Branding In The Eternal Now

What happens when there is no longer a past or a future?

I’ve been feeling for a while now that the forms of branding that dominated the past decade - namely lifestyle, aspirational, and heritage branding - have lost their gravitational pull.

Something about these branding modalities fails to fully connect on an emotional level in the present day. They do not spark the feelings of joy, hope, potential or integrity that they once did. 

Something has changed, and it has to do with our perception of time.

We’ve lived through an unprecedented amount of change in a short period - not just technological, but political, environmental, social, and personal - and extended periods of stress and accelerated change don’t just warp our sense of time, they crumble it.

It makes it hard to connect to our own histories.

This feeling of estrangement from the past is broadly called temporal disintegration, and it’s a unique loss that goes beyond the boundaries of healthy, personal growth. 

It’s the sudden realization that a series of acute experiences has made the comfort of our own pasts emotionally inaccessible. 

Meanwhile, our futures have become so hard to predict, we've stopped even trying. We don't save money, we don't buy houses (even when we can), we don't plan our careers like we used to, we don't choose our next steps.

Without connection to our pasts or our futures, we're left in a tough spot.

Lifestyle and aspirational branding doesn’t land when people can’t see into tomorrow and have lost their desire to plan for who they may become. Heritage branding doesn’t land when our history is slipping through our fingers and begins to feel alien. 

We are stuck in the eternal now, and if a brand's job is to meet users where they are, then we need to take a closer look at what that means for the brand-user relationship.

Who you are right now is a triangulation of who you’ve been and who you will become. Without knowing your past and future, it’s hard to know your present. 

What brands don't realize is that in 2024, we are dealing with a very different user mindset, and old approaches aren't going to have the same effect they once did.

Branding for the eternal now looks very different.

Applications for Exposure Therapy are open and the response has already been fantastic. Our launch cohort is going to have some amazing people from some amazing brands and places. We're gearing up to send out formal invitations in the coming weeks!

If you're a strategic leader looking to grow in both your professional and personal life, we invite you to apply.  

Exposure Therapy is an active gathering of innovative people who move the practice of strategy forward, with powerful programming, original research and immersive in-person gatherings created by us, for you.

It will open up your world.

Swinging of the Pendulum

Here's what we've been consuming.

The Virtue of Vice (Bullish): "But as younger generations cut back on alcohol, they’re also rejecting “toxic” wellness culture... and embracing other vices. Cigarettes have re-entered the cultural mainstream. Marijuana use is at an all-time high, along with other recreational drugs...The non-alc movement is growing, but it might be less about a greater focus on “better-for-you” and chasing wellness, and more around a shift in where younger generations find their escape."

The Rise of the Forever Renters (Wall Street Journal): "Rental subdivisions like the one the Couchs live in, known as build-to-rent communities, are designed to replicate the look and feel of white picket-fenced suburbia. The only difference: All the houses are rented, not owned... “We thought this was going to be a transition to owning, but in fact it’s not, it’s become a lifestyle choice,” says Ark Chairman Jordan Kavana. 

Are Young People Actually Progressive? (Intelligencer): "The progressive movement made a giant bet on mobilizing young voters. That strategy, invested with buoyant hopes and vast sums of money, is now in ruins... And contrary to the belief that nonwhite voters would anchor the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, they’ve actually anchored its moderate wing."

The Radical Potential of Semiotics & Cultural Strategy (ZINE): "Semiotics is not a battle against existing, more traditional, qualitative, or quantitative research, but a unique additive approach to iterate upon. It’s an opportunity to allow consumers’ thoughts and behaviors to guide and enrich market understanding. It’s a lens to make sense of existing clues and create a bridge for the Say-Do gap (the dilemma of reported concern or intentions not being followed up with action)."

How a Millennial Estée Lauder Built a Widely Popular Beauty Brand (Wall Street Journal): "Much has been made of the Rihannas and Kylie Jenners of the beauty industry, celebrities who introduced best-selling cosmetics brands after developing an ardent following. One could argue that given the high profiles of their founders, Fenty Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics were destined for success. To build a brand — and to fill a room — Ms. Bodnar has played not on her name but on consumers’ desire to do good with their dollars and belong to something bigger than … well, beauty. Call her the Estée Lauder that hustle culture built."

Just Read

Creative inspirations for the other side of your brain.

Poet and surrealist Paul Éluard wrote "There is certainly another world, but it is in this one." 

It's a great frame for understanding the rapid pace of change we've experienced in our lifetimes. There is another world within this one, and it's what we are constantly searching for. 

Every innovation is an endeavor to find a deeper universe of experience, which is right here and all around us, ready to be lived if we could just find a way to tap into it. 


Jasmine Bina
Founder & CEO
Concept Bureau, Inc.