The Considered_ themes are the subject of an upcoming book by Steven Johnson.
Things are changing. Consumers, businesses and brands are changing. Advertising and marketing will need to change.
Welcome to the future. The consumerist project has buckled. The economic, social and environmental consequences of unfettered growth are dawning in consumer consciousness and new species of business and brands are rising up the food chain. Corporate social responsibility has gone into overdrive.
A new generation of enlightened consumer is demanding more from their brands… more responsibility, more sustainability, more humanity. Before long, they’ll stop demanding more. And start demanding different. They will realise that it is brands, not governments, that can deliver the changes we need to address the challenges we face. And they will realise it’s their role as consumer, not voter, that is their power base.
Organisations that viewed CSR and sustainability as an obligation have been left behind by those that embraced it as an opportunity—an opportunity to recruit, motivate and retain staff; to build brand equity; to break new markets and drive business growth. More importantly, an opportunity to improve profitability by developing real responses to social issues: New products and services, new meaning, new behaviours—tangible innovations that are helping clean up and turnaround the free market machine.
As these trends started to surface, an opportunity emerged for the advertising and marketing industry, widely understood to have played a leading role in the consumerist tragedy, to reinvent itself—to repurpose itself as an engine for the positive change that both brands and consumers were demanding.
The agency heads, creative and planning teams, brand marketers and CSR executives prescient enough to spot this opportunity redefined their roles. They repurposed their skills and became enablers of sustainable innovation and behaviour change—rebranded as an integral part of the solution rather than the source of the problem.
Those that evolved won the consumers, the business, the jobs. Those that didn’t became irrelevant to a market that demanded more humanity and brands that demanded new ways of generating and communicating consumer value.
This is CSR on steroids. The consumers are pushing the brands; the brands are pushing the marketers; the marketers are pushing the agencies, the agencies are pushing their creative and strategic teams and the teams are pushing the consumers: a virtuous, market-driven cycle of positive pressure that channels the reach, scale and power of brand and business to go further and quicker than any government to halt the social, economic and environmental decline. A positive pressure that inspires us all to be more responsible, more ethical and more creative. In short, to be more Considered.
The future outlined above is emerging as we speak—its contours already taking shape through nascent cultural, technological and economic trends. The need for business and brand to play a more proactive role in responding to the challenges we face is settling down into mainstream thought.
However, whilst the business case (and to a lesser extent the moral argument) has become loud enough to gain attention, it remains largely impotent when it comes to inspiring action. Seen through a behaviour change lens, we need to shift the intervention from raising awareness and generating motivation to enabling action and empowering solutions. This book is an attempt to do just that.
The advertising, marketing and creative industries represent the largest concentration of innovation talent on the planet. A mammoth, largely untapped, pool of change potential. A sleeping giant in a brave new world crying out for creative solutions to urgent problems.
It is these industries and this talent that could provide a bridge between good intentions and transformative solutions, triggering a sea change in how we respond to global challenges. However, it’s at that point we arrive at the crux of the issue and the backbone of this book.
If the advertising, marketing and creative industries are to step up to the plate, grasp this opportunity and fulfill this role, things will have to change: new perspectives are required, new concepts, skills and tools to navigate this future realm of behaviour change and disruptive innovation.
The future is coming. Are we ready to evolve?
The pages that follow will bring this brave new world to life and build the specific skills we need to ensure we survive and thrive within it.
Yes, there are lots of case studies, but there’s also a significant layer of science and theory that I’ve tried to make accessible, but refuse to apologise for.
The problems we face—widespread behaviour change, seismic cultural shifts, sustainable innovation—are wicked. If we are to solve them, it won’t be through a flash of inspiration from a catalogue of other people’s work. Or through the assimilation of generic principles and platitudes, regardless of how many times they are repeated.
If we are to respond to these challenges and understand the alchemy that will translate them into commercial and creative opportunities, it will be through a fundamental repurposing of our skills and the addition of tools, concepts and perspectives that we would hitherto have considered irrelevant to our practice.
As the engine of the sustainable brand movement we need to be as familiar with behavioural economics as we are with channel plans; as comfortable with co-design principles as we are with brand diamonds; as inspired by network theory as we are by the D&AD annual. There is no easy way. Our hands will be dirtied.
In Part One, I outline in brisk detail precisely why we urgently need more Considered Creative. We need to understand the power of advertising, marketing and creativity in more detail: how it affects society—both intentionally and unintentionally—as a foundation for using it for positive change.
We need to understand the history of the sustainable brand and responsible business movement: the role that it has traditionally played in relation to social change issues and the reasons why a new paradigm is required.
Similarly, we need to understand the ways in which advertising, marketing and creativity have been used to drive positive social change in the past as a basis for expanding—or redefining—it to address our contemporary challenges.
In Part Two, I unpack the toolbox that all parties involved in this agenda will need and outline practical actions that readers can begin to implement immediately through their work.
Firstly, I explain in theory and practice the two fundamental challenges we will need to rise to:
- How do we adapt our skills to tackle specific social issues?
- How do we use every brief and every brand as an opportunity for positive change?
Secondly, I outline the evolution we need to make in order to rise to these challenges in terms of 5 fundamental shifts:
1. From target audiences to human beings: we need to reconsider our approach to consumer insight, assimilating the surge of new research from the behavioural sciences to focus on real people living real lives.
2. From T-shaped People to X-(wo)men: we need to break out of the media bubble and redefine what it means to be multi-disciplinary.
3. From creativity to innovation: we need to move our skills up the value chain to imagine and realise new strategies, products and services. Ultimately, to create new business models built around the wellbeing of consumers and communities and the sustainability of economies and resources.
4. From bad stuff, to good stuff, to no stuff: we need to understand how to increase brand and consumer value by reducing environmental impact.
5. From clever ideas to Considered Creative: we need to widen our understanding of how our work impacts society, using our skills to promote positive values and normalise sustainable behaviours, regardless of which product, service or brand we are working on.