The fluid future of self-expression

By Charlotte Hurd, on 21st October 2019

‘Identity’, the way in which we define ourselves is an increasingly important and complex topic and one that should not be taken lightly. In a post-demographic world, consumers have begun to feel more comfortable with expressing their identity and because of this, they demand a deeper connection with brands.

Freer to construct their own identities and adopting habits that shift away from traditional demographics, consumers needs are changing, with the expectation on brands to create products which serve a wider community.

We take a look at some of the brands who have already embraced campaigns and services which help people to construct and live their real, true identities.

New Attitudes

A hugely popular example of an overall shift in attitude is Snapchat’s recent gender filter. Introduced by the app earlier this year, the filter allows users to see how they would look as the opposite sex.

Users rushed back to the app, with Snapchat reporting a 41% uplift in downloads. The introduction of this filter reflects a change in attitude, in which people are open to playing with gender and identity and expect to be able to do so with the click of a button.

Celebrating Difference

Brands should look to celebrate societies collective differences in new ways, creating campaigns and products that speak to users creatively and authentically.

One way brands can do this is to partner with likeminded collaborators who truly live and breathe the kind of genuine inclusivity expected by today’s consumer.

Honey Dijon x COMME des GARÇONS

The recent collaboration by DJ/producer Honey Dijon and COMME des GARÇONS intertwines the worlds of music and fashion. Launched early October, in Dover Street Market the ‘Honey Fucking Dijon’ collection includes graphic t-shirts, record bags, and all of the essentials for DJs and Dijon-devotees.

The HFD range holds a greater importance, however, it is also gives a voice to the experiences and subjectivities of trans people of colour.

Honey Dijon says of her identity:  “I think one needs to embrace all the things of who they are, and go forward with that. I can go to bed at night, and if someone says I’m ‘a black trans designer,’ that doesn’t offend me, because guess what? That’s what the fuck I am.”

Sensuality Redefined – Bluebella x StyleLikeU

Bluebella are a brand pioneering when it comes to diversity and are making some strong statements around body positivity with their recent campaign, #LoveYourself.

In a collaboration with StyleLikeU, a multimedia platform championing diversity, confidence and self-love, the campaign is made up of videos which aim to change perceptions and inspire self-acceptance and self-celebration.

The campaign focuses on four different women, who are proud of the skin they are in, including Alex Bruni – a model and writer whose work focuses on accepting yourself, whatever age and May Simón Lifschitz a transgender model who speaks about self-love in a world that doesn’t always make room for difference.

The New ‘Normal’

The democratisation of products will also become an important requirement for self-expression and consumers will look to brands to create products and services that accommodate a real variety of body types and ages. These products will become more widely available and integrated more successfully into mass offerings.

Fitness for bodies that don’t fit the mainstream…

The Nonnormative Body Club is a Philadelphia based project run by trans personal trainer, Asher Freeman. His goal was to create a space that is accessible for those whose bodies ‘rebel against normative definitions of beauty’.

The workouts which are tailored to the needs of transgender people who want to build their strength post surgery are split across wellness workshops, tailored personal training sessions and advice and support for those transitioning.

Freeman says of his work – “It’s based in a realisation that most of us — trans people, people with disabilities, fat people, and so many others — have bodies that never get to be celebrated in mainstream fitness spaces.”

Freeman drew interest after launching chest-binding workshops to help those who experience pain or discomfort due to chest binding. With Nonnormative Body Club, he is looking to create kinder, more compassionate, more accessible fitness for all.

Beyond tokenism

Brands should look to broaden the definition of diversity and make a definitive move away from tokenism take a closer look at the community’s genuine, practical needs.

#AcceptanceMatters

Mastercard have recently unveiled a new product: the True Name card. This means LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly those who are transgender or non-binary, to obtain a debit, credit or prepaid card with their preferred name on it.

Mastercard recognised that this community were not being served in the most inclusive way. Although there may be some scepticism when a campaign like this comes from a global, corporate bank, Mastercard are providing the LGBTQ+ community opportunity to ameliorate a genuine hardship.

According to the company’s data, nearly one out of every three individuals who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported negative experiences, such as being harassed, denied services, and/or attacked. It can be a complex, laborious and expensive process to get your name or gender legally changed, and until then, the disconnect between the card and the person holding it is a source of stress and anxiety.

Building a more inclusive future…

How can your brand build a deeper connection with consumers who champion individualism? How do you make them feel valued? Firstly, you need to have a in-depth and current understanding of how consumers are living their lives and in turn, what expectations they have.

Secondly, brands should align their offering – and messaging to match the consumer’s ever-changing preferences. Your products and services may be able to flex to meet wider wants and needs, beyond demographic assumptions.

Finally, recognise when consumers need you and engage with them when they need it most. In the future, context, timing and understanding will be more important than ‘targeted’ advertising.

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