Don’t worry, be Hippy!

Don’t worry, be Hippy!
In this digital epoch, information is always at your fingertips – but business cards still have some leverage. If you already have a bunch of cards printed and distributed to potential clients and you still don’t see an improvement in your market reach, it’s high time for a revamp. Take out your old card and give it a good, objective look.

Are brands the new standard-bearers
of a good conscience?

Just how wonderful is Diesel's world where handsome, muscular youth are emboldened to overcome political divisions and live together in a new state of harmony. Nose-thumbing Donald Trump, the  "Make Love not Walls" is adorned with a bohemian aesthetic, a sort of “Neo Peace & Love”. Freedom, peace and love, it's hard to deny the hippie influences born out of the counter-culture movement of the 1970s.

In the same vein, Converse and its "Forever Chuck" appeals to young people with complex concerns. Supported by a host of emerging personalities engaged in societal struggles, the brand sends with one voice a universal and pacifist message: dare to change the world to make it better.

These positive messages reflect brands’ desire to assert themselves as true counter powers. By constructing their discourse around ideological intentions, they diminish the transactional dimension – which still defines them nonetheless – in an attempt to establish themselves as active contributors to society.

This strategy demonstrates these brands’ search for authority. In seizing the philosophical high ground, they seek to affirm their social utility and overcome the futile image that connects them to an increasingly criticized consumer society.

A Perilous Balancing Act.

However, despite these positive and optimistic outbursts there remains in us a form of inexplicable unease. From mental benchmarks intended to differentiate one product from another, would brands now become the standard bearers of counter-cultures? A posture a priori difficult to maintain and where it is easy to lose your balance ...

Take the example of Pepsi, who, although steeped in good intentions, were unfortunately forced to withdraw their latest campaign after a very awkward reception. In the ad, the brand wanted to deliver a message of peace and tolerance by joining anti-police violence movement Black Lives Matter.

It presented Kendall Jenner as a model of virtue, moved by the pacifist fight and holding out a can of soda to a policeman. As if a can of Pepsi is all it takes to overcome racist violence. Now you know what to do to resolve world famine.

The ad was sharply criticized for pulling crude advertising strings and daring an over-simplified mental leap between the product and a worrying societal situation.

The campaign ended up highlighting the ambiguity of the position of these brands, oscillating between a commercial status they seek to camouflage and the search for a political role that wants to appear detached from any commercial interest.

Finding a Fitting Opponent.

Brands can’t escape their raison d’être of serving as benchmarks for consumers to differentiate one product from a competing product. Pepsi will never be Gandhi, any more than former French President Francois Hollande will boast about his Google popularity rating. We must all fight our own battles.

Instead of claiming to resolve the crisis, why not start by reducing the symptoms more modestly?

The brand Calmbox , for example, has launched a monthly box consisting solely of products designed to de-stress and to relax consumers.

In the same vein, meditation is becoming the ideal remedy to regain serenity, in the face of the incessant hubbub of existence. And now there’s no need to retreat to a Buddhist monastery to feel the benefits. Apps such as Head SpaceRelax Melodies ou Little Bamboo  are multiplying to give a few minutes of respite to your panic-stricken mind.

Lululemon, the Canadian sportswear brand, was recently traversing the streets of Paris aboard its meditation bus, aptly named "Om the Move".

As for the big brands, “Positive Branding” initiatives are still pending. Light therapy devices installed by Vueling in bus shelters or in the countryside "Time is Precious"campaign, which urges us to abandon our screens and go for a run, remain ephemeral and superficial actions. At a time when people are looking for more solidarity and sincerity, there are few brands that make a lasting commitment to our well-being. You have to go all the way to Iceland to see the example ofIKEA which, faced with the total housing shortage in the country, began to build buildings for its employees.

The idea is not to set aside ethical commitments, but to embody them with concrete actions rather than just incantations. It’s up to brands to engage with the issues in a humble and subtle way, and merit our increasingly mistrustful optimism.