Why smart brands are taking action to promote social harmony and repair the bonds of our shared humanity!


We live in interesting times...

An epic refugee crisis, with its foundations in historic fault lines within the Middle East, is shaking Europe and beyond. Local demagogues are busy fashioning a narrow, nativist brand of 21st-century politics. Racial tensions are spiraling in the US. South and Central America faces economic crisis. And then there's Brexit...


But what's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Social division, conflict and even violence – driven by mutually incompatible interests and values – have always been a part of the human experience. But the search for harmony and understanding is just as much a part of our fundamental nature. It's the impulse that drove us to create societies in the first place, and the one that drives billions worldwide to dream of, and work towards, a better future.


You've probably noticed...

... but humankind faces some truly epic global challenges in 2016.

No, we’re not trying to be doom-mongers ;)

But there’s plenty going on in the world right now – from the US, to Europe, South and Central America and beyond – that is fueling social tensions and engendering disharmony.

Meanwhile, societies everywhere are dealing with historic prejudices and inequalities. And via the events around #blacklivesmatter, we’ve seen how smartphone culture is helping to expose previously submerged and on-going injustices and fuel intense debate.

Scary times? Maybe. But people everywhere are looking to new ways to approach social division and rectify social wrongs. And for the billions that are 24/7 consumers? That means looking to brands and businesses to play their part.

Yes, that’s right. Brands like YOURS!

In the US, 55% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans have ‘very unfavorable’ views of the other party. Making the US more politically polarized than it’s been for 25 years.

Pew Research, June 2016
RECONCILIATION BRANDS | Ever-more aware of rising social tensions and historic inequalities, consumers are looking to brands and businesses to take meaningful action that brings people together, heals divides, rights wrongs and promotes harmony!


Social tension, prejudice and inequality have always been with us. So what makes this trend crucial NOW?

Many are losing faith in politics.

Millions around the world see established public institutions – national and local governments, the EU, the UN – struggling to meet the challenges we face in 2016. For many, traditional politics seem out-dated, narrow, and polarizing. Now, they're looking to NEW solutions to shared social challenges.


69% of people trust businesses to keep pace with a changing world, while only 47% of people trust governments to do the same.

Edelman Trust Barometer, 2016

Meanwhile, the world is becoming more complex.

The world is has become rich, connected and globalized beyond the dreams of our grandparents. But along with that comes new and extremely complex challenges. Think the global movement (and outsourcing) of labor. Or the rise of new kinds of extremisms. Those complex issues can create the kind of uncertainty that drives social tensions and tribalism. Especially when they're exploited by demagogues who trade in simple answers...


But traditional media can't stop feeding the beast.

The world has always contained people who want to spread division and sow disharmony. But now, we live in 24/7 immersive media culture. And mainstream media knows that the fastest route to eyeballs and clicks is to give MORE attention to divisive figures (hey, don't blame them, we're the ones watching ;). One consequence? More fuel on the fire of disharmony. Another is increasing space – and appetite – for other organizations to deliver messages that promote social tolerance and cohesion.


Brand values matter more than ever.

Once, consumer status was all about affluence. Today, it's less about 'what I have' and much more about 'who I am': creative, connected, tasteful and, yes, ethical. Millions want to show others that they are ethically conscious, and that means engaging with brands that have – and communicate – the right values when it comes to social issues.


Sincerity is everything.

You’re already a deep thinker when it comes to ethical business ;). But some of your colleagues might see this trend as a chance to piggyback on a fashionable cause and earn some fast profits. Just remind them of the legitimate outcry and mockery that ensued when Starbucks tried to address the debate around racial inequality in the US by getting baristas to scrawl ‘Race Together’ on coffee cups. Remember, true RECONCILIATION is not only sincere, it’s constructive and meaningful. Yes, those are matters of judgement. So be sure to apply some!



One way to offer some RECONCILIATION? Deliver a message that promotes social harmony, healing and justice!



Vodka brand partners with street artist to raise awareness of immigration

Immigration is a topic at the top of the political agenda in the US right now. And it’s sure to be a key – and divisive – issue in the coming Presidential election in November. The ideal subject, then, for a smart brand to take a stand on…

In June 2016, vodka brand Smirnoff partnered with street artist Morley – known for his trademark ‘statement poster’ works – to create a campaign promoting compassion for immigrants. Morley interviewed ten real immigrants and used quotes from those interviews to make ten eye-catching posters, which were displayed on bus stops around Los Angeles.


