reach and human capital to do things that even many national governments can't. Leveraging all that to do good in the world is the only way they can wrestle back momentum from startups.
WHAT REDEMPTION LOOKS LIKE...
No brand has yet achieved full REDEMPTION. But a select few have made progress down the long road that leads to it.
US pharmacy company commits to 'nation's first tobacco free generation'
CVS Health operates over 9,600 pharmacy stores across the US. Since 2014, CVS Health has been building a unique new mission: to help create the first smoke-free generation in nation’s history. First, in October 2014, the brand announced that it would stop selling nicotine products in its stores, a move estimated to cost USD 2 billion in annual revenue.
In March 2016, the brand launched #BeTheFirst, a five-year USD 50 million plan to work towards a smoke-free generation. CVS Health will partner with leading anti-tobacco and youth organizations on anti-smoking programs, and provide smoking cessation schemes in-store. The brand is aiming at a 10% decline in the number of new youth smokers.
“Helping people quit smoking goes way beyond removing cigarettes from our stores. It’s about engaging them in ways only CVS Health is equipped to do.”CVS Health
In identifying an epic problem that it is uniquely well-placed to attack and applying massive resources and expertize to a solution, CVS Health has set on out on the road to REDEMPTION. And while general merchandise sales fell 5% in 2015 thanks to the decision to ban nicotine products, the positive attention generated helped push pharmacy services revenues up 13.5%. Further proof that REDEMPTION and self-interest can align. To achieve FULL REDEMPTION? Become THE brand that owns – and wins – the battle against smoking in the US.
Automaker says no one should die in their cars from 2020 onwards
Swedish automaker Volvo has long been renowned for a focus on safety. But now, the brand is working towards an audacious aim: the Vision 2020 target that no one should die or be seriously injured in a new Volvo from 2020 onwards.
In March 2015, the automaker piloted its Connected Safety technology in Sweden and Norway. The technology allows Volvo cars to share safety data via the cloud, including real-time warnings of dangerous road conditions such as icy roads, and emergency braking by other drivers. Meanwhile, in 2017, Volvo will begin the largest ever trial of autonomous cars, when 100 Volvo customers will drive IntelliSafe Autopilot-equipped XC90s on Swedish roads.
Volvo say they accept that they can never entirely eliminate the possibility of death via freak accidents or intentional acts of self-harm. But it says the long-term vision is to create cars that are ‘next to impossible’ to crash.
Volvo has a headstart on REDEMPTION: this, after all, is the brand that invented the three-point seatbelt and refused to patent it, saving millions of lives. To achieve FULL REDEMPTION? Double down on the 2020 goal and become a road-safety organization funded by the sale of safe cars. And keep sharing all those new safety innovations with other automakers, too ;)
Brand aims to reach 1 billion with life saving health interventions
Unilever is a global beverage, cleaning and health and personal care brand with revenues of EUR 53 billion a year. Since 2010, it has committed itself to tackling one of the world’s most pressing health problems: preventable child death from diarrhea and other infectious diseases. According to the WHO, 800,000 children aged five and under die from diarrhea each year, most in developing countries.
The brand’s Lifebuoy Handwashing Behaviour Change Program aims to reach 1 billion children in Asia, South America and Africa with an education program based around the idea of washing hands five times a day. In Thesgora, India, the intervention cut incidence of diarrhea from 36% to 6% according to an independent survey carried out by Nielsen. Unilever now run the intervention in multiple markets including Kenya, Ghana and Indonesia.
“What I want is a sustainable and equitable capitalism. Why can’t we have that as a model?”Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever
REDEMPTION isn't a competition, but if it was, Unilever might well be in first place. CEO Paul Polman has explicitly called for a new kind of business that gives purpose equal billing with profit. Meanwhile, the brand's Sustainable Living Plan is also seeing them aim to double the size of the business and halve its environmental impact by 2020. As of 2015, Unilever says it has reached 397 million people with its health interventions. Should it reach 1 billion by 2020, it really will have achieved FULL REDEMPTION!
US banking giant commits USD 125 million to revitalize neglected neighborhoods
JPMorgan Chase is a banking and financial services giant with its global HQ in New York City. In April 2016 it launched PRO Neighborhoods, a five-year, USD 125 million commitment to regenerate neglected neighborhoods across the USA.
