Sustainability and performance are the big, cross-industry megatrends. The change cannot be overlooked: Sports, outdoor and fashion brands have long adapted manufacturing and design, product assortment and distribution to keep pace with the transformation. It's all about saving the world. And the fact that everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction is good news. But it also means that the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. How can brands still manage to stand out?
We asked one who should know: Sebastian Kemmler, founder of the Berlin-based creative agency Kemmler Kemmler. Since 2013, he and his team have been supporting brands such as Nike, Adidas, Armedangels and Tinder with their brand communication. And they do so with the firm conviction that a brand must first become culturally relevant in order to succeed. How that can work with the new, demanding target group and what other challenges sports and lifestyle brands must now face, Kemmler explains in the interview.
ISPO.com: Sebastian, you realize campaigns with your team for brands like Hess Natur and Armedangels. Who are they aimed at?
Sebastian Kemmler: .To the <.span>New Conscious Middle<./span>, the new green middle. This is a very educated, diverse group of Millenials and Gen Z. Modern cosmopolitans with new values and high consumer spending. Major megatrends such as the huge interest in sustainable products and the outdoor hype can be attributed to this group.
What is significantly different about this target group than the old center?
They practice consumption criticism about their consumption. Never would they buy a fast car for a lot of money. But for an expensive, high-tech e-bike they would, because sustainability is the true luxury for them. Old status symbols like a fat watch or a vacation in the Maldives are more of an underclass phenomenon today.
Apart from the cargo bike - what is important to these consumer:s?
In addition to sustainability, especially values and performance. This is also reflected in leisure behavior, hence the outdoor hype. For them, it is aspirational to backpack through Indonesia or climb Mont Blanc, because both the environment, performance and individualism play a role. For down-to-earth traditional brands like Hessnatur, Schöffel, or Vaude, this is a huge opportunity.
Because a change has taken place, away from .Conspicious Consumption. Towards .Conspicious Production: In the past, branded products were bought to stand out, to be somebody. Today, it's more important how the product is made. For example, from which field in Colombia the coffee bean comes and who harvested it. Such production stories can be told wonderfully.
How can brands reach this target group?
Brands have to compete in three arenas. In the product arena, the brand arena and a new, cultural arena. It's hard to score in the product arena today because products are becoming more and more similar. And creating desirability through brand awareness alone is no longer enough either. That's why we believe that a company today has to become culturally relevant in order to be successful - especially in the New Conscious Middle.
How does cultural relevance emerge?
The thing about cultural relevance is that you can't just claim it. Brands really have to do something exciting to become culturally relevant. A creative product, an art installation, a collaboration. That's why many are currently focusing on collaborations, for example Gucci with The North Face or Palace with Calvin Klein.
There is a blurring of the lines between sports and fashion. Why is exactly that so promising?
Because now in almost all areas of life the idea of performance counts: At work, while traveling, at home and especially in relation to one's own body. Self-optimization is the highest good and from this results the gym and fitness hype. When I was young, it was uncool to be efficient. We hung out in parks and skateboarded, which to me was an expression of inactivity. That has completely changed. Youth culture today is dominated by sports.
Where does that come from?
Besides the performance trend, it's because of the dominant influence of the US on pop culture. American youth have always been very sports-focused. One example is the collaboration between Nike and Michael Jordan - an iconic moment in the history of sports marketing. Today, all major sports brands work with American sports icons.
Do you see the same trend when it comes to sustainability?
I think the trend will stay because it fits a collectivist mindset into a multipolar world. But the performance mania, which is always about individual winning, may soon become uncool in light of the many world-wide crises. We have honestly just also more important things to do.
Once again, back to the secret to good marketing: how can a campaign be successful without getting bogged down in greenwashing mush?
I think people are asking for substance even more because of all the crises. No one is up for marketing bullshit anymore. That means that you as a brand can't claim anything anymore that you don't deliver on at all. Global galactic statements like "We love nature" or "For everyone" are no longer effective. Especially when it comes to sustainability, you have to find much more concrete topics and focus on values that you really fulfill.
How do you as an agency stand on these values?
Of course we focus on sustainable issues and cultural relevance also because we think it's good to make the world a little bit better. But most of all, we have to do it because it's important for business. The old idea of advertising and dull consumption doesn't work anymore - neither for the brands, nor for us as an agency.