Businesses are playing a vital role in creating a better future: commitments to carbon neutrality, adopting measures to embrace diversity, and recycling their packaging. However, ‘keep the brand out of this, otherwise it will lose its cool factor’ is a popular belief.

A sick planet, marginalized genders, exploited workers, what real role can a brand play?

After all, they are soft ideas, aren’t they?

It is precisely this soft power of brands that make them precious in the battle to build a better world for future generations.

Brands are fundamentally ‘ideas’ that inspire us and bind us together as communities.

Apple inspires us to, ‘Think Different’ and Nike to ‘Just Do It’; and we rush to form communities around these ‘ideas’.

We proudly wear them on our T-Shirt and emulate them and take the knee too, when they do.

We need to harness this engaging ability of brands, but instead of appealing to our ego rather speak to our ecological mind (a mind that sees the ecosystem, the ecology it is a part of).

Instead of appealing to our vanity, brands can help people come together and contribute to actively creating a better world.

Brands can thus keenly play a regenerative role in society.

Instead of appealing to our competitive drive; regenerative brands can help generate real value by appealing to our collaborative drive.

Exploitative and degenerative brand cultures tend to focus around the notions of scarcity and competitive advantage, whereas a regenerative brand culture understands how collaborative advantage can foster shared abundance.

Regenerative brands can thus create a win-win-win at level of individual, community and planet.

As an illustrative example, we can see how ‘Dirt is Good’ (OMO detergent) becomes a truly regenerative brand by speaking to our eco-centricity instead of our ego-centricity at the level of individual, community, and planet.

Individual: DIG helps transform egoistic Tiger parents who want their children to succeed into empathic parents who want their children to embrace playing outdoors.

Community: DIG helps communities to be eco-centric instead of being ego-centric. Instead of investing in real estate, ‘Dirt is Good’, makes them realize the importance of creating playgrounds in the city for future generations to come.

Planet: Finally, Dirt is Good, creates a win for the planet; as it inspires R&D to not just make detergents that clean whiter but also design packaging that help create new soil, or help grow plants, so kids can play in a natural environment.

We can see above that the brand idea works as a strong organizing idea and brings coherence to a company’s actions instead of disparate, random acts of goodness.

To conclude, we need to deeply reflect on what Prof. David Orr said, “Who are we? What are we? Was our role here on this planet simply to dig up carbon and release it into the atmosphere and then expire? Was that what we were all about?”

We are worth it, and we are worthy of it in that higher sense of looking beyond our selfish being;  and brands can powerfully help us unlock our better nature for a regenerative impact, by inspiring our ecological identity.

 

Subodh Deshpande