In the pre-Covid marketing era, purpose was the topic. A beacon that represented the social and environmental role of each brand that made its role within the market clear and relevant - motivating both the internal and external targets.
Inspired by this approach, organisations have invested in researches and workshops, reviewed their positioning and created communication campaigns. Although all positive intentions, these investments lay risk of being seen as style exercises made to keep up with the trends of the moment. Since then, the pandemic has accelerated transformations that were already underway and made them more evident, thus marking a "before" and an "after" in our consumption styles.
For the first time we are experiencing a highly dystopian form of existence in which we are forced into a continuous "here and now" as we experiment the unlimited potential of the digital offering. All this has changed something inside us, and now that within Italy we are almost back to what could be perceived as a form of 'normality', we are no longer the same. In fact, we are are becoming aware of the fact that our actions and those of the brands we buy, are not isolated in space and time, but part of a more complex whole.
It is not just us, the consumers, who raise this issue. One of the most iconic fashion brands has done it through the words of its founder: Giorgio Armani. In a letter to the American magazine WWD, Armani writes:
If fashion also feels the need to slow down - to go back to a less frantic pace - it means that things really have changed. Some brands have been moving in this direction since before the crisis and now, presumably, will have even more hold on the consciences of their consumers.
Patagonia, one of the first to invite their clients to not buy their garments, but to have them repaired or recycled, is now in good company. Tulerie, a peer to peer brand allows you to lend or borrow clothing from other registered people and save or earn money during the process. The idea was born by observing landfills that were filling up with clothes after being worn only three times, which is the average number estimated for the use of fast fashion clothes and accessories. The Grill'd Burgers chain has joined the "Meatless Monday" movement which invites us to avoid meat on Mondays as an act of awareness of the pollution produced by livestock farms as well as an invitation to follow a more varied and healthy diet. To replace the classic hamburger, Grill'd Burgers offers alternative menus every Monday, including non-meat. An experiment that not all their consumers have liked. Critics on social media voiced their opinions, but the debate that arose was useful in overcoming the concept of "good" and "bad" brands. Heineken were loud and clear in their voices around drinking before driving, with their message carrying the face and voice of F1 driver Nico Roseberg.
The success of the app 'Too Good To Go' demonstrates how the fight against food waste can find supporters everywhere. Born in Denmark, the app allows consumers to purchase unsold but perfectly fresh dishes from restaurants, cafes and supermarkets. A Magic Box containing the products that the stores would have thrown away at the end of the day can be easily ordered online. To date, there are 10 million members in Europe and the winning concept is not only about saving, but an effective and tangible action against food waste that reaches 10 million tons every year in Italy alone.
'Doconomy' is a young Swedish fintech company born from the idea of doing something concrete against climate change. Its creators, a group of finance, technology and communication professionals, have created a credit card that calculates the CO2 emissions produced by the purchases made by the holder. Once the carbon dioxide quota is reached, the card denies the payment.
Imagining our life post-Covid and it is clear that the brand purposes must be other than a statement written in a brochure or celebrated in a corporate video. It will serve as a clear direction for product development, innovation and relationship, a guide that could even put the classic axiom of profit towards discussion. Because following one's goal means rebalancing the social role of brands, even at the expense of short and medium term gains, by virtue of reputation, value and impact on the community where each brand lives and operates.