medicinal mushroom products marketing

The Pursuit of Perception: The New Dimension of Personalization

Marketers: if you have not already reread your copy of Aldous Huxley’s, The Doors of Perception, now is the time. The trend of using planted-based psychedelics– that is, mushrooms – is once again a desired experience. That 1960’s “turned on, tuned in” experience of opening one’s inner doors to greater personal perceptiveness and universal understanding is now increasingly desired.  Jim Morrison must be looking down and smiling with an “I told you so” grin. 

The need for self-knowing, perceptual experiences that help us be better people is real. And, this deep desire to understand ourselves and the world is changing the concept of personalization. Some CMOs describe this as the more emotional component. Actually, it goes beyond emotional to spiritual.

For several years, personalization has been a desired brand benefit. Personalization still is desired. We appreciate products and services designed to satisfy our individual needs in ways that might not work for someone else. Brands can address you personally with recommendations, specific promotions and worthwhile information. Hotels can remember how you like your mini-fridge stocked. Airlines know how frequently you fly and how you want to be rewarded. Personalization is a status symbol. Personalization is part of our external image of success and our internal image of achievement. This is because personalization delivers an individualized recognition of who we are. Personalization is powerful because of the use of real time digital responsiveness and data collection.

Brands delivering data-driven personalized experiences are valuable brands. Brands offering personalized experiences reinforce respect and uniqueness. All of this is good. The ability to factor down messaging to an audience of one across millions of users and viewers has been profitable. This type of personalization, all pervasive in today’s world, can also, unfortunately, be seen as self-centered and somewhat superficial. It generates an “all about me” sensibility.

So, in our slightly dystopian, worrisome world, weary people are looking for a different type of personalization, something with more meaningfulness. People want more connection, not so much with like-minded others although that is still a huge desire, but with one’s inner self, with the truth about who they are while gaining some sort of existential understanding about the world.

More than mindfulness (an awareness of something), research shows meaningfulness is associated with life satisfaction, happiness and positive wellbeing. Meaningfulness is intensely personal.

Marketers should be expanding their definitions of personalization to include the meaningful pursuit of connections with the more “spiritual, soulful” side of their customers’ sense of self. Many people are seeking true self-perception. This dimension of personalization is about empowerment, healing self-transformation and personal resetting. Think of this as yoga on steroids.

This need for self-enlightenment goes beyond the commercial wellness industry as highlighted in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “This Vacation Is a Real Trip: Psychedelic experiences are beginning to play an integral role at luxury resorts.”  Bloomberg points out that spas designed around opening one’s doors of perception are big business. Additionally, the “shroom boom” as some call it, is also playing an important therapeutic role in treating a variety of medical issues including depression, PTSD and other trauma, substance abuse and pain.  

Increasingly, what used to be regarded as a recreational experience for hippies, dead heads, festival goers and the EST set (Erhard Seminars Training, the new age awareness groups held from 1971 to 1984) is seen as a respectable personal pathway for achieving heightened self-understanding, personal development and taking responsibility with physical and emotional relief. As Timothy Leary famously said, “You have to go out of your mind to use your head.” 

The state of California, Denver, CO, Oakland, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, MI, Cambridge and Somerville MA have all passed legislation to decriminalize possession of the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms – psilocybin, as well as LSD, mescaline and DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca. 

And, although psilocybin is still a powerful Schedule 1 drug in the US, there appears to be some universal recognition that people want help understanding themselves and their individual purpose on earth. Faced with the pressures and difficulties of life in today’s coronavirus world, people are seeking critical insight into how to be the best human being they possibly can. 

Some brands are actually delivering on the inspirational, personal perceptual experience.

For example, Silo Wellness describes itself as a “legal psychedelic and functional mushroom company focused on your mind, body and spirit. Silo Wellness cultivates psychedelic mushrooms and offers retreats in Jamaica and Oregon and products”. Most recently, as stated in The New York Post and other information outlets, Silo Wellness has launched a brand called Marley One. Marley One is a brand of psychedelic mushroom products.

Medicinal mushrooms are appearing in beverages and wellness products, similar to the proliferation of CBD edibles, tinctures and creams. 

Research from Mordor Intelligence highlighted in Financial Services Monitor Worldwide indicates that in 2020, the global functional mushroom business was US $12,415.12 million. Mordor Intelligence estimates that from 2021-2026 the business will register a CAGR of +8.4%. Mordor Intelligence reported expectations of functional mushrooms seeing growth beyond healthcare and pharmaceuticals but into the food and beverage sector.

Not all brands are or should be peddling the magical. However, the broadening of personalization is more than a mere fad. People want to open doors to new self-awareness. For brands and marketers, this additional intensely spiritual dimension to personalization means there is work to be accomplished now. Brands need to take this into account. Technological and digital connections alone may not help brands accomplish this. Marketers need to pay attention.

  • Knowing the prime prospect should include more than opinions, attitudes, buying habits and demographics. What are your prime prospects’ intentions regarding actions to improve self-understanding and experiences? How can your brand support this? Who do prime prospects think they are and what do they wish to become?? How does that affect the brand? Does the brand’s personalization efforts sync with the users’ current self-assessments?
  • Knowing problems that the prime prospect may have with the brand should be examined on functional, emotional, social and “spiritual” levels. Problem detection can run to the more functional. 
  • When thinking about the brand’s ease of choice, ease of use and ease of mind, marketers should put more effort into understanding how the brand affects the customer’s ease of mind. People put a lot of emphasis on self-perception, open-mindedness and insight. 

In a recent column for The New York Times on neuroscience, holistic brain research and how we construct our realties, David Brooks quotes a neuroscientist from the University of Sussex. Professor Anil Seth stated, “Perceptions come from the inside out just as much, if not more, than from the outside in.”  

