Why do we want brands to inspire us?

“Only 20 percent [of brands] made a notably positive impact on people’s lives.”

From the GOOD article What’s So Great About IKEA Anyways? Why No One in the World Likes Brands.

It use to be that as long as a brand was able to make you look good or feel good, you were satisfied and didn’t need more from them.  But, the times are changing and now we expect much more from our brands. We expect them give us confidence, to improve our lives, to inspire us and to give us hope.

As consumers we hold our expectations up as obvious truths to brands.  We feel frustrated when they do not see the obvious or fail to respond to our online-mob outrage.  We get angry and start a personal boycott campaign, as we try to convince everyone in our social circle of the evil nature of the brand who disappointed us.

Yet, we fail to realize that our expectations are not obvious to these companies. They do not understand why we are angry if their products are good and their customer service is decent.  They are confused by our anger and disappointment, because they don’t understand what we want from them.  It is the rare brand that has wanted to inspire humanity to be better and as consumers we’ve been happy to buy and buy and buy, without care.  But, things are a changing.

“When did we start to expect brands to inspire us?”

Marilyn Monroe Ad

Image Source

We have not always had such high hopes and expectations of our brands.

At the beginning, as long as a brand did what it said it would do, we were happy. Then we wanted brands to make us laugh and entertain us. After they have achieved that, we asked them to make us feel.   And they did. They made us cry, they made us feel scared, they made us feel ashamed, they made us feel sexy, and they made us feel awe.

As brands started to get really good at making us feel and helping us satisfy our emotional needs, we all started to turn to our brands to satisfy us emotionally. Things were not looking so rosy in the real world and had the disposable income to spare.

We were ruining the environment! The environment will fix itself! The environment will fix itself by killing us!

The cultural fabric of our society is unraveling!  We are at our cultural prime! Young people these days … 

The economy is bad! The economy is okay!  We lied the economy is even worse than we thought!  You no longer have a job. 

Meat is bad! Meat is good! Meat is too expensive, go to McDonald’s! 

Caffeine is bad! Caffeine is good! Caffeine is a drug!  

Be young! Live forever!  Everything will kill you! We all die. 

With the world going to shit, where do people go looking for a small slice of happiness or hope?

A void is made: The Death of the American Dream

Occupy Wall Street - Shit is Fucked up and bullshit

Image Source

If the Occupy movement has shown us anything, it is that the American Dream is dead.  The dream that hard work will get you a better life.  The dream, that you can control your fate by following the rules, being a descent person and working hard.

This dream has died for millions of people in the Western World.  Millions who have worked hard, followed the rules most of the time, helped old ladies cross the street and recycled, and yet they find themselves slipping, falling or already hitting bottom, with no hope of getting out.

The American Dream reflected the best of what the United States could be but it also reflected the best person YOU could be.  By believing in the American Dream, people believed in the best version of themselves.

In losing the American Dream, people have lost hope in their abilities and themselves.  They have lost hope in their ability to meet their dreams. And how can a person survive without dreams?

Brands, our new dream makers?

With the death of our most cherished modern dream, a void has been made and we are looking for someone to fulfill it.

Yet, how are we going to fill this void?  We don’t trust our government or religious institutions or Wall Street. There is no Gandhi, Luther King, Malcolm X or Lech Walesa that can give us our hope back and inspire us to be better people.

So what is left?

Brands.  The by-product of the consumerist culture we are starting to abandon.   It may seem counter-intuitive for the disenchanted consumer to be looking to a brand to fulfill our needs for self-actualization, yet in today’s world brands are the only institutions left that the people feel represent them.  We’ve been born and breed to be consumers, and consumers have always been taught that the customer is right.  With the rise of social media, the consumer can now mobilize against a brand without ever interrupting their daily life and force a brand to change. Knowing this, why should we not look towards brands to inspire us and make our lives better?  WE own them after all.

Yes, dear stockholders and shareholders and CEO’s, even though you may technically own your company, your consumers feel they own it more than you do. And now that your consumers have become aware of their ownership and power, they are actively asking you to do more.

“But, what do they want!?” you ask?

They want you to provide them with a sense of a richer life.

  • They want authenticity, “Cut the bullshit and be real.”
  • They want a sense of community.
  • They want to be inspired, not by greed or materialism, but by a sense that the world is a good place.
  •  They want hope.

So, you up for it brand?


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