There are those moments when you hear something and it resonates deeply. One of those moments occurred for me a couple of weeks ago at Tierra Viva: Farming the Living Earth, the 2016 Biodynamic Conference.
One of the keynote speakers, Dennis Klocek, founder of the Coros Institute, was speaking about biodynamic farming when he made this statement: “The most important tool on our farm: our consciousness.”
When he spoke, he paused between “farm” and “our consciousness,” as though he wanted us to fill in the blank with our answer. For many it would be “our tractor” or “our hoe.” But it’s how and why you drive your tractor, or dig in the earth that matters. That’s why consciousness is so important.
So for our readers, I’m going to rephrase this slightly to read as a question: “What is the most important tool for your brand?” Pause. “Your consciousness.”
Think About It
In this age of transparency, mission-driven natural products, organic, biodynamic and fair trade agriculture, brands have choices they can make. These choices can either be conscious or unconscious. They can be forced upon a brand or they can be made freely. You can actively pursue a non-GMO strategy or you can feel you have little choice because your market is telling you to get Non-GMO Verified.
How and why you make choices as a brand has a greater impact than what the choices are. Your brand’s collective consciousness creates depth that can resonate with your customers — this is the foundation for brand loyalty.
Think about it. There are thousands of brands that are USDA Organic. How do you differentiate between two identical commodities that are both certified organic, when the “brand” of organic has itself become a commodity? The brands that connect with you emotionally, that make a compelling case for their choice to be organic, and that let you into their thinking and feeling are the brands that establish not only trust, but engagement — and loyalty.
Most of the dietary supplement, functional food, and natural personal care brands we’ve worked with in the natural products industry have started with the best of intentions: to save lives, heal the planet, and to bring balance and harmony to people and cultures.
Eventually they start selling and encounter the highly competitive market. The more they sell, the more they grow, and the more people count on them for their livelihood. It’s no longer a business built on seat-of-the-pants entrepreneurialism, but one that requires more intentional planning, strategy, and execution. More people have a voice, which changes the internal discussions. Success breeds imitation, which leads to competition that either nips at your heels or overwhelms.
Some brands stay true to their initial intentions and their consciousness remains clear when making decisions. But more often than not, there is a phase with natural product brands where they aren’t sure what their consciousness is. They make choices that are based on sales, and while I’m not denigrating sales, it is dangerous for a natural brand to be led solely through the lens of sales.
What we find is that over time these brands lose touch with their initial intent and begin to doubt their consciousness.
The Consciousness of Your Organization
When we conduct our Brand Opportunity workshops, we look at The 5 Forces™ of brand health: Organization, Offering, Trade, Category and Participant. Within the Organization force, we explore the objectives, cultures, passions, beliefs, attributes, values, biography, defining principles, and existing property equities of the organization.
Embracing the consciousness of your organization gives you the most valuable tool to unlocking the “why” or core of your brand.
What we see time and again during these workshops is that the leadership team within the organization strengthens their alignment and resolve, reconnects with their original intent, and understands and accepts who they want to be. It’s very powerful to experience the reemergence of the brand’s consciousness.
What we find is that embracing the consciousness of your organization gives you the most valuable tool to unlocking the “why” or core of your brand. From that point on, you know why you are making the choices you make. Your decisions are imbued with an authenticity that can’t be challenged.
When you choose to go organic, you are doing so for a deep reason, not because it’s a cost of entry. When you select non-GMO ingredients for your supplements, it’s not for marketing purposes, but because you believe it’s the right thing to do. Conversely, if you choose not to go organic, or if you accept genetically engineered ingredients, you know why you are making that choice and can defend it.
In this world which responds well to transparency, I’ll pose the question again: “What is the most important tool for your brand?” For me the answer is the same as a biodynamic farmer’s: “Your consciousness.”