by Tenielle Maris. From the fancy juicer with all the bells and whistles to the exercise bike collecting dust in your garage (that you swore you would use twice a day, every day), we buy into those brands that best facilitate our own personal quest for a new, shinier and improved self.

With the promise of the new year — and the allure that comes along with ‘starting over’ — we humans get caught up in the pursuit of a better year ahead: one that is determined by a myriad of predefined New Year resolutions. Whatever your thing — improved expenses, home renovation, a healthier lifestyle or anything that empowers you to simply be better — these all fulfil the same human desire for self-improvement.

Betterment consumer trend

Betterment is the consumer trend that encapsulates this very thinking. According to Trendwatching, it is the quest for improved lives through brand and product choices that create efficiencies and enhance lifestyles. To take this a step further, consumers have now begun to associate their own personal self-improvement or ‘reinvention’ with their contribution to making the world a better place. And, in a time where activism has become virtual (what we have come to know as ‘slacktivism’), consumers look to brands to make the world a better place.

Sounds like a far stretch? Not at all. In a 2015 study of 29 international markets and 30 000 respondents, 84% of 30 000 people surveyed across 29 international markets — including India and China — believe brands have the ability to effect more positive change than governments (Branding Strategy Insider 2015).

“Reconciliation brands” is the global trend that encapsulates how, more than ever, brands have the power to help consumers become their ultimate self: “Ever more aware of rising social tensions and historic inequalities, consumers are looking to brands and businesses to take meaningful action that brings people together, heals divides, rights wrongs and promotes harmony” (Trendwatching 2016).


Unilever’s multi-brand Bright Future campaign is a shining example of the good being done by Dove and Persil to build Unilever’s profile as a reconciliation brand. In hugely commoditised categories, brands are giving consumers a value proposition like never before: one that directly feeds into their eternal quest for self-actualisation.

Affordable UK retail chain, Lidl, wanted to change perceptions around the quality of its produce, during the most-indulgent and -selfish time of the year. Instead of adopting the same tear-jerking storytelling tactics of other big supermarket players, the brand decided to take a unique stance that was arguably more likely to have stood out from the fluffy pieces consumers have come to expect over Christmas.

Smart brands are the ones that realise that consumers are starting to become more aware of how their brand choices impact the world around them and, in turn, respond with some big-picture-thinking, behaviour-shifting creativity. There’s no better time to do just that than when they’re actively thinking about reinventing themselves. According to Forbes, only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year resolutions. This fear, of not wanting to fail, is a need state that marketers and advertisers need to connect with, in a way that makes someone feel better simply by being associated with that brand.

Something meaningful

In a time where more and more advertising campaigns are being created with a much-bigger objective in mind — to improve lives or solve bigger societal issues — brands need to be bold and intuitive enough to come up with something that actually means something, and makes a person (and possibly the world) a better place.


Tenielle MarisTenielle Maris is strategic director at TTL agency, 34°, in Johannesburg. Beginning her career in branding and communications, she has spent the last decade in the marketing industry where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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