I am not saying that the branding industry can clear up all the mess
we have made. But I am saying that we can damn well contribute.
The Big Shift to sustainable living is about changing minds.
And that is what we are trained in – isn’t it?
During 2017, I will dedicate my work to changing the ”World of Branding” for the sake of our planet. My aim is to alter some of the traditional laws of Branding – laws that are seen as sacred by this billion-dollar industry.
As I see it – traditional branding assists us in destroying our planet at a heartbreaking pace. This does not need to be the case. Branding does not need to be an accelearator of the problem – it can be a part of the solution.
Do not imagine that I am talking only about reducing consumerism. What I am aiming for is a mindshift that is both wide and profoundly deep. I believe that a new kind of branding can help humanity to redefine the frames that she refers to as reality.
Understand that this is an act of love towards the branding world. I have spent 15 years of my work as an artist on its stage. There is great potential here. Simon Sinek and many other thinkers and doers have done great work. Let´s take it one step futher. It´s not complicated. It is the small gestures of the many that have the biggest impact.
In a contemporary world that searches for new economic systems, True Branding is an appeal for a new way of branding. The time has come to rephrase the traditional laws of branding and to re-invent branding to a 4.0* level and use it as a tool for sustainable development. We need to reconsider the ultimate intention with branding and to extend the understanding of the influence branding has upon the human mind, her emotions and her decisions.
This book is a love letter to branding – and it is a blistering criticism of a billion-industry whose biggest contribution is that it speeds up the un-sustainable living that is already taking place at a heartbreaking pace.
I believe that branding can be a key contributor in this big shift that we need to take. It is possible to upgrade branding from being part of the problem so that it becomes part of the solution. Staying with the traditional principles of branding – or leaving them – is not a question of being right of wrong. It is a question of what kind of state we want to leave our planet in. We can continue to co-create a destination no one really wants, or we can take a step in another direction, we can shift to True Branding.
*Branding 4.0 is a reference to the 4.0 economic theories
I cannot work with this mission all by myself. Well, maybe I can, but I do not want to. Connecting with others is essential. And it has already started. Thank you Helena Hildur W. for the dialogues and the thoughts you share. And thank you Jessika Wiklund. And Emil Hast. And Sofi Håkansson. And Artur Kowalski. And Alexander Bard. And Otto Scharmer.
Many consumers don’t even like themselves. In 2010, more people died from suicide than from war, murder and natural disasters put together.
Does it then seem like a good idea to keep creating ”a need to buy” fueled by the logic that the items will save the consumer from the uncomfortable feeling of not being good enough? When we all know that the item will only comfort for a short while, if at all.
The Social Divide. Two and a half billion people on our planet subsist on less than $2 per day. Although there have been many successful attempts to lift people out of poverty, this number, 2.5 billion, has not changed much over the past several decades. In addition we see an increasing polarization in society in which the top 1 percent has a greater collective worth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
The Ecological Divide. We are depleting and degrading our natural resources on a massive scale, using up more nonrenewable precious resources every year. Although we have only one planet earth, we leave an ecological footprint of 1.5 planets; that is, we are currently using 50% more resources than our planet can regenerate to meet our current consumption needs. As a consequence, one third of our agricultural land has disappeared over the past 40 years. Rapidly falling water tables are taking us on a path toward food riots. Food prices are expected to double by 2030.
When I read this the first time my heart jumped. To me, as an artist, it rang totally true.
”…the quality of the results that a system creates is a function of the awareness from which the people in that system operate.”
This sentence really points to the core of the power of branding. Because branding is far more than a tool that affects consumer descisions. It also affects consumer awareness. And through the massive influence of branding on every level of society, it definitely affects all the ”people in the system”.
Where does the sentence come from? Let me introduce you to the Presencing Institute at MIT. This is how they describe themselves;
The Presencing Institute (PI) is an awareness-based action-research community that creates social technologies, builds capacities, and generates holding spaces for profound societal renewal. This community tries to contribute to shifting the economy from ego to eco, and toward serving the well-being of all.
A ten-year research project we started in 1996, conducted by Otto and his colleagues, including Joseph Jaworski and Peter Senge, at MIT, resulted in a consciousness-based framework of leadership and change. That framework, referred to as Presencing or Theory U, says that the quality of the results that a system creates is a function of the awareness from which the people in that system operate.
The Spiritual-cultural Divide. While the ecological divide is based on a disconnect between self and nature, and the social divide on a disconnect between self and other, the spiritual divide reflects a disconnect between self and Self—that is, between my current “self” and the emerging future “Self” that represents my greatest potential. This divide is manifest in rapidly growing figures on burnout and depression, which represent the growing gap between our actions and who we really are. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000 more than twice as many people died from suicide as died in wars.
Without identifying the problems we cannot recognize the solutions.
What if it is all about how we make decisions? And what if human beings in general are really good people that want decent things? How then did we end up here?
With the speed of information, growth and innovations, ironically we end up feeling disconnected. And this disconnection – I believe – is more than a uncomfortable feeling. It is the very reason why we make decisions that create suffering and distress, for ourself, the planet and other human beings.
This ”disconnection” is a plague and it has epidemic qualities. A part of the treatment can be a new kind of branding.
A branding that is true. Not only true to its own growth, but to the resources that make it come alive. True to the stakeholders that are affected by its existence. That would be a revolution.
I love branding. I really do. It does not have to remain as part of the problem. It can emerge to become part of the solution. If we are brave enough to let it.
When I was eight, I remember thinking of happiness as a decision. And somehow I believed it would last longer if I didn´t tell anyone about it.
When I was eleven, I decided to become an artist. Merely being happy wasn´t enough anymore. I had then figured out that if I called myself an artist, I could then decide to do just about anything. So far this has proven to be both true and false.
When I was 18, I had my first separate exhibition. Oil paintings on canvas. Surreal landscapes from the fantasies I dreamt I had. Adult and mature in a way that only really young people can afford to be.
Some private exhibitions and artwork:
-97 ”Foreplay and Aftertaste”, Exhibition, Sweden
-98 ”My ego is my Hobby”, Exhibition, Sweden
-98 ”In the stomach of God” – my first and only contribution to an Artfilm triennal.
– 99 ”ME – I searched for my limitations and found that they where futher away than I ever thought they where”. Exhibition, Sweden
2003 ”Kind of Human”. Exhibition at Shanghai International Artfair, China.
2006 ”Maskulinum” A tribute to the man, Stockholm, Sweden.
In 2001, when I was 26 years old, I founded the Art Agency Reflection Company together with the PR-strategist and friend Göran Sachs. We then became the first Art Agency in Sweden. Maybe the first in the world.
This book I am writing has been walking by my side for quite a while. It whispers in my ear; Only you can set me free, only you can make this happen. And of course it is right. Because right now it is nothing but a ghost in my head. And a draft in my computer.
From the beginning I thought I would call the book True Branding. But maybe that would imply that the branding that is taking place today is fake? And it isn´t. Not always. Possibly the title ”Branding for the Big Shift” is better, pointing towards a future that lies somewhere different from the direction in which we’re headed today.
Still, the branding I am aiming for is a kind of Branding that is true to the bigger picture, that is true to the stakeholders that today are excluded by the branding process itself.
Time will tell where we will end up…