Dematerialised brands

What if your company couldn’t make physical, tangible product anymore? What would your business be?

There’s probably going to be a point in the future when this happens, because there’ll be no more stuff to make stuff with. It happens for some businesses (Dodo burgers) sooner than others, but it’s probably going to happen to most at some point.

The weak brands fail at this point – they can’t exist without selling product. But the strong brands still work. Patagonia, for instance, works without GoreTex shells and Fleece midlayers. Take away the product and you still have something: a passion for enjoying the outdoors respectfully, a sustainable outlook on the world and the drive to change things. And those things can still be brought about without selling units. Patagonia high end guided holidays, outdoor skills workshops, or activism camps.

Some brands have already started: Nike+ helps you strive to be a better athlete without having to buy a pair of shoes.

Of course, this ‘thing without the thing’ is brand. And one of the oldest marketing clichés is “people don’t want to buy a drill, they want a hole in the wall” (Could Stanley or B&Q sell picture hanging service?) But material scarcity forces us to think about sustainable brand strategy in a different way.

What would your brand do in a de-materialised world?

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