Could 'Brown' Be Your Brand's New 'Green'?
With the announcement of the first synthetic burger grown in a petri dish, would it be more or less shocking to say “human waste is the currency of the future”? “Carbon footprints” and “data footprints” are carving the way for “microbial footprints.” Consumers are paying to get dirty… germ-dirty, that is. “Going viral" is taking on a whole new meaning in marketing. Online communities are flourishing around “intestine communities.” Brand ecosystems now have as much to do with biology as technology (Gulp).
"Rotten" is the New "Improved"
With every trend there is a counter-trend; the balancer to society’s “antibacterial” fixation over the past 15-20 years is a cultural shift towards people, places and things that are “organic” (i.e., derived from organisms) and “fermented.” Even the tastemaker-of-taste celebrity chef David Chang is serving up rotten, fermented foods that are amped in both umami and healthfulness.
Recent leaps in science and technology have enabled exploration of new aspects of life. As a result, there’s a lot of mapping going on right now: brain mapping, genome mapping, cosmos mapping and microbiome mapping. American Gut and Ubiome are taking microbiome mapping to the masses. Expect to see microbe tests in your pharmacy next to pregnancy and drug tests. Also, expect brands to replace manufacturing with growing, such as the Mercedes-Benz BIOME concept car.
Bacteria: Big Data Set for Segmentation?
Scientists have discovered that one’s unique microbial soup is contagious (chances are your colleagues and family members share your bacteria). Successful fecal, bile and ear wax transplants take “the sharing economy” to new levels. Especially interesting to marketers is the discovery that the flora on/in our bodies drive behavior, such as impacting:
- Attractiveness to others (think: biocompatibility… match.com evolves into microbe.com)
Marketers today know that “mood stages” are as important as “life stages” to purchasing decisions. In our lifetime, anticipate that consumers are segmented by their “bacterial profile” (a technique enabled my emerging technology) as it ought to help marketers predict behavior, product needs and even social influence.
Brand Touchpoints -> Biome Touchpoints
New discoveries in the microbial world IN us and AROUND us are already shaping the way marketers design environments, including brand experiences and retail. In fact, new industries have been born from bacteria such as BX (biotic experience) design and “bio-architecture.” Look at the work of Jessica Green regarding designing the microbial work environment.
Imagine your hotel room in the future is not sterilized or cleaned in the traditional fashion, but rather neutralized, balanced and harmonized in terms of its microbial environment. It’s not hard to imagine a Job of the Future requiring a MBA (Microbiome Balancing Accreditation). Today we have financial advisors, tomorrow we'll have microbial advisors.
It costs as much to add and balance impurities as it does to eradicate them, so fortifying with a little "rotten" won't come cheap. The next generation of premium foods will have labels that read "contains living additives". Consider this: “bacteria balancing” household products with labels that scream "new, with extra microbes!". Probiotics 2.0 = Superbiotics. Expect yogurt with "active culture" to evolve into yogurt with "generative culture.”
Marketers, Back-Up Your Biome!
So, as the zeitgeist shifts from “green” to “brown,” the “bacterial portfolios of brands” will be copyright protected. A “brand ecosystem” will have a new meaning, as will “brand communities.” We may very well see brand manager adding a “brand biome” to a list of brand assets -- guarded it like the Coca-Cola recipe -- in a safety deposit box designed for living matter.
The body contains 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells; we are more bacteria than human. Ninety-nine percent of our genes are microbial genes, and scientists have found that bacteria “talk” to each other. It begs the question, who is the host and who is the parasite? Are consumers simply colonies of micro-organisms?
Marketers are already deriving inspiration from biomimicry, such as naturally antibacterial products and packaging design based on shark skin texture. If bacteria are drivers of human behavior, how will marketers protect, manage and manipulate the microbiome?