Back to the F**kture: Ana Andjelic

type - podcast
In his latest Back to the F**kture podcast, author and The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond spoke with sociologist, columnist and author, Ana Andjelic to discuss how we should look to prioritise solid cultural growth

As Ana Andjelic says in her book, The Business of Aspiration: ‘Not long ago, wearing fur was a signal of wealth and status. Now, it’s a signal of ignorance.’ Her book, and her insights, as you’ll learn in my latest Back to the F**Kture podcast episode, are brimming with such sharp, direct and hugely incisive statements.

Consider this: ‘To hack growth, brands have to hack culture first,’ or this: ‘Forget the latest Fendi bag, today’s cult objects are pyjamas, home leisure, sourdough bread, a Peloton bike, a yoga mat, a collection of plants,’ or even this very timely aside about why we are moving from ‘I’ culture to collectivism (the subject of our 2022 Trend Briefing): ‘Instead of focusing on individuals, we should focus on their relationships, and look at the communities they belong to.’

But these are exactly the kinds of insights you expect from a sociologist, columnist and author who has specialised in strategy and worked for some of Fortune’s top 500 brands. More recently she was appointed as chief brand officer at Banana Republic, where insiders suggest she was brought in by the brand’s president and CEO Sandra Stangl (an equally sharp and astute operator) to help her pilot the troubled brand back into less choppy and inclement waters.

Indeed, her book and our podcast are full of the kinds of insights that are likely to help her do just that: why brands should function as communities rather than customer relationship entities; the role that culture, as well as commerce, plays in defining a brand’s ethos; how and why certain kinds of GMO (genetically modified) brands have become overgrown, monstrous and tasteless because of overblown marketing, and inevitably sink, implode and rot at their heart.

She isn’t, as you can tell, a woman who minces her words. She is also a columnist who reserves her deadliest aim, and most explosive bullets, for VC firms and the men (and it’s usually men) who run them. As she tells it, their short-termism – despite what the market would like us to believe – stifles innovation and longevity, and in most cases where long-form investment is required – in blockchain, AI, biotech, fission and so on – they want in and out without any of the long-term consequences and ethical and moral associations. She’s also with California State Senator María Durazo when she said of Uber: ‘There is nothing innovating about underpaying someone for their labour and basing an entire business model on misclassifying workers.’

But don’t read into this that she’s anti-gig economy or anti-brand. If anything, she’s the opposite, reminding us that we need to prioritise solid cultural growth over fast-draw business growth when it comes to business investment, and that when it comes to brands, we shouldn’t confuse tone of voice with a brand’s weight or its core values.

Published by:

22 December 2021

Author: Martin Raymond and Ana Andjelic



As she says in her book, competing on a tone of voice is NOT a real and durable advantage for a brand. Nor is she convinced about the role of PR in building brands. As she sees it, they don’t have the creative know-how to build legendary brands.

Why? Because they don’t have culture and creativity at their hearts. They focus on presence, performance and visibility. But, as she says, these things – ‘performance marketing and paid social carpet bombing – no matter how targeted, do not create a human connection that all durable brands have.’

So, I ask her in my podcast, what are good, durable brands made from? Describe their characteristics. And here she is clear: trust, which requires time to build up and deploy; devotion, on behalf of its founders and the eco-system it serves; a myth; an association; a story; a grand narrative; along with an exemplary product people can believe in and rally around. And most importantly of all, the 4Cs: a community within which the brand lives, breathes and interacts; content it uses to ensure that those interactions are sticky in the form of stories, cultural riffs and memes that key opinion leaders, or KOLs, as opposed to followers or influencers, want to talk about; curation and curated moments, whereby extraneous noise, or other kinds of marketing distractions, are filtered out; and finally, the ‘we’ voice of the collective, of the collaborator, where what a brand talks about or promotes ‘reflects the broader taste and aesthetics of their joint audience’.

Finally, as she explains, social responsibility, sustainability and corporate transparency need to sit at the forefront of your brand as well as within and beneath it. You have to lead by example, in other words, rather than merely reflect the lowest common denominators of the day. ‘Brands are like trends,’ she concludes: ‘If enough do good, and are good, others will follow, along with their communities.’ Just so.

You can listen to our full podcast here, or find out more about Ana here.

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.