Along with how people perceive brands, marketers must now start understanding how people wish to perceive themselves. These insights will be crucial for engaging customers with truly personalized experiences.

Learn more about paradoxes like this one: Navigate how to satisfy conflicting needs, and look beyond single-minded solutions with the insights and guidance in The Paradox Planet.

resale apparel

Worn is Wonderful: The Future of Shopping

Online apparel resale is a robust category. Online apparel resale is the ability to sell and buy pre-worn clothing that is in good condition. It is also the experience of seeking and finding unique items that make a personal statement. 

Most research indicates that the desire to shop online apparel resale is most popular among Gen Z. Online clothing resale is now a competitor of fast fashion, clothing that is the staple of H&M and Zara. Having said this, there are no real data to indicate online apparel resale is taking the place of fast fashion… at least not yet.

According to, 2020 resale in the US was a $27 billion business. estimates that the potential for US resale could be as high as $67 billion by 2025. One analyst stated that apparel resale has the power to become 20% of the apparel retail marketplace. Although these numbers reflect some physical outlets for apparel resale, the action is happening online.

Gone are the days of rummaging through an Army Navy store for that pair of navy blue wool button-flap sailor pants or for that used Pea Coat. Online apparel resale is really rocking the retail boat. 

But, more than just a way to shop, indications are that online resale shoppers may have an enormous effect on the future of fashion shopping. Brands must take notice now.

The online apparel resale category is already full of competitors. Poshmark and thredUP are already thriving options, as are Depop and Vinted. Depop is so popular among Gen Z that Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, announced it will be buying the UK-based Depop.

Urban Outfitters, the retail lifestyle brand that is home to Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and BHLDN for example, is planning to start its own clothing resale entity. Nuuly Thrift will arrive this fall via an app. According to Urban Outfitters, Nuuly Thrift will be a brand extension of its Nuuly Rent platform, a competitor to Rent the Runway. Extending its platform, Rent the Runway entered the resale marketplace in June 2021. 

Business Insider reported on an interview between Rent the Runway CEO, Jennifer Hyman and Vogue magazine. Ms. Hyman told Vogue that the option to buy second-hand clothing will attract a new audience. This potential new audience are those people who were unlikely to subscribe to Rent the Runway or just did not have an occasion for a dress or a gown. Since so many Rent the Runway items have already made money for the brand through rentals, buying customers will find affordable prices.

In May 2021, Walmart announced a collaboration with thredUP. According to Newstex Blogs, this relationship will permit Walmart to showcase more apparel on its website while giving thredUp the ability to showcase hundreds of thousands of worn-but-in-good-condition apparel items on

Resale apparel is also showing up in luxury. Kering, the French luxury brand corporation home to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, invested in Vestiaire Collective, a high end luxury resale brand. In the US, there is The RealReal, another upscale luxury resale brand.

There are many reasons for second-hand clothing purchase behavior.

  • Finding that special shoe, vintage dress or unique skirt at an unbelievable price is one reason for online apparel resale. Researchers point to the fact that Gen Z recognize how pre-loved, good condition, possibly vintage, clothing increases in value over time. 
  • Sustainability is another. Gen Z are very sensitive to the environmental harm of fast fashion. And, Gen Z is very open to taking personal actions to better the planet. Gen Z has deep concerns about disposability. Recycling and reselling clothing fits with their unease about waste. One financial advisor points out that Gen Z are “…much less concerned about newness than they are with waste….” 
  • Inflation and recession are other answers. Costs are rising while many people have been unemployed or living on reduced income. Being able to make money by selling clothing as a side hustle adds to the appeal.
  • Finding a retro or vintage outfit that makes a personal statement about the owner’s character is a yet one more possibility. 
  • Being able to play in a treasure-hunt experiential vibe – like shopping at TJ Maxx – is another. For a generation that grew up with digital gaming, searching for a valuable item is rewarding fun.
  • Covid-19 has been an igniter for online apparel resale. There are data to show that being in lock-down gave people the time to clear out their wardrobes. Receiving money for those about-to-be-discarded clothes makes more sense than throwing these items in the trash. Ads for Poshmark highlighted the ability to pay for special events such as a wedding or family travel. All you have to do is sell your not-recently-used, pre-loved items. And, according to an executive at Depop, savvy sellers can make around $300,000 a year. This gives them the cash to invest in a house or a car. Additionally, with the possibility of going back to the office, as people sell items, they are looking to beef up their wardrobes.
  • Online apparel resale is also a desired alternative to visiting a physical store. There is still ambivalence about in-person shopping due to the increase in Delta-variant coronavirus cases. Gen Z is extremely digitally skilled. Shopping online is easily navigated and can be accomplished on a phone. 
  • Pandemic rules and closures made donating items to a charity or a religious institution’s thrift store difficult. For quite some time, these physical options were not taking clothing. And, if they did, the seller had to visit the store: there were no more free pick-ups. Online apparel resale makes selling and buying easy.

Online apparel resale has the potential to change the future of fashion shopping. Brands in and beyond fashion should take heed.

In its 2020 Top Trends report, Euromonitor International pointed to a trend labeled Reuse Revolutionaries. Reuse Revolutionaries are those who look to a more circular business model. Recycling plastics, for example, is not as credible an action as it used to be for saving the planet. Reuse Revolutionaries are into “reusing, refilling and renting.” Euromonitor Data show that globally 54% of those interviewed want to make a positive contribution to the planet through their purchasing. The goal is a waste-free world. 

