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Make America Aspirational Again…

in SMAKK Talk

I was excited to see the wave of cause-oriented advertising at this past weekend’s Super Bowl. Since the election, I’ve been thinking about what our responsibilities are as branders, marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

I usually think it’s art’s job to dissent. Entertainment’s to provide beauty and escape. But marketing’s job is… to sell. As creatives in this field, we’re contracted to project the desires of a target market onto our clients’ products. It’s our job to understand what consumers want, and then find a way to associate a brand, product, or experience with that want. We sell the possibilities of the future.

This is no small thing. While art and entertainment can provide commentary, the work we do is in front of consumers eyes just as frequently… maybe more. In advertising and marketing, we’re crafting narratives that tell people what they “should” want.

I began my advertising career in the 2000’s, an era best defined by the word “aspirational.” As in “the-lifestyle-you-want-but-don’t-have.” I was often a part of campaigns that sold a “luxury” lifestyle defined by the flash of red on the underside of Louboutins, Amex Black Cards, McMansions, and copious bottles of Veuve Clicquot: the conspicuous consumption markers of wealth.

The problem was that these aspirations were not attainable for most. And the money they were using to pay for this lifestyle was often credit card debt.

Since the bubble burst, conspicuous consumption has given way to conscious consumption. Among enlightened brands, we’ve seen the rise of a conversation around Millennial values: social entrepreneurship, radical transparency, and supporting feminism and diversity as overt brand goals.

Satva Living believes in a triple bottom line: social responsibility, supporting farmers’ cooperatives and girls education initiatives in India where they source cotton; producing with eco-friendly, non-GMO and organic materials; all while being mindfully stylish.

And in marketing, the lifestyles we project and language we use to communicate these values is smarter, more diverse, more supportive, and more thoughtful than the ‘00’s. The language of aspiration now is full of hope, not greed.

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”

Desmond Tutu

 

So what does this have to do with our responsibility in Trump’s America?

I believe it’s our job to push ourselves to create work that forwards this path to a more inclusive, more thoughtful, more socially and environmentally responsible society. We should encourage the brands we work with to align themselves with the values of the rising generations who continue to want this. We should push even harder to sell the possibility of a better future.

The future: how people aged 18-25 cast their votes.

I’ve been proud to work with so many brands at SMAKK that are actively shaping a better future: Dao Labs, Satva Living, Suminter Organics, SW Basics, MD Solar Sciences, and even more soon to launch. We’re committed to work with even more brands aligned behind these common causes in 2017.

If your brand aspires to create a better future email me, I’d love to talk: katie@smkkstudios.com

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