Like few times in our history, we are navigating a moment of profound cultural, political and economic transformation.
On one hand, we’ve seen nearly every nation on the planet come together behind new Sustainable Development Goals and an historic Climate Accord that offers a bold and inspiring vision for the promise and possibilities of business and society.
And at the same time, we’re experiencing devastating challenges driven by economic volatility, terrorism, mass migration, racial injustice and tectonic geopolitical shifts that are stretching the ability of traditional institutions, governments and markets to adapt, innovate and succeed.
In this context of dynamic change, it’s a moment to reflect on the role of businesses and brands in our society and define a vision and path to remain relevant in a new marketplace and resilient for a new world.
At BBMG, we believe part of the answer lies in creating Brands for Humans. It’s an approach that brings together the power of business with the meaning and influence of brands to design new systems and stories that shape our aspirations, behaviors and relationships for a more just and sustainable future.
It’s about asking and answering how we can deliver more understanding, meaning and value for consumers, employees, shareholders and society so that we all can thrive together.
At this moment in history, Brands for Humans recognizes that what makes us most human, what the world needs and how brands win are now exactly the same. Indeed, our shared success will require that we place more of our humanity at the center of business.
So here are five imperatives of Brands for Humans that we can act on together - as individuals, as businesses and as a society - to imagine, design and build a more resilient future.
Like never before, a new generation of consumers is looking for brands to stand for a purpose that’s bigger than product benefits. They want brands to embody an inspiring ethos, to bring a strong point of view, and take action to make a positive impact in the world.
From the creativity of startups such as THINX in challenging stigma about menstruation, to the bravery of a 90-year old legacy food brand in redefining what makes a family, to CEO leadership rejecting Wall Street’s short-term thinking, brands are challenging conventions about our bodies, whom we love and the very purpose of business in society.
To summon our courage, we’re asking how might we take bolder stands and be proud to face the consequences when we act from our deepest values? How might we focus on long-term growth and the full measure of our impact on people and the planet we share?
As the boundaries between technology and human experience increasingly blur, our growth, creativity and success will require finding the right balance between our spiritual essence and the technical advancements that shape our lives.
From REI’s Opt Outside campaign to IBM’s Out Think, forward-thinking brands are inviting us to keep exploring, ask big questions and imagine new ways of being.
To inspire our sense of wonder, we’re asking how might we do more to feel a sense of awe for the natural world? How might we nourish the relationship between humanity and nature - because we humans are simply part of nature and nature is part of us?
In the daily stream of news and information that touches our lives, we face the seemingly unending presence of violence and tragedy around the world - yet also tremendous acts of love and beauty.
From TOMS’ A Day Without Shoes and Virtual Giving Trips to Samsung’s Una Vuelta Mas and Hearing Hands, brands are bringing us closer to the experiences of others and harnessing the power of technology to fuel empathy and compassion so all of us can realize the full blessings of life.
To cultivate our capacity for empathy, we’re asking how might we see listening as a gift, bring compassion to the experiences of others and act to heal each other’s suffering?
The world is smaller and flatter than ever before, giving us the chance to explore the glorious diversity of people and places around the world and recognize what we all share in common.
From Etsy to Airbnb, a new breed of brands is helping us redefine commerce, connect through our shared passions and belong anywhere.
To develop deeper relationships, we’re asking how might we nurture the connection with our true selves, in moments of quiet, reflection and presence? How might we foster mutual relationships that share the burdens and benefits of life? And how might we seek out and belong to a community of ideas and ideals that’s bigger than ourselves?
In the swirl of our daily grind, we can too often lose touch with the simple pleasures and joys that each day can bring - most of which have nothing to do with traditional notions of consumption.
From Daybreaker’s dance parties at dawn to JetBlue’s HumanKinda project, brands are inviting us to wake up, live in the moment and embrace the small and slow pleasures of the everyday.
To inspire more joy, we’re asking how might we let go of our flaws and our fears? How might we welcome each day with open minds and open hearts? How might we play again like children?
This is what it looks like when we place our humanity at the center of business.
Indeed, something profound is happening in the world. All around us we can see this new future coming into being.
We are at the precipice of great change and a world of possibilities inspired by our hopes, aspirations, ingenuity and the fundamental recognition of our interdependence.
And yet, perhaps the change is so profound and so fast that many who are afraid, who are struggling and who feel left behind are being pulled into fear, isolation and division.
The truth is that each of us can only realize our full creativity and success when all of us can. In nature, species survive because they adapt and work together.
So, as we imagine what it means to design Brands for Humans, let’s bring our courage, our sense of wonder, our empathy, a commitment to deeper connections and our joy to meet this moment.
Let’s commit to creating a future where business, nature and humanity can flourish together.
This post first appeared in Huffington Post on July 26, 2016.