The appeal of real

Contrary to the essence of yoga (staying present), I found myself in the downward dog thinking… why is this class so popular to the point that the space for the upward dog needs to be seriously considered?

All the teachers at the studio know yoga inside and out, so it has nothing to do with their abilities. What is it in them that attracts me and so many others? This one teacher can be moody and sometimes dismissive, yet their class attracts the most people out of anyone’s. What’s going on?

It’s the appeal of the real! It’s the, “this is who I am, both the good and the bad, like it or love it, take it or leave it”. The teacher method has a vulnerability. They are honest with where they are at (i.e. never proclaiming to have all the answers, and openly disclosing their own obstacles and challenges they are working with) and encourage that of everyone else in the room.

This is backed by a US study on ‘Self disclosure and trust’ (by Derlega, V. J., Metts, S., Petronio, S., & Margulis, S. T.) found “open and authentic self-disclosure can lead to increased liking, trust, and perceived similarity between individuals. It is associated with enhanced satisfaction and a sense of connection”. 

So if this works with people, and there is crossover in our relationships with people and brands (specific to emotional connection, trust, shared values traits) then how can we, as custodians of brands – open the floor to ‘more real’?


In the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, Australia dropped 5 points in 12 months (joining South Korea and Malaysia in the top 3 countries with the greatest decline). Trust in Governments, business, NGOs and media are all down on the previous year and across all age groups.

Specific to brands, 71% of people said it is “more important to trust the brands I buy or use today than in the past”. All age groups have shown increases, but not surprisingly, Gen Z still leads. The increase in ‘wanting to see what a brand values’, across all ages, has also gone up. If this information is not easily accessible, there is an assumption that a brand is hiding something.

We are caring more about what brands stand for, with 63% of us saying we will buy or advocate for brands based on our beliefs and values.


Our relationships with brands, more than ever, reflect our relationship with ourselves. As we become more evolved as a human race (i.e. increased awareness, knowledge and access) we start to question the choices we make. 20 years ago no one was thinking Kids confectionery will be removed from Woolworths checkouts!

Branding is an evolving paradigm. Since early history, we have used marks and symbols. However, we have evolved from branding being a differentiator of products and quality to a means of expressing who we are, our aspirations, what we value, our social status, our sense of belonging, etc. Thanks to social media and personal branding, the amplification and connection opportunities have changed the game in a massive way again, and also put the consumer in the driver seat of curating and sharing content.

So what does this mean for how we create, build, pivot, rethink our brands?

Get your house in order. Know who you are and where you want to go. Speak to your customers. Review all the research. Look to the Global Goals Framework (Tip from Carolyn Butler-Madden, The Cause Effect, ‘For Love & Money Podcast) Seriously think about creating a business that has a genuine and long lasting reason for being, over and above the bottom line. This is a lifetime (if not many) decision. Tap into experiences, along with your team, that can help you to narrow. 

The 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study demonstrated that when a brand has a strong purpose, consumers were: four times more likely to purchase from the brand; six times more likely to protect that brand in a challenging moment and 4.5 times more likely to recommend (champion) the brand to friends and family.


Patagonia is on the top of every list. The internal marketing speaks volumes: ‘Let my people go surfing’ employee handbook, 3 day weekend every fortnight, posting bail for any of their employees who are arrested for protesting, paying up to two months salary when employees donate their time to environmental conservation projects.

Consumer facing, you can’t go past their ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ PR campaign – intended to encourage consumers to consider the environment and only buy what they need. In relation to their products, they all come with a lifetime warranty.

Patagonia are bigger than big when it comes to activism. In opposition to PR schooled businesses, Patagonia don’t hold back when it comes to investing, boycotting, fundraising, campaigning and challenging in court, despite how the outcome will impact profits.

In 2017 they ran ‘The president stole your land and you were lied to’ campaign in response to Trump’s decision to sell off national monuments. They spent US$700K on TV and radio advertising. Watch TVC.

These initiatives and many more are built on strong foundations, established by the founder Yvon Chouinard (sustainability pioneer and lover of the outdoors) of functionality, repairability, durability, causing no unnecessary harm, protecting nature and not being bound by convention – to drive their one single mission – to save the plant.


Six months ago, I went to see Hamish Thompson speak (ex-CEO/ Regional President and Global Brand head for Mars Incorporated, author of ‘It’s not always right to be right’). During his very open and candid presentation, he said that the biggest regret of senior executives when they leave/retire – is looking back and realizing that they should have taken more risks.

The question here is, what’s the bigger risk – to be authentically you (represented in the brands we create and build) or to coast through, stay guarded and stand for vanilla?

Businesses and brands have the opportunity to progress our country in ways and speed, that perhaps, Government cannot. This is what makes Brands so valuable, meaningful and loads of fun.

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