This is why online apparel resale is gaining momentum. Other data reported in WWD indicates that pre-owned clothing reps make a point of reporting their environmental ethos and progress. Sustainability optimists see the circulation of secondhand clothing as the beginning of a new era in environmental and social responsibility. Currently, with a few exceptions such as Patagonia, Stella McCartney and Eileen Fisher, fashion has a poor ecological cred. Brands must become players in the circular economy.

On the other hand, the Euromonitor report points to values personalization as a trend. For Gen Z, good-as-new is no longer a negative descriptor. It is a statement about personal character and beliefs. It is increasingly critical that brands help consumers make personal statements about who they are and their values. 

Worn is wonderful not just because people are making money on unused used items. Worn is wonderful not just because shoppers can make a purchase of something already in circulation. Worn is wonderful because of the impact it will have on how we consume. In this new future, brands will need to optimize going for the greater social good with personal character and values.

Amazon Department Stores

Amazon’s Opportunity to Transform Department Stores

Recent reporting from The Wall Street Journal indicates that Amazon is considering opening a few department stores in Ohio and California. One of the key reasons for the decline of department stores is now opening department stores. The online mega-department store is investing in building physical department stores.

Amazon is about to leverage its retailing expertise at a time when consumers are returning to physical stores and malls. Barron’s, the financial weekly published by Dow Jones, recently noted that department stores are actually making a comeback. The doom and gloom of the death-of-retail predictions seem to be fading away. Closed stores, empty malls and bankruptcies are no longer haunting the retail landscape. In fact, stores that were about to fall off the planet are now reappearing. For example, Toys R’ Us is scheduled to put small versions of its stores within Macy’s stores. Even without its new toy offerings, as Barron’s points out, Macy’s as well as Kohl’s, Ross Stores, The TJ Maxx portfolio (TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Marshalls are all showing increased traffic and profitability.

Amazon, is taking advantage of the moment. 

This would not be the first time Amazon has added brick-and-mortar stores to its retailing portfolio. Amazon has bookstores and self-service groceries in New York and Seattle respectively, Amazon 4-Star in New York (featuring products receiving 4-star ratings and an Amazon Fresh grocery store in Woodland Hills, California. 

In 2017, Amazon purchased Whole Foods, the organic and natural foods grocery chain.  As pundits puzzled over the whys and wherefores of this purchase, Amazon viewed Whole Foods as an extraordinary runway for doing retail better. By leveraging its expertise in data collection, loyalty, supply chain, delivery and digital creativity, Amazon saw enormous opportunity. 

Since the Whole Foods purchase, Amazon has been using Whole Foods as a laboratory for grocery retailing. Amazon’s changes to Whole Foods – some great and some abandoned – helped to transform Whole Foods’ perceptions as Whole Paycheck. Amazon has accomplished this significantly by rebranding and fashioning its 365 brand. If you look closely at the 365 logo, you see that it no longer says “Everyday Value.” Now, through a wide variety of offerings, a shopper can purchase high quality, affordable organic and non-organic products that compete in taste and ingredients with the more high-end brands on its shelves. 

Soon after Amazon’s Whole Foods purchase, in a far-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal, Jeff Wilke, the then chief executive of worldwide consumer at Amazon, spoke about the benefits of having Whole Foods in the Amazon tent. Mr. Wilke said, “I hope we’re going to learn about how physical stores work. They (Whole Foods) know a lot about food, produce – supply chains at a very large national scale. We’re going to learn with them how we can efficiently – and in a very high-quality way – deliver groceries to our customers.” 

Now, Amazon sees an opening to work the same kind of reinvigoration with department stores. Basically, a department store offers a wide range of products and services across multiple categories. This is what Amazon already does online. Having a physical option allows Amazon to showcase particular offerings that may be overlooked on its website. The Wall Street Journal’s latest news states that Amazon will be stocking its department stores with its private-label fashion brands and its other private-label offerings across categories such as household items, electronics and other merchandise. 

Building department stores, Amazon will have the opportunity to go to school on non-food retailing. The customer knowledge base will be extraordinary. Amazon will learn about those shoppers who actually prefer to purchase clothing when the clothing can be tried on. Amazon will learn why these customers behave in this manner. Amazon will learn about the power of touch and feel in retailing. As with Whole Foods, department stores will provide pricing information allowing for experiments with alternative pricing strategies.

While existing department stores are breathing new life into their brands, including balancing killer online offerings and physical stores, Amazon will not only be educating itself on the future of department store, brick-and-mortar retailing. Amazon will have the chance to completely remake shopping in a physical location. Amazon’s department stores will be incubators of ideas that have the possibility to change the underlying concept of department stores.

Amazon has the opportunity to transform the concept of the department store. In a review on five new books about retailing in Harvard Business Review, “Getting Back to Business: The future of shopping in the post-Covid World,” Juan Martinez writes, “The thriving stores of the future will be driven by data, technology, and even a little theater.” 

As Mr. Martinez points out, the five books on the future of retailing all concur that thriving stores will rely on an optimization of data, technology and the experiential. Success in future retailing will undoubtedly require expertise in e-commerce, customer service, knowing the customer and digital prowess. These are all things that Amazon can do. Although Amazon does not face an empty field, Amazon can redefine an industry as it did with books, grocery, delivery and merchandise. 

Changing Minds with Safe Freedom

We have a situation. 

Many Americans refuse Covid-19 vaccines that will save their lives and the lives of others. Institutional pleas have failed to persuade these vaccine deniers. Scientific data are not working. Public health advertising is not making headway. Even seeing is not believing. According to reporting, not even the Delta-variant-near-death experience of her husband could persuade a woman to become vaccinated. 

This does not mean that people’s minds cannot be changed. Just understand that changing minds requires someone to reconceive an idea that is part of their thinking.

