Brands for Humans:
A Holistic Approach to Design & Advertising

September 26, 2023

We’ve all heard of 360 campaigns, a magical sounding number that makes it seem like these campaigns are all encompassing. They obviously include media assets that can reach a full spectrum of consumers, wherever they are. But are they holistic? In other words, do they actually reach and understand the whole person beyond the mind?

Brands are imagined and created for humans. They are living organisms with their own unique personalities that evolve, grow and expand with time. Just like us. Because they are bigger than the individual, they have the power to transform how we think, how we live, and who we are. They have the power to shape the future, which is why they need to represent more than a product or service: they need to hold a vision. For this reason, when we measure campaign performance, we need a more holistic approach that combines both quantitative — metrics and data — and qualitative results, how deeply a brand has affected and touched people. This usually speaks more to the emotional benefits of a brand.

When designing a brand for the future, it needs more than a beautiful logo and brand guidelines. We need to give it a soul, and also a mission that is going to influence the audience it was created for. Holistic brand strategy is an essential step that precedes powerful advertising and creative storytelling. The holistic part means that we need to understand what humans need and desire on the subconscious level. It also requires that we envision what they will need tomorrow, in ten years, and beyond… What is it that our children and grandchildren will need?

My Holistic and Healing Brand Journey

During the last six years, I have explored new fields of expertise and combined different career paths. I have enriched my advertising and design practice with new perspectives coming from art, science and spirituality. Permaculture has taught me how to approach a problem with a “whole system” mindset — seeing connections between the parts — in order to achieve sustainable results. Holistic nutrition inspired me to embark on a human discovery journey, where I gained a better understanding of the interconnectedness of our body, mind, and spirit. Contact Beyond Contact (CBC), a dance and healing practice, showed me how I can help people improve their relationship skills: with nature, themselves, a partner (or a client), and the community (our colleagues, our customers).

Through these various studies, I have expanded my horizons and removed the blinders that limited my creative potential at the beginning of my career. I began to make even stronger connections between people, between brands and people, between messaging and people. Through the integration of these new perspectives, I am giving more meaning and life to my work, allowing it to transform and affect people strongly.

Selling products and services might make companies richer, but people will not necessarily be happier. And they are starting to realize it. Which is why today, we need to expand the traditional model of branding with a holistic approach. What people are searching for — something that can’t be found on Google or ChatGPT — is meaning, depth, self-realization, fulfillment and authenticity. I call it the no B.S. era.

What does this mean for us, as communication and advertising professionals? It’s simple: we need to create brands and tell stories with purpose. For the greater good. And with intention. We need to touch people’s hearts and souls, deeply.

As a great example, Nike tells stories with purpose. Their ads are not about the sneakers or clothes, but rather about the power of achievement with them in your life. Nike taps into their customers’ deep aspirations. Just do it. How powerful is that? I think of the Nike tagline every day. When I am not sure I have what it takes to start an impossible project, I think “just do it”. What if this article is too bold? Just publish it. Nike even found a way to speak to women, holistically. Their Dream Crazier campaign from 2020, which features female athletes that break the mold, is not only encouraging us to dream big, but also to embrace all the parts that make us who we are. Our emotions — our “craziness” — are the source of our incredible strength. Nike made us feel heard, seen and empowered.

Are Tomorrow’s Brands Ready for a Dose of Empathy?

We need to understand what’s at the root of peoples’ fears, as well as what they can do to support our collective aspirations. Brands of tomorrow will need to inspire personal growth, empower minorities, women, students, and more. They will need to encourage each and every one of us to pursue our dreams. They will need to be in service – to us.

How will brands achieve this grand mission? With empathy, and through a deep understanding of people’s motivations and emotional fluctuations. The creatives of tomorrow have an important role: it is up to us to shape the future responsibly and authentically help brands provide solutions to physical, emotional, sociological and spiritual problems.

Let’s make use of our sensitivity. Let’s celebrate empathy. Let’s show emotions. Because designing brands and campaigns solely with our brain is as reductionist as attempting to fix a broken heart with a pill. Feeling is a superpower, one that allows us to provide the meaning customers have been craving all along. A holistic approach involves the integration of every part of our being. And this is how we will collectively design a better future.

– Josiane Marquis, R.H.N., Creative Director & Holistic Wellness Practitioner

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