Can growth remain a key measure?
In today’s world there is a big question mark over growth as a key measure in a world where values and mindsets are shifting.
‘Consumers and businesses alike are increasingly aware that we live in a society that cannot grow forever. Growth has become the yardstick with which we measure our society’s progress, yet at the same time the current measure we use. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), does not reflect changes in the consumer mindset’ (Post Growth Society, LSN Global, March 2018)
As brand experts, our role is always both creative and commercial. It’s also largely focused on growth. Be that identifying a unique space for a brand to own, building a brand from scratch, or rejuvenating a lagging brand – the objective is nearly always growth, or regeneration; building on what’s there or finding ways in which to reactivate what isn’t.
Things are changing however, and there is a big question mark over growth as a measure in a world where people’s values and mindsets are shifting. More and more, there is a move towards genuine societal wellness, collective happiness and consumption as a reflection of values, rather than of wealth. Millennial consumers in particular are driving the trend and demanding more from brands and organisations – it’s no longer enough to deliver a great product or service. Brands now need to think about sustainability, the impact on the environment and how they can contribute to a better, happier society.
In 2015, the European Commission launched an action plan towards a Circular Economy called ‘Closing the loop’* with the ambition of moving away from the ‘take, make and waste’ economy in operation for most of the past 250 years. Instead the plan is to move towards a circular economy where ‘the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised’. This approach will impact everything from product & service design and manufacture, to the construction of cities and civic spaces – all with an aim of shifting the focus from growth to a more human, planet centric and sustainable economy.
Brands are starting to take note too. A 2018 campaign by Volvo for its XC40 car takes a dramatic look at how overwhelming a society fuelled by growth could (and possibly has!) become, while launching ‘the car you subscribe to’ – offering an alternative to simply buying more ‘stuff’.
Patagonia have also adopted a product restoration programme called ‘Worn Wear’ where they encourage their customers to restore their Patagonia products or buy second hand instead of buying new ones.
Finally, closer to home, Irish Recycled Products design and manufacture ‘maintenance free, eco-friendly outdoor furniture of the future’. All the furniture comes with a 20-year guarantee and is made from plastic that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
This shift forces us to think in new ways too and go beyond the creative and commercial. We have to think beyond just growth and push for solutions and ideas that are truly centered not only on behaviours, but also on the mindsets and values of today’s consumers and society. People will always want new brands, new experiences and new trends, but we need to understand how these fit into their overall worlds and need to understand where they fit in their value systems. Things are moving fast, but it’s an exciting time to be on the coalface and ready for change!