Unfortunately, in many instances facts, data, experts or science make people dig in their heels. When confronted with information that goes against their beliefs, politics, hopes and concerns, people become even more set in their ways. 

Social science research on behavior change indicates that asserting science, facts or data to change minds generates a “backfire effect”. And, since the Covid-19 data are changing rapidly, changed scientific data-based recommendations are scorned.  Recent media report that some people are now aggressively hostile when urged to take a vaccine.

Thinking that people do not understand the truth or cannot grasp the ramifications is an ineffective way to change someone’s conduct. Name calling or public shaming will not work either.

If we wish to change people’s minds, we need to understand that most people do not think like scientists. Wanting people to change their behavior is not a losing battle. It just requires a different strategic approach. The best way to change behavior is to provide an alternative, desirable solution to their concerns. 

There is a behavioral principle that marketers use. This principle can possibly help. 

The principle starts with problem-solution. Problem-solution is the oldest and still most effective form of persuasion. This means getting to the root cause of people’s beliefs. What is the reason why people believe so strongly? Why is that belief important to them? How does that belief make them feel? What is the problem that is solved by their beliefs? Psychologists know that problem-solution is the way to alter behavior.

And, one of the most effective approaches to problem-solution is creating a paradox promise.  A paradox promise focuses on the fact that people have contradictory needs.  People want solutions that solve their conflicting needs. Behavior change success depends on developing compelling, trustworthy paradox promises that deliver relevant, differentiated experiences.

Many successful brands use a paradox promise. Think about Gore-Tex. It is a preferred addition to your fleece jacket or your hiking boots. This is because Gore-Tex is both breathable and water repellent. Charmin toilet paper is both soft and strong.  Diet Coke’s introductory and continuing brand promise is great taste with no calories. Peloton indoor exercise equipment addresses togetherness while alone: alone and together.  The Peloton community is global, connected and supportive while it is composed of individuals, most of whom have never met. Peloton members exercise together in classes but they exercise as individuals working out from home.

The idea of satisfying contradictory needs to create compelling solutions is not just a marketing concept, however. Paradox promises are behind many of the ways in which we wish to live our lives. We live in a world of contradictions. 

We want less government money spent on universal programs while we do not want changes to Social Security or Medicare. We will agree to spend money on infrastructure as long as someone else pays the bill. We want to belong to a nation and want to be valued for our individuality.  We want to belong to a union of countries and want to keep our nationality. We want low interest rates so we can buy a house while we want higher interest rates for our savings accounts. We extol free speech but want to eliminate language we find offensive. We want the liberty to avoid a vaccine but we do want give women the liberty to manage their reproductive rights

We will not take a vaccine that the FDA has not yet formally approved but we will beg for yet-to-be-tested experimental drugs when we are stricken with coronavirus. We want to be rid of Covid-19 but we will not be vaccinated.

Reporting in The New York Times indicates that unvaccinated people say they reject the Covid-19 vaccinations because of possible side effects (53%) and waiting to see if it is safe (40%). This leads us to believe that health safety is key – either personal safety from side effects or general safety generated by reading or seeing how the vaccines affect others. On the one hand, then, health safety seems to be a leading factor in vaccine unwillingness. 

On the other hand, there is our true love of freedom. Freedom is inherent in our individuality and our American ethos. We want the freedom to say what we wish to say, to congregate with whom we wish to congregate, to be free to think whatever thoughts we wish to think, to bear arms, and to feel imposed upon when there are too many government restrictions. One writer for The New York Times believes that vaccine deniers define freedom as the privilege to do whatever they want to do. For these individuals, freedom is defiance of rules regardless of public interest.

Whatever one’s definition of freedom, freedom and health are currently contradictions. Freedom can be free-wheeling, independent, creative and unrestricted. Freedom can be rough and undisciplined. Health safety is inclusive. Health safety is disciplined. Health safety requires standards, regulations, requirements and participation. 

In Bloomberg, a reporter wrote about a legal case in Indiana. Indiana University decided that students would need to be vaccinated to attend school. Eight students sued. The judge ruled for Indiana University. The judge’s opinion underscored the need for “reasonable” regulation to avoid harm to others. According to the Bloomberg story, the judge ruled that if there were not a vaccine mandate, Indiana University would not be able to operate as it should operate. Further, he did not say that Covid-19 restrictions are limitless. He reminded the courtroom that the Constitution still exists. In other words, as the article highlights, the Indiana judge was able to find a legal solution to the contradictory needs of “public safety and personal liberty.”

This is the paradox promise of safe freedom.

Safe freedom is a paradox. It delivers benefits to everyone. And, safe freedom may be the compelling, persuasive solution for the unvaccinated to change their behavior. You can have your personal freedoms and your health safety. 

For the unvaccinated, the message of health safety and individual freedom is essential. The vaccine deniers want to do what they feel is correct. They do not want others telling them what to do. They want personal liberty but they also want to be safe. The benefits of safe freedom are being healthy and free… having individual freedom with personal security.

Beliefs are difficult but not impossible to change. In a Wall Street Journal interview, the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said she was struggling to develop a compelling message about vaccines. Analytics will not work. Vaccine deniers believe that science, data and facts do not make sense. They also believe that their personal liberty is at stake. It may not seem rational. It may not be logical. However, their position is an emotional tug-of-war between personal safety and individual freedom. Publicly bashing their opinions will not break the bonds to their beliefs. Generating a better solution to their emotional concerns is the way forward.

There is a crisis now. 

There does not appear to be any other reasonable alternative for public safety than vaccines. Rather than weigh public health against individual freedom, perhaps we should follow the thinking of the Indiana judge. Let’s solve for both personal liberty and public health. Let’s achieve safe freedom.

