live|work: Brand 'dematerial'

Here's a new brand phenomenon (maybe): 'brand dematerial' or 'brand 4 less stuff'. The world of non-material branding is still pretty immature compared to its big brother product. So, it's not so easy to obsess about the services you use or to demonstrate 'who you are by what you do and not what you own'. There are some exceptions, for example who you bank with (demonstrates a certain financial status), how you fly (mainly a class status) and more recently who and what you are sharing amongst your social network (what you are listening to, what you are collecting, who's in your contacts list etc.).

To go one step further, an even newer concept is brands that are actively shaping their market and demonstrating something about their values, and your values, by participating in 'dematerial' innovation — looking for new ways to deliver consumer or business solutions that rely less on material production and lighten their impact on the world. Tricycle is doing exactly this. Zipcar is way ahead and already thinking about adding service lines, beyond the car service, to build on its strong brand and membership model. Tricycle has been written about before on Treehugger. The concept (or process) makes absolute sense. Tricycle offer simulated carpet sampling to the interior design market using paper instead of carpet, which significantly reduces the cost, resource usage and waste of carpet sampling. They use a digital tufting software that simulates the actual placement of yarn in a tufting machine to create realistic, fully textured paper prototypes which use 5% of the energy and water as real samples and can be immediately recycled. They also have product simulation technology (SIM), which does such a good job at digitally replicating carpet and will make sampling obsolete altogether.

What was interesting to hear, listening to Tricycle President and CEO Jonathan Bragdon talk at the Cleantech Companies in Mainstream Markets CEO panel discussion, is that Tricycle, through dematerialising a commodity industry, is emerging as a powerful brand. A bit like "Intel Inside", carpet manufacturers are now stipulating that the Tricycle marque is 'inside' (or on) their manufactured carpets as a way of encouraging designers to use the Tricycle process to sample their products and to disassociate themselves with environmental waste and landfill. Or, more to the point, as Tricycle become synonymous with revolutionising the carpet sampling process and demonstrating its values through what is does, manufacturers want a piece of the action. They want to be associated with this very modern and worldchanging brand. Note: Tricycle has emerged from the design industry and is using marketing and design to position its offer effectively.

Let me introduce the live|work notion of 'Service Envy' — the design of services that have the same functional, emotional and expressive power we look for in products. In other words, demonstrating who you are/your status through what you 'use' or 'do' as oppossed to what you might 'own'.

The Tricycle brand is arguably beginning to demonstrate behaviour and set of values that is taking on meaning in these worldchanging times. And it has built 'envy' (or desirability) through its service offer: it expresses something powerful to be associated with the Tricycle brand.

Talking of worldchanging, I was delighted to read about another slightly different example of Service Envy on Worldchanging.com. They describe that the new ad for Honda Civic's Hybrid, under the banner "Environmentology", cites the term "world-changing (sic)" in its blurb. See here:

In 1974, Honda introduced the ingeniously simple Civic CVCC. World-changing (sic) for its fuel efficiency and low emissions, the CVCC demonstrated our spirited commitment to environmentally responsible technology

Worldchanging rather modestly note that their brand name is starting to become a cultural icon (appearing in car ads none other). It clearly means something to car manufacturers to be associated with a service (Worldchanging.com ) that is reporting on changing the world. Again, a new type of brand association; a new type cultural status that says something about who you are through what you are doing in the world. Changing times

Written by Tamara Giltsoff

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