Ariel India

Laundry brand promotes gender equality

RECONCILIATION BRANDS is a trend ripe for local adaptation. Just choose a locally relevant issue, and send a powerful message that promotes social harmony and justice. For Ariel India, that meant pushing for greater justice when it comes to gender relations.

Procter & Gamble-owned laundry brand Ariel India promoted its Share the Load equality campaign with a second commercial released in February 2016. The video depicts a father apologizing to his daughter for his failure to help out with household chores, and ends with the message, ‘Why is laundry only a mother’s job?’, before prompting men to #ShareTheLoad at home. The video received a boost when it was called out by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who shared it on her Facebook page. As of August 2016, the video had 2.5 million views on YouTube.



Biscuit brand unveils anti-bullying campaign

Why not pin your message of RECONCILIATION to an event or day of broad significance?

For the International Anti-Bullying Day in May 2016, Argentinia-based biscuit brand Bagley created special biscuits to raise awareness of the issue. The brand’s Sonrisas (meaning ‘Smiles’) were baked into sad faces, instead of happy ones. Posters and limited-edition packaging for Sonrisas biscuits explained that ‘bullying takes away your smile’.


Shea Moisture

Beauty brand calls out racial prejudice

A message of RECONCILIATION can be doubly impactful if it takes on unspoken prejudices that YOUR industry helps to fuel. For US haircare brand Shea Moisture, that meant tackling differences in the representation of white and black women…

April 2016 saw the launch of #breakthewalls: a TV commercial for Shea Moisture. The US-based haircare brand’s ad features actresses, influencers and bloggers with natural hair explaining their experience of shopping for beauty products and the issues faced by Afro-American women: ‘There is a section called ethnic and there is an aisle called beauty’. The commercial concludes with a voiceover stating that ‘We are Shea Moisture, and we can now be found in the beauty aisle – where we all belong’.


De Tijd & L'Echo

Belgian newspapers support Brussels restaurants in wake of attack

This powerful take on RECONCILIATION was about bringing everyone together to take constructive action – and show defiance – in the aftermath of tragic events. Nothing to do with profits, everything to do with making a difference in the world…

After the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, statistics showed that the bankruptcy rate of restaurants in Brussels increased by 1,500%. Newspapers De Tijd and L’Echo launched the #DiningforBrussels campaign to encourage city residents to eat out more. People were encouraged to eat out and then take a photograph of their finished plate with their cutlery placed in a peace sign, before sharing the hashtagged image across social media. Participants had the chance to win dinner for two people at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Brussels.



Discounted flights to UK for EU referendum

A truly bold play on RECONCILIATION? Choose a divisive issue and pick a side. Just make sure it’s the one that stands for openness, cooperation and unity ;)

May 2016 saw Ryanair’s launch of discounted flights to the UK for British citizens intending to vote to remain in the European Union in the country’s EU Referendum. Fly Home to Vote Remain offered flights to the UK from EUR 19.99 for the more than 1.2 million Britons living abroad. Tickets – which were available to all UK airports – had to be booked via Ryanair’s website.



Another way to ride this trend? Take meaningful and constructive ACTION on a shared social issue!



Coffee chain unveils community training program for young people

Earlier, we called out Starbucks for getting this trend wrong. So here they are getting it right ;). ACTIVE RECONCILIATION means choosing a social issue and taking action that promotes greater harmony, fairness and equality. Starbucks did just that when it comes to life chances for young people from disadvantaged areas.

March 2016 saw Starbucks partner with Queens Community House to deliver on-site training to young people in New York’s Jamaica Queens neighborhood. Working with the local non-profit and the YMCA, the coffee chain has created in-store spaces offering retail and customer service training for young adults and teenagers. The community training program will subsequently roll out across 14 locations across the US.


Uber Brazil

Taxi firm collects donated goods to support city’s vulnerable people

One great way to offer some ACTIVE RECONCILIATION? Leverage the assets and processes you already have in place to do some social good.

For one day in June 2016, Uber offered free collection of donated items in support of Porto Alegre Prefecture’s Winter Campaign. Operating between 10am and 4pm, collection could be booked through the Uber app. Garments, bedding, personal hygiene items, non-perishable food, and pet products could all be donated to the Brazilian city’s campaign, which aims to provide care for vulnerable people through the winter.



Bank supports mothers to rejoin the workforce

How about taking meaningful action to empower women and boost employment equality?

May 2016 saw HSBC UAE unveil a campaign to support mothers moving back into work. The I Recommend Mum campaign coincided with Mother’s Day, with a video featuring children sharing their recommendations and highlighting their mother’s skills and experience. Mothers across the UAE were invited to email HSBC and reserve their place for a series of free workshops on résumé writing and interview skills.


