The 300 years that made up the Renaissance Period had a profound impact on shaping our world today. It is during this time that a new and collective mindset came into existence. There was a united appreciation for the intellectual and the artistic. This shift sparked a culture of progress and left us with enduring influences like those of da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The same thing is happening today in the brand world. We are in a period that is bridging the old world with the new world. Just as John Fowles wrote that the Renaissance was "the green at the end of civilization's harshest winters", brands too are now poised to flourish after decades of being locked in a construct that made it difficult to blossom.
Intelligent and Artistic
Do you remember when a toothpaste was just a toothpaste? It was just that thing that you used because four out of five dentists recommended that brand even though it simply ended up as a rock hard clot next to your drain in the sink. Nowadays, if you search for toothpaste you will see vegan toothpaste, fluoride-free toothpaste, paper-tube toothpaste, organic toothpaste, even bacon toothpaste. Consumers are more educated and aware of what they want. There is even legislation about what goes into your toothpaste. Plastic micro-beads contained in some products are now illegal. There is even a fight about Triclosan which was banned from soap but still allowed in your mouth apparently.
People care. They are more intelligent and they want intelligent products. It isn't just ingredients, it is about clever products with great stories. Companies like Lumenus that makes cycling clothing with embedded LEDs to make you more visible to motorists. Or Superfit Hero whose founder, a former roller derby player, is creating functional activewear for larger, stronger women. Or how Nudnik is taking excess material from adult clothing manufacturers destined for landfill and upcycling them to create amazing children's clothes.
In addition to valuing intelligence; it is also about valuing the artistic. Functionality is as important as ever but increasingly design and experience are what wins over consumers. We have seen this time and time again with Apple products. With all of the criticism, at one point, people stopped caring that IBM computers had better features or that the specs on a Samsung phone totally overpowered the iPhone. It is true. However, Apple is now the world's largest company by market cap.
That is why Thing Industries can see such success with products like their Sacrificial Chair. They have taken that chair in everyone's bedroom that you throw things on and turned it into art. It is also why, Whiskey, Ink and Lace can create a loyal following creating personal care products in a world dominated by huge incumbents. They create a brand that people want to be associated with. It is the same for SurfFur who have taken a functional parka and designed one of the must-have items for surfers and water sports enthusiasts.
We are starting to see the first generation of these craft brands finding success. The Honest Company has developed into a high growth intelligent brand focused on creating smart products for discerning consumers. We also recently saw the first billion-dollar exit of a craft brand when Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club. With a hyper focus on a tightly designed experience, Dollar Shave Club was able to control everything about their brand without having to secede to the constraints of typical retail channels. As this new era is ushered in, it will be interesting who endures as this industry's da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Keep an eye out for my next article where I talk about the global forces that are driving this wave of craft brands.
Do you know any great brands under-the-radar? I'd love to hear who you love right now in the comments.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Follow Ben Zifkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Ben_Zifkin