Unlocked : Is Essentialism the Future of Branding?

health & wellness
type - trends
category - design
category - luxury
sector - health & wellness
sector - media & technology
sector - retail
sector - youth
sector - luxury
Tim Jones, head of strategy at global branding agency venturethree, believes brands should embrace the philosophy of essentialism and tap into their significant societal power to establish stronger connections with consumers. 

Consumers’ and brands’ quest for meaning

A global pandemic, dislocated democracies, rising distrust in media, a cost of living crisis and the tangible consequences of global warming have led consumers to navigate the world with increased anxiety while questioning their place in this world – their essence, as such – and the meaning of life.

‘We are more aware of our own mortality because of Covid and our limited resources because of climate change,’ says Tim Jones of London-based branding agency venturethree, whose clients have included Just Eat, NOW, Penguin Random House, Sky, Sports Direct and Trustpilot. ‘Consumers are re-evaluating their relationships with everything: parents, work, religion, government and institutions.’

Younger consumers have even turned to quiet unfollowing to express their opposition to shallow and surface-level media. Both Millennials and Gen Z are now actively analysing who adds value to their lives and who doesn’t. In February 2023, the de-influencing trend, characterised by content-creators dissuading followers from buying products, expressed a growing wariness of brand reliability and influencers’ credibility. As of July 2023, #deinfluencing had garnered 735m views on TikTok.

According to Jones, brands have a significant responsibility to soothe consumers who are hungry for both mindful and meaningful consumption. ‘A fully realised brand is the most powerful force in business, if not the world,’ he says, ‘because it mixes commerce, culture and customer.’

With a decreasing dependence on conventional forms of community such as religion and nuclear families, the brand strategist argues that businesses have the power – and the duty – to organise and guide society. ‘A sense of purpose, efficiency, meaning and operating principles are everything that a brand was designed to serve.’

Published by:

11 October 2023

Author: Pavan Bivigou

Image: The Nike United Pack and Nike Tiempo Legend 10


Nike Women Spring 2023 campaign. Photography by Renell Medrano

Building faith in an era of distrust

In the past, Jones’s work as a strategist would focus on keeping brands relevant. ‘We were used to asking ‘where’s the opportunity?’ before drawing a map and finding a fitting space in the market.’ Today, he prioritises finding the highest ground for brands: searching for where they can express their values and how they can contribute to society. Jones wants brands to become more purpose-driven and build consumer trust to address ongoing disconnection. Closing the trust gap remains a challenge. Some 79% of B2C leaders in the US believe customers have 'somewhat' or 'very high' trust in their company’s brand, while in reality, only 52% of customers agree (source: Deloitte Digital and Twilio).

Raising trust levels could also drive high revenues. In the US, when asked: ‘Between similar products online, which of the following has driven you to buy the higher priced option?’, nearly half (46%) of consumers said they would spend more money for a brand name they trusted – up from 30% in 2021 (source: Salsify).

Like Maya Angelou’s iconic motto: ‘If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going’, questioning a company’s past, beliefs and values could also strengthen its vision and future status in the industry. Purpose-driven brands capture more market share and grow on average three times faster than their competitors. They also report 30% higher levels of innovation and 40% higher levels of workforce retention (source: Deloitte).

‘The plan is not to limit consumption, but to encourage a new richness and depth to consumption’

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