Learn more about paradoxes like this one: Navigate how to satisfy conflicting needs, and look beyond single-minded solutions with the insights and guidance in The Paradox Planet.

Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and the Need for Brand Promise

In its recent earnings call, Beyond Meat, the brand of plant-based burgers, “meatballs”, “ground beef” and sausages, announced that its third-quarter sales forecast would be somewhat gloomy. Executives reported lower revenues suggesting that the company’s success might be cooling off the grill.

Beyond Meat reported that its guarded outlook is due to “… losses of distribution and operator challenges due to labor issues.” Additionally, there are growth, expansion expenses such as increased hiring, marketing, freight and legal. Beyond Meat’s CEO stated that he is optimistic about the future. But, the company is wary of being too upbeat as Covid-19 waves could once again impact negatively.

Aside from its growth plan costs along with current and potential disruptions, there is the problem with Beyond Meat’s brand. Beyond Meat is not articulating a differentiating, compelling message to consumers. Its message is almost identical to that of its main competitor, Impossible Foods.

In the beginning, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods actually had two different messages about the future of food. Beyond Meat’s proposition was focused on its closeness to nature. Beyond Meat focused on the purity and simplicity of simple, raw, protein-rich, non-GMO ingredients as the better way to the future. Beyond Meat’s ingredients were ones that we could recognize. And, this is still its position. Basic cooking techniques using plant-based ingredients with no antibiotics, no cholesterol and no hormones.

Impossible Foods emphasized a scientific, lab-based approach.  The brand touted its signature element Heme – this is what makes the burger “bleed” and taste like beef. As described on the Impossible Foods website, “Heme is what makes meat taste like meat. It’s an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal — most abundantly in animals — and something we’ve been eating and craving since the dawn of humanity. Here at Impossible Foods, our plant-based heme is made via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast, and safety-verified by America’s top food-safety experts and peer-reviewed academic journals.”  

Impossible Foods CEO, Patrick Brown stated: “Start with the hard fundamental research required to understand the basic principles and molecular mechanisms responsible for the flavors, aromas, textures and juiciness that make meat delicious and craveable; then, discover scaleable plant sources of the specific proteins and other nutrients required to reproduce the magic of meat.”

Originally, the two brands relevant differentiation were Made by Chemists or Made by Nature; Food Science or Food Authenticity, Scrumptious by Science or Scrumptious by Simplicity.

But now, both brands’ websites offer the same message. Beyond Meat states that the shift to plant-based choices will have a positive impact not just on our health but on the welfare of animals and the wholeness of the planet. The reason for buying Beyond Meat product is that innovation and simple non-GMO ingredients combine to make delicious, protein-based products. And, these delicious products are produced in a sustainable. Beyond Meat’s message stresses the naturalness of its offerings and the nature-forward approach to production. 

Impossible Foods’ website also touts the sustainability and naturalness of its products. The brand asks us to be good to our taste buds and the planet. The ingredients are also ones that we recognize. As with Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods stresses its nature-forward manufacturing.

Both brands not only have the same message.  Both brands have a rather generic message. Many plant-based food brands have messages about “better for you-better for the planet”. Kite Hill, producer of non-dairy alternatives, has a similar proposition, while stressing its innovative “blue-sky” approach to making new products.

A brand is a promise of a relevant, differentiated experience. Without a relevant, differentiated brand experience, you have a product not a brand. 

A brand promise summarizes the special contract that exists between a brand and its customers. It describes what the brand is intended to stand for in the mind of a specific group of customers and/or prospective customers. By consistently living up to and consistently delivering the brand promise, a brand will be relevant and distinctive. A brand promise is something that a brand continuously strives to achieve. It is a future-focused description because it states what the brand will do for its customers.

A brand promise is multi-dimensional. It defines the brand. It defines the parameters for all development, communications, innovation and renovation on behalf of the brand. It must be a motivating, relevant, differentiated description of the brand experience that you want the brand to deliver. The brand experience is the consistent, trustworthy delivery of the brand’s functional, emotional and social benefits relative to its costs (money, time and effort).

Consistently living up to the promise of its experience is the way customers perceive the brand’s quality.  

A brand promise defines the total brand experience.  

Beyond Meat can address its logistical, labor and legal issues. The enterprise can put more money into marketing. But, both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods will need to relevantly differentiate themselves within the marketplace. Both brands must figure out just what makes them special and important to customers. 

Now that the retail landscape has changed due to the pandemic – with delivery of groceries more ingrained than ever – these two brands must develop and then communicate what it is that makes the different and relevant from each other and in the minds’ of customers.

Want to learn more? Navigate how to satisfy conflicting needs, and look beyond single-minded solutions with the insights and guidance in The Paradox Planet.

The Death of Silo Management

Coronavirus and the Death Of Silo Management

If you spend any time talking about or reading about working from home, you may have noticed the focus tends to be on managing in the new hybrid workplace. Companies are contemplating different workplace scenarios. The office as we knew it will most probably change. There is something else that has changed as well.  

Collaboration is now more than a kumbaya moment. Collaboration is no longer theoretical. You can see the criticality of collaboration in the wealth of collaborative digital tools now available to businesses of all sizes. Using these work tools, mitigates separation and maximizes integration. Many of these have zoomed by Zoom.

  • Microsoft’s Teams has leveraged its synergies with Office and its cloud-computing platform. Teams is pre-packaged in its Business Office suite.
  • purchased the collaborative Slack business product for $27.7 billion. 
  • Google is promoting its newly organized suite of products as Google Workspace. Along with new products, Google’s advertising hypes its familiar options as a valuable collaborative tool. Google Business Email, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs and Google Meet are now dished up as a total package for “How teams of all sizes connect, create and collaborate.

