Indeed, its purpose seems better served when it's more felt—evidenced by how lives are eased and enhanced— than seen.
The notion is at odds with the consuming public’s preoccupation with technology and its ever-tightening grip on our smartphone-tethered, Netflix-streaming, Facebook-posting and Amazon-buying lives.
But amid the digitization of our days is a countervailing consumer craving for a respite, and a yearning for something more than just the convenience and speed afforded by the tech revolution.
That craving is materializing at retail with the rise of in-store services defined by the human-touch rather than data algorithms, like custom tailoring that evokes an old world shopkeeper-to-customer intimacy, for one.
The consumer yearning for purchases imparting meaning, connection and self expression is also reflected in the rise of merchandise designed for an audience of one, marked not by some designer’s imprint but by the consumer's own aesthetic, as they themselves are the brand today.
And the shopper craving for something more substantial is spreading to one of the most human, primal and non-tech experiences: How we eat.
The rise of premium food — equal parts healthful and high quality with sustainable/ethical bona fides — has moved from the margins to the mainstream.
On its 10th anniversary, Chobani's new branding campaign is designed to drive home its commitment to making healthy, socially-conscious food.
The Next Iteration of Personalization: Brandless-ness
A brand-less ethos in synch with the new "Me Generation" is brewing, an implicit nod by retailers and consumer packaged goods firms that shoppers themselves want to be at the center of the narrative, as opposed to some prepackaged, widely distributed brand image.
Retailers are catering to the heightened consumer craving for imprints of their own personal brand in an era of showcasing one’s private self on public platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
The shift finds merchants now marketing to a party of one. Taking the notion of small-batch, bespoke apparel from retailers like Stitch Fix a step further, startup Frilly launched a clothing collection that enables women to customize every element of an item, resulting in tops, bottoms and dresses that are a complete reflection of the wearer.
Another expression of personalization-via-brandlessness marks an erasure of sorts, as companies offer consumers a blank canvas. Newbie Brandless is offering the promise of high-quality household products in intentionally nondescript packaging at a uniform $3 price point. “At Brandless, we put people first. That means you,” according to the company. “We try to keep it simple, so hopefully you can easily find just what matters to you.”
Couture Food For The Masses
Following fashion and home design, highbrow food is getting a radical, low-price makeover in the U.S. grocery sector.
The democratization of local, organic, and specialty foods reflects the rise of “conscious capitalism” and a moral imperative to better serve the underserved amid growing income inequality.
Chobani's new branding campaign, for example, marks its commitment to using food to "catalyze social, economic and universal wellness," said Peter McGuiness, chief marketing officer, at an event to fete the Greek-yogurt company's revised packaging and messaging.
Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market pushed the democratization-of-good-food movement into the spotlight, as the online giant slashes prices at the tony supermarket in a push to make “better” food more affordable.
Meanwhile, European grocers Aldi and Lidl are bringing upscale food and what industry analyst Victor Martino calls “austerity chic” to U.S. supermarkets with barebones, warehouse-style stores that sell specialty items like award-winning Priano Italian Cheese and organic tortilla chips at prices that can undercut even Wal-Mart, just as Wal-Mart tests an organic restaurant.
And with a plan to make good food “accessible and affordable to everyone,” new online player Movebutter is spreading its farm-to-fridge” mission to 50 markets with its own minimalist brand of premium goods.
"This is the first 21st-century grocery brand, built around what people care about: quality, affordability, transparency, and community," according to the Movebutter's website. "The supermarket of the future."