Almost daily, one of the strategists at Redscout will share a publication about a provocative brand display (think Applebee’s, Saucy Gloss). A critique ensues examining the value of the stunt and implications for the brand. These conversations shed light on a cultural phenomenon: access to unlimited information, intense competition for attention, and algorithms that trigger primal reactions push brands to act in extreme, sometimes farcical, ways.
The 30-second, let-me-watch-just-one-more world many enter when logging onto the internet, provides an endless array of quick, branded entertainment. These experiences, although effective in capturing attention and driving an emotional and behavioral response, led me to wonder: “If this style of marketing and engagement is our status quo, are there companies that are finding quieter, more sustainable ways to succeed? And if so, how?”
Pulling myself out of this fun, dopaminergic, content soup I went seeking brands that were indifferent about the limelight and yet still successful. In my search, I discovered that they did exist and shared a key commonality: they each had a single-minded, consistent focus. Their willingness to stay in their lane—delivering a coherent narrative linking craft, values, and experience—deepened their connection with consumers. By aligning their efforts in this way, brands are able to gain rent-free access to space in consumers’ brains, driving profound loyalty over time.
Here are some (quietly) confident brands that are creating long-lasting impact with their consumers*:
Heath Ceramics leverages its employee-owned business practice, a commitment to crafting timeless products, and savvy partnerships with local tastemaking brands to deliver a sense of security, comfort, and pride of ownership to its consumers. With this strategy, Heath has quietly gained recognition as the leader in ceramic homewares for the design-minded, professional class on the West Coast.
sweetgreen, the fast-casual darling (especially for Millennials like me) drives loyalty and cache by manifesting their mission of “building healthier communities by connecting people to real food” through an integrative experience. From transparent sourcing, to retail design, to a storytelling strategy that spotlights real people, sweetgreen delivers a consistent narrative that mirrors the wholesome experience their audience craves.
Aesop, the quiet queen of anti-marketing, executes its direct and minimalistic approach with the utmost intention. By stripping outward expression to the essentials, Aesop provides a peaceful canvas for consumers to engage sensorially and mold their experience to their own ideals within the range of premium skincare and fragrance offerings. This unspoken dialogue reinforces a sense of solidarity between the brand and the consumer’s self-image—fueling a virtuous cycle of bottom-up, IYKYK marketing upon which the billion dollar company is built.
It is when consumers are granted the power to decide how a brand will lead them to their self-idealized state that profound loyalty becomes possible. There are many paths to guide consumers to this ideal state—from bold, attention-grabbing displays to these quieter, steadfast approaches.
If you’re in the business of positively impacting consumers, I urge you to reflect on whether the choices you’re making help them understand why your brand should be an integral part of their life. So long as your consumer can feel the confidence and peace of mind to weave the brand narrative into their own lives, you’ll unlock that rent-free space.
*While the selected examples are largely premium, there are accessible or mass brands that also follow this playbook – for example: In-n-Out Burger, Trader Joes, Patagonia
(Photo by Yana Hurska)
(Image: AIGA Eye on Design)
(Image: RH Guesthouse)