When people work apart, the need for cross-functional sharing becomes more apparent. This intense focus on collaboration while working from home may finally be the death-knell for silo management and its evil twin silo mentality. Collaboration is collapsing these corporate killer constraints.

Silo management is the separation of functions where employees protect their area of responsibility from other employees. Silo management means each operational group creates its own insular management. This insularity means that information is not shared throughout the brand-business. 

Organizational silos inhibit the brand-business’ ability to deliver integrated customer-perceived brand value. Silos hamper brand-business growth and governance in these ways: 

  • Silos slow brand-business development. 
  • Silos impede enduring profitable growth of the brand-business. 
  • Silos are dangerous. 
  • Silos create segregation and selfishness.
  • Silos are harmful to brand-business health. 
  • Silos create all sorts of bad brand-business behaviors, such as hoarding information, stopping the spread of ideas, creating internal conflicts and reinforcing the status quo.
  • Silos reinforce the lack of accountability for brand-business results. It is always the other silo’s fault.

Any farmer will tell you that silos are for storing, not sharing. 

Brand-businesses suffer when an organization allows functional isolation rather than institutional integration, as follows:

  • When an organization protects management from risk. 
  • When an organization deflects accountability. 
  • When an organization inflates a single group or a person. 
  • When an organization is less conducive to creativity and collaboration. 
  • When the brand-business mindset is shareholder value supported by financial engineering.

There is really nothing more oppressive than the organizational protectionism of powerful silos.

Pandemic lock downs with work-from-home forced employees to share information. One pandemic outcome is the demonstrated wisdom of shared learning. Shared learning is valuable. There is a significant negative cost associated with information hoarding.

For example, one extremely silo-focused hospitality company discovered that resources were spent on over 100 global research studies on breakfast. Another 50 global research studies focused on fitness and gyms offerings. Each group believed its research was proprietary, not to be shared across geography and function. The purchasing department showed that millions of dollars along with hundreds of hours of time and energy were spent on gaining the same information. 

That kind of unproductive, inefficient brand-business behavior is no longer acceptable

In a Financial Times article on Microsoft, reporter Richard Waters wrote, “On a single day during the third quarter (2020), users of Teams spent 30 billion minutes – an average of more than four hours per person – doing things like participating in video conferences, working on shared documents and reviewing meetings. Given how long it normally takes new enterprise software to take hold, that makes Teams virtually an overnight success, and an important new front door to digital working life.” 

Mr. Waters interviewed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Mr. Nadella believes that Teams is an essential propeller for collaboration. In describing his views on the future of the workplace, Mr. Nardella said, “I think there will be structural change.” This change will highlight the need for software tools provide flexibility “… while still building social capital (and) building knowledge inside the enterprise by bringing people together on important tasks.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the intense need for collaboration knocked down the barricades between CIOs (Chief Information Officer), their CIO teams and the brand-business’s other functions. The executive vice president and chief information officer at Charles Schwab Corp., the investment firm, told The Wall Street Journal, “As technology teams become more integrated into the business and develop deeper business knowledge and expertise… it leads to technology being at the table much more than in the past.”

Collaboration does exactly what Charles Schwab CIO talks about: having all parties at the table. Or, as writer (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes A Great Notion) and counterculture figure, Ken Kesey said about the merry pranksters and their psychedelic school bus, Further, “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

Sharing across function and geography promotes organizational learning. Shared learning generates new ideas and insights. Shared learning reduces redundancy of resources. Sharing creates internal alignment, leading to enterprise collaboration.

The coronavirus is forcing brand-businesses to make needed changes to the way people work together. One of the most important changes is the death of silos resulting in a new brand-business chapter of collaboration.

The Streaming Wars

Relevant Differentiation Will Win The Streaming Wars

Streaming entertainment is a crowded, competitive category. Cabin fever and closed movie theaters helped exponentially grow the streaming entertainment business. It is about to undergo yet another alteration. Welcome to the new year of content cull.

To satisfy our growing need for in-home entertainment, Covid-19 opened the door to intense showbiz competition beyond what cable providers could offer. We collectively became part of the global Netflix nation.  Other media mavens saw opportunity.  With dozens of streaming options, New York Magazine pointed out some media heavy hitters are now serious challengers to Netflix. Disney, Apple, Amazon, HBO, CBS and NBC have created content-heavy streaming choices. 

Netflix still owns streaming entertainment. Most calculations put the Netflix global subscriber base at about 208 million. Amazon Prime is slightly behind this with a global subscriber base of 175 million. Reporting in The Wall Street Journal indicates that global streaming reached 1 billion subscribers over the past year. 

But, if we learned anything from the pandemic, it is how easily consumers adopt new behaviors and habits. After more than a year, we are exchanging screens for greener scenes, moving outdoors and away from home.  

With the lock-down veil lifted, many of us are now questioning whether we actually need to subscribe to so many streaming options. We are now examining which brands to keep and which brands to ditch. 

The great content cull is upon us. Portfolio paring is a reality. After all, just how many streaming subscriptions do we really need? Among all of the streaming possibilities, which brands are our favorites?

Brand favorability depends on this: which brand offers a relevant, differentiated trustworthy entertainment promise relative to its costs? Relevant means the brand meets my needs. Differentiated means the brand is unique relative to competition.  Trustworthy means the brand will deliver its promised experience relative to its costs. Costs are price, time and effort.

Winning the streaming wars will require streaming brands to articulate their trustworthy promise of their important and unique valuable brand experience. Without a specific brand promise, a streaming brand will become a nice-to-have but generic choice.

Currently, blockbuster movies along with archived film libraries and new original, made-for-streaming content are the preferred ways brands achieve relevant differentiation.  