The program leverages insights and data from a two-year pilot study in Detroit, and will see JPMorgan Chase work to identify and support failing neighborhoods across the country. The bank will partner with local Community Development Financial Institutions – including loan funds and credit unions – to fund new local businesses, and create affordable housing and community services. JPMorgan Chase will also offer its data tools, analysis and expertize.
The Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies assessed JPMorgan Chase’s 2014 intervention in Detroit, and found that its USD 33 million investment attracted a further USD 226 in investment capital from other sources.
A bank, REDEEMED? Anything is possible ;)
But considering JPMorgan Chase got slapped with a USD 307 million SEC fine in December 2015 due to failure to disclose conflicts of interests to clients, we'd say there's still a lot of runway ahead. What makes this a genuine step towards REDEMPTION is that it's about more than just money. The bank will be using its expertize, data and tools to help support struggling neighborhoods, and that smacks of a brand looking for a new, broader purpose. To achieve FULL REDEMPTION? Encode this agenda of economic revitalization deep into the brand so that it becomes a primary activity, not an add-on.
BUT IT ALL STARTS WITH A SINGLE STEP.
Want to become a champion of REDEMPTION within YOUR brand? You can start by pushing for a single project that shows the way...
March 2016 saw Malaysian telco Maxis set up a special SOS network in flood-prone areas of the country consisting of a series of portable devices placed on rooftops. The network can be used when the power supply or normal cellular network is down. But what if Maxis rebuilt its entire purpose around being THE provider of post-disaster communications across the country? In December 2014 flooding in Malaysia forced 200,000 from their homes.
In June 2016, Adidas and environmental charity Parley for the Oceans released the first batch of their new Adidas x Parley sneakers, made partly from plastics recycled from illegal deep-sea fishing nets. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year, according to a 2015 University of Georgia study. But what if Adidas committed to making every pair of its shoes from recycled ocean plastic? The more consumers buy, the more good they do! That would be real REDEMPTION...
Fast food REDEMPTION?
November 2015 saw Brazilian fast food chain Habib’s unveil #todomundoseajudando ('everyone is helping’) a campaign to help unemployed people in Brazil. The brand invited unemployed people to upload a clip of themselves on its website, with the 20 most creative entries receiving help to find a job, plus free Facebook advertising. Interesting, but tiny in scale. But what if Habib's became THE organization for post-crisis social justice and opportunity in Brazil?
This year Dutch airline Transavia offered cost-price accommodation and direct flights from Amsterdam to Lesvos for volunteers helping with the refugee crisis on the island. Created in partnership with humanitarian aid organization Movement on the Ground, the deal was available between February and April 2016. But what if Transavia became THE airline that helps humanitarian workers worldwide get where they are needed most?
Oil company REDEMPTION?
Wait, seriously? ;) Oil companies are among the most sinful brands on the planet. But even they could choose an epic problem and solve it, if they wanted to. In December 2015, Shell opened a human and solar-powered football pitch in Lagos, Nigeria. The pitch features over 90 underground tiles, which capture kinetic energy created by the movement of the players; the energy is combined with the power of the solar panels to operate floodlights. Yes, this is a drop in the ocean. But what if Shell became THE company that builds a clean energy future in Africa?
REDEMPTION WILL KEEP EVOLVING.
Seeing this trend in the context of a bigger picture can help you track its evolution – and build momentum inside YOUR brand!
The Trend Framework
16 mega-trends that provide structure and context when tracking innovation.
The epic trend that is BIG BRAND REDEMPTION didn’t emerge out the clear blue sky ;)
This trend has its roots in shifts towards more sustainable, ethical, healthier modes of consumption that we’ve been tracking for years.
In fact, BIG BRAND REDEMPTION is really a new direction of travel within the mega-trend that we call BETTER BUSINESS. We track 16 mega-trends in all; they are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena that, taken together, form our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.
Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day. Meaning we can keep spotting and sharing great trends.
Where is REDEMPTION heading next?
Watching this trend in the context of our Trend Framework of 16 mega-trends means crucial added insight on where it came from and, crucially, where it’s heading next. And that’s vital if YOU want to build a movement for REDEMPTION inside your brand.
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