10 Conscious Branding trends to watch for in 2016


1: The 100 Year Company – As we move faster and faster towards a ‘use it once and then chuck it away’ society, there will be more brands looking to go in the other direction and focus on products that are built to last. In 2015 we saw the 30 year sweat shirt. An ambitious project with the goal of producing a sweatshirt that would last 30 years. Patagonia recently told us, “Don’t buy this jacket – it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often.” They backed up the campaign with a guide on how to Repair and Care for their products, called “Repair is a Radical act”. Perhaps in 2016 we will see a 100 Year Company, offering to support products for a century, or at least more lifetime guarantee brands will emerge using the promise as a point of difference.

2: More B Corp brands – Why buy from a For Profit Corporation when you can buy from a brand committed to goals, business models, practices, policies and behaviour that contribute to human, societal and environmental wellbeing. In 2015 Danone and B Lab announced a cooperation agreement that aims to accelerate the process for large, publicly listed multinationals to become certified as B Corps. In 2016 we can look forward to seeing the fruits of this and more brands becoming B Corps.

3: The further decline of advertising – The power and relevance of traditional advertising is on the wane. Hardly surprising, when we see over 3000 Ads per day, those messages are just not getting through like they did 10 years ago, so more brands will switch tactics in 2016. If we have also reached Peak Content too then marketing will have to change course and focus more on interacting with consumers and less on telling them what to think, creating a genuine dialogue, providing experiential activities and inviting consumers to contribute to their brand. Building grass roots loyalty, seeking recommendations on social media and word of mouth activities will replace big ad campaigns.

4: Silent – Simple – Slow These are the new luxury commodities, brands that can tap into these qualities will be the success stories of 2016. As the saying goes “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Those wonderful phones and apps we loved for their simplicity and single-mindedness have in five years become bloated and complex. We now have too many labour saving devices that together are no longer saving us time. Like the colouring-in book craze of 2015 brands that allow us to disconnect, to focus on the now, take time and slow down will have a great chance of succeeding in 2016.

Staff at Michael O’Mara Books colouring in. Photo by Linda Nylind. 25/6/2015. Staff at Michael O’Mara Books colouring in.
Photo by Linda Nylind. 25/6/2015.

5: More Transparency – Consumers are more curious than ever about what brands stand for and how they operate. In the digital space, privacy concerns have seen Microsoft, Google and Apple all pushing their transparency agendas. As we hear more stories about contaminated products and issues with supply chains, we all want to know more about corporate governance, how products are made, what from and how workers are treated. Naming and shaming brands that behave badly, Oxfam Behind the Brands is leading the way in ensuring consumers know how products are made. In 2016 brands will go on the front foot with positive supply chain and management changes and making their operations more transparent.

6: Open sourcing– “Open sourcing is no longer an option, even for companies as big as Apple.” This model now extends far beyond software with Elon Musk open sourcing the plans for his Gigafactory last year. The reasons for open sourcing are many fold but partly because the best way to grow and dominate a market is to aim for ubiquity first, profits later. The popularity that greeted Apple’s decision to opens source Swift shows you just how much insiders love the concept of open source. As more brands talk ‘innovation’, ‘agile’, ‘disruption’ and ’social’ expect to see the way they are built become more open too.

7: Made in – Local is now the key for many brands to drive preference and differentiation. Australia made and owned is a powerful purchase driver for consumers and something competing international brands can never own. The value of Country of Origin, as Future Brand reports, is now more important than ever. The fact that the product in your right hand is made in Australia and the one in your left isn’t, will increasingly influence decision making through 2016. This will also help many brands with exports too, with Landor recently noting Clean & Green is the driving force behind Australian Vitamin and Milk sales into Asia.

8: Zero Carbon Brands & Zero Carbon products– Commitment to 1.5C warming in Paris last year means brands will either directly or indirectly be reducing emissions. With many companies choosing to take the initiative, the stage is all set for more brands to promote aggressive policies for going carbon neutral in 2016. We mean business is just one of many projects designed to get us there ASAP with companies like UNILEVER already mapping out their plans for going ‘carbon positive’.

9: White Friday – As Black Friday is increasingly seen as a negative event and considered the ugly side of consumerism, expect more brands to push for ‘White Friday’ initiatives in 2016. Anti-Black Friday Movements were popping up everywhere in 2015 so expect more brands to seize the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition by appealing to the conscious consumer.

10: Brand Sacrifice – The narratives around brands are increasingly driven by what they are prepared to sacrifice for the common good. 2016 has already kicked off with Aldi, Woolies and Coles all committing to removing products with micro beads from their shelves. Expect brand sacrifice to become a key part of marketing narratives in 2016.