For example, Disney+ has its newest films and its evergreen portfolio of classic animated feature films. HBO Max has the established HBO name, its reputation for quality creative and its portfolio of Warner Brothers cinematography, due to AT&T’s 2016 purchase of Time Warner, now WarnerMedia. Newcomer Paramount+ is banking on the recognition of its familiar mountain logo with its extensive, deep library of films, old and new. Formerly CBS All Access, along with its film archives, Paramount+ is home to CBS, nick, Comedy Central, MTV, BET and the Smithsonian Channel.

In the streaming service crowd, only discovery+ offers a desired, unique brand promise that reflects an entertainment-road-not-taken. Rather than tout a film-based library, discovery+, is betting that people want familiar, trustworthy comfort-viewing.  To stand out in the pack of streaming brands, discovery+ provides a streaming brand alternative.

Discovery+ believes its current day-to-day content is as original and compelling as it gets. Discovery+ has the advantage of its unique and sometimes weirdly fascinating programming covering cooking, home improvement, reality TV, travel and animals. Discovery+ has a portfolio including Discovery, HGTV, OWN, TLC, Food Network, HLN, Animal Planet, Science Channel, diy Network, History, A&E and Cooking Channel. Discovery+ is home to the wildly popular”90 Day Fiancé”, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, and “Fixer Upper”, for example.

In an interview with The New York Times, David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, parent of discovery+ said, “Almost all of the players in the (streaming) business moved toward scripted series and scripted movies. They went to the big stars and the red carpet. The big shiny object. We’re not so shiny and we don’t have a lot of red carpet.”

The New York Times story highlights discovery+ as the sort of programming people can have on in the background while doing other things. Described as “ambient” or “passive” TV, discovery+ can be a soothing backdrop where you do not have to follow along.  

Mr. Zaslav added, “ When you wake up and put the Today Show on in the background or put on the Food Network, it’s for comfort. You don’t watch ‘The Undoing’ (the highly hyped psychological drama starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant) while you’re cooking dinner. But you do put on Guy Fieri or ‘Super Soul Sunday’ or ‘Fixer Upper’ or ‘How it’s Made’ or ‘Mythbusters.’” These shows are what discovery+ calls “real life” (rather than reality) content.

Using a construct for defining a brand promise, here is how Discovery executives appear to be defining discovery+. This is how the discovery+ brand promise is relevantly differentiating itself from its competitors. 

First, what does discovery+ offer me, and why is that important to me?

  • Discovery+ has: Useful content, Content I know, I can listen without watching, I am able to do other things while listening, Content not requiring complete concentration
  • Discovery+ has: Content I love, Comforting content, Comfortably informative content, I feel safe, I feel at home, Content that is easy on my mind

Second, how does discovery+ reflect my values and what is its attractive brand personality?

  • Discovery + is meaningful for me because: I value entertainment that can make my life easier, I appreciate being comfortably entertained, I value information that can make my home more comfortable
  • Discovery+ attracts my viewership because it is: Down-to-earth, Friendly, Authentic, Interesting, Informative, Has my best interests in mind

How does discovery+ support this relevant differentiated brand promise? Discovery+ streams:

  • 55,000 episodes of favorite shows from my favorite channels
  • Content covering home, family, food, nature, adventure, true crime, relationships, science, technology, paranormal and more
  • Exclusive original programming
  • Greatest real-life entertainment and exclusive originals all in one place
  • Affordable $4.99 per month
  • Olympics and other sports
  • And, finally, how confident am I that discovery+ will deliver its promised experience for these costs (price, time and effort)? 

Discovery+ has a lot of high quality competition. But, these competitors will need to continue creating their own expensive proprietary content to survive. Many of these competitors will only be as good as their last blockbuster or original series, continuing to define themselves by these category’s mainstays. 

Having a specific, non-generic, relevant, differentiated brand promise is key for any brand-business success. Only Disney+, essentially an extension of the Disney brand promise, has a relevant differentiator: to create happiness based on its mission to make a safe, high quality, affordable, magical place appropriate for the whole family. But, Disney+ will need to figure out how to make this promise work through its streaming. Just offering the archives and the new blockbusters may not do the trick.

Discovery+ may be small, but it has something the larger streaming brands do not have: a clear and compelling, relevant, differentiated brand promise. As the media magnates gather in Sun Valley, besides focusing on mergers and acquisitions, it would be beneficial if they focused on just what my media brand stands for in the minds of customers. 

(As a coda, AT&T announced that it will merge its WarnerMedia portfolio with discovery+ to create a media behemoth larger than Netflix but with fewer subscribers. Although there are strategic reasons for this, the exceptional nature of discovery+ adds incredible strength to this soon to be formed streaming service.)


In 1994, when Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras wrote Built to Last, they were referring to Visionary Habits of Successful Companies. Their highly influential book focused on the results of a six-year research project into what makes enduringly great companies. Their stated goals were: “to identify underlying characteristics are common to highly visionary companies” and “to effectively communicate findings so they can influence management”.

Companies that endure are iconic; they are studied; they are analyzed; and they are held up as examples of best practices that other businesses should exemplify. The same is true for brands. GE, IBM, Kodak and Xerox are examples of brands that now realize longevity is not necessarily a prerequisite for future success.

We live in a time when replacing goods and services is par for the course. We seem to have no qualms about ditching an old iPhone for a new model, or downloading the latest app, or frequenting the newest restaurant. In fashion, we have fast fashion that by its very nature is meant to be disposable. In automotive, ownership is starting to decline in favor of renting or subscribing: “Why keep something around when I can have the newest model whenever I want?”

With the exception of some durable goods products such as large appliances, there seems to be a reluctance to buy goods and services that are built to last. We appear to prefer obsolescence to endurance. Some brands such as Patagonia have urged customers to keep wearing their old Patagonia clothes rather than buy new ones. But, even in luxury goods, where holding on to a satchel or pair of shoes as the value increases, there are websites where owners can sell these possessions to make a quick buck.

So, it is a surprise that in a past report from The Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything”, we were told to hold on to possessions, some of which are so much better with age. We learned that owning these goods for the long term will enhance our future: we were asked to buy something that “is destined for an estate sale rather than a landfill.” Products identified as “keepers” were luggage, boots, watches and classic home goods. The “The Future of Everything” article reflected one of the major paradoxes of our age: the desire (and hence clash of) for replaceable and irreplaceable.

“The latest and the legacy” is a unique paradox reflecting the wish for innovation/novelty and the need for things that have stood the tests of time. Technology has accelerated the pace of new products and services. We are used to replacing phones, laptops and other digital, smart, mobile devices and connected appliances with new versions on a regular basis. We fear missing the immediate ownership of the latest. People around the world will wait on line, overnight, regardless of weather, just to buy the newest Apple device.

And, yet, at the same time, we seek the authenticity, heritage, customs and legacies of products and service steeped in tradition.  Etsy, the online craft forum, is a paean to crocheted medallion quilts, handmade dangling earrings, knitted Argyle socks, and all sorts of imaginative, high quality craftsmanship. Vintage clothing stores sell authentic outfits from our parents’ and grandparents’ decades. Millennials are buying vintage sound systems to play LPs (even though they are also streaming music from Spotify). The Future of Everything referred to these types of enduring products as “heirloom” just like the tomato seeds sold in those various seed catalogues: those cultivars from gardens of the past, not like those used in today’s industrial agriculture.

Photo by Milad B. Fakurian on Unsplash

Brands have an opportunity to capitalize on the conflicting needs of being in the “now” with living with the “then”.  In the liquor category, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels are establishing their heritage credibility for a modern group of drinkers. KFC is currently making a remarkable comeback by focusing on their traditional, iconic mealtime buckets of chicken.  The familiar, timeless Colonel, and his values are back, but in a timely, humorous, contemporary manner. There is something compelling about revisiting a relevant, repackaged icon right now. Levi’s invented blue jeans. It has an amazing heritage. On its website, the brand confirms its history and its modernity, by being both now and then. Their statement is that Levi’s® Made & Crafted® builds on the legacy of 140 years “by designing tomorrow’s classics using today’s best materials and construction techniques.”

Brands in and of themselves are all about the future. Brands promise a relevant, differentiated trustworthy experience: buy this brand and you will get this experience. More than ever, brands have the opportunity to address our needs for the both the latest and the legacy: brands that are built for now and built to last. In our time-crazed world of now, it is nice to know that there are brands we can hold onto for time to come.

Larry Light in Forbes CMO Network

Larry Light shares insights to help be a beacon of light for brands struggling in a ever changing world dominated by a global pandemic.

Read some of his latest pieces now by clicking on the titles below!

Retail’s New Approach To Saving Retail: Store-As-Showcase

Retailers see small-format stores as the future of retail. Target led the way with small-format stores. Amazon 4-Star stores sell items curated from customers’ ratings, reviews, and sales data. This retail future makes it easy to choose, easy to use, and provides ease of mind.

How Marketing Can Change American Minds About A Covid-19 Vaccine

Trust in government is at all-time low. Many people will decline to take the vaccine. Their minds are already decided. How can their minds be changed?

2021: The Year Of Living Actually And Artificially

Two conflicting trends are shaping the new normal. One trend is our desire for actual products that provide comfort, coziness, conviviality, and contentment. The other trend is our desire for products and services using artificial intelligence and/or virtual reality. 

Demography Is Destiny: The Marketing Challenges Of Pandemic Demography

Covid-19 is changing the demographics of our nation. Coronavirus has decreased the U.S. birth rate while increasing the U.S. death rate. Brands must address this new future of who will be the customers for products and services. 

Looking for a gift for your marketing peers?

Check out our collection of books by Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They make a perfect unexpected gift for the marketing leader in your life.

See the collection here.

Cover Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Larry Light: Brand Insights on Pandemic Impacts & More

Take These Actions Now Or Lose Your New Customers Post-Pandemic

Packaged goods food companies are performing beyond expectations. Will this sales lift last into the future? For enduring profitable growth, brands must not only build their quantity of sales but the quality of their sales. Here are four actions to help the fortunate sales lift endure post-pandemic.

Personalization Will Change Your Car Dealership Experience Forever

Hyper-personalizing the car purchase experience will be a path to auto dealer success. Personalization is about making the customer feel special. Hyper-personalization is focusing on an audience of one for each and every customer, each and every day.

Harley-Davidson: Adore Your Core

A turnaround strategy is different from a growth strategy. When a brand is in trouble, the priority is to stop the hemorrhaging of the customer base. CEO, Jochen Zeitz is making a radical strategic shift to put Harley-Davidson back on the road to enduring profitable growth.

Coronavirus Spurs Brand Innovation

As a result of the Covid crisis, there are a lot of innovative ideas being tested in the restaurant industry to keep businesses alive. For example, many restaurant brands now provide meal boxes that offer more than just meals – they are cooking lessons.

Guitar, Pet, Bicycle: Our Need For Therapeutic Experiences

Home-based therapy experiences that help us feel better are the new normal. Loving a pet overcomes loneliness, which has been exacerbated by being stuck at home, away from friends and sometimes away from family. Financial Times calls this feeling “lockdown loneliness.”

Environmental Decency Makes Money

Sustainable leadership and business practices influence customers’ brand decisions. In today’s environment, data show that environmental decency “significantly impacts” brand preference and purchase.