KFC India

Fast food chain’s charity program helps feed the hungry

This brand was bold enough to ask their customers to chip in towards some ACTIVE RECONCILIATION of a pressing national issue.

Around 190 million people in India go hungry every day. May 2016 saw KFC launch its add HOPE initiative in India. The program supports NGOs to provide funds to feed hungry children in the country, and raise awareness of the issue. The fast food chain’s 310 stores asked customers to contribute INR 5 (about USD 0.07) each time they purchased a meal. The aim of the program was to provide 20 million meals to children in need by 2020, via partnerships with the Akshaya Patra Foundation and the World Food Programme.



Bring people together and empower them to bring about some RECONCILIATION themselves!


Ben & Jerry's

Ice cream brand invites people to discuss political issues

One of the most powerful plays on RECONCILIATION? Bring people face-to-face to work out contentious issues and prove that harmony can rule. See how Ben & Jerry’s did it…

With Brazil deep in crisis around the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, Ben & Jerry’s invited people to debate political issues in a São Paolo store in April 2016. The US-based ice cream brand brought people who love one another face-to-face to discuss contentious issues they could not agree on over an ice cream. The campaign also featured on social media using the hashtag #‎amoréprogresso — meaning ‘love is progress’.


Heineken Bulgaria

Football campaign encourages men to be more social

This beer brand offered some RECONCILIATION around an often-unspoken issue common to its target customers: social isolation.

A May 2016 campaign by Heineken in Bulgaria used chairs fitted with motion sensors in a bid to bring people – and particularly men – together to watch the UEFA Champions League. The Jigsaw featured an outdoor screen divided into 80 squares, with each square activated by one of the 80 seats. In order to view the match, all of the seats needed to be filled. Heineken’s campaign was inspired by research showing that 70% of men watch the league games by themselves.



Airline passengers rewarded for achieving consensus

If your core offering already involves bringing people to a shared physical space, why not take the chance to encourage RECONCILIATION between them? See this clever play…

In February 2016, 150 passengers on a JetBlue flight were offered free tickets to any of the US airline’s destinations on the condition they could reach a unanimous agreement about where that should be. The resulting video ad, Reach Across The Aisle, makes a comparison between passengers’ divisions and the lack of political compromise shown by US congress members. Passengers discuss, and finally resolve their differences and are rewarded with round-trip tickets to Costa Rica. As of July 2016, the video had over 1 million views on YouTube.

The Bigger Picture

Amplify the power of this trend – by seeing it in context!


Spotting trends? It all starts with innovations...

The not-so-secret secret to spotting trends (including this one!). Stop watching customers, and start watching the innovations – products, services, campaigns – flooding into the market now. Draw lines between similar innovations, and interrogate them for the new customer expectations they're helping to create. There's much more on our end-to-end methodology in our book, Trend-Driven Innovation. So how do we process thousands of innovations we spot? It helps to have a Framework...


The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide structure and context when tracking innovation.

We map all the expectation-changing innovations we spot against our Trend Framework: the 16 mega-trends – that is, the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena – that taken together form our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading. All of the 100+ trends we track fall under these 16 mega-trends.

Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day. 

And when a cluster of innovations doesn’t fit neatly under one or more of our trends, that’s when we know we’re on the verge of identifying something NEW!

That’s how we spot all our trends – including RECONCILIATION BRANDS.


Where will this trend head NEXT?

RECONCILIATION BRANDS is really a new direction of travel under the mega-trend that we call HUMAN BRANDS. That’s the mega-trend via which we track the rising consumer demand that brands show some personality, empathy and a human touch.

Watching this trend in the context of our Trend Framework means crucial added insight on where it came from and, crucially, where it’s heading next.

You can get a glimpse here. Clients of our Premium Service have full access.


Time for YOU to start planning some RECONCILIATION!


Think LOCAL adaptation.

The success of your RECONCILIATION play hangs on choosing the right issue to address. One route to that issue? Ask yourself: what are the key concerns in my country, region or neighborhood right now? And remember, super-local RECONCILIATION plays can be among the most powerful!


Want to take it to the next level?

At our upcoming 2016 Trend Events in Singapore, Sydney, Chicago, London and Amsterdam you'll hear about THE trends that will shape consumerism in 2017 and beyond. And hear from innovators in the field already putting those trends into action!


Ask: who can influence your customers?

Think broadly about who is best placed to spread your message of RECONCILIATION. What about partnering with someone your customers really listen to? In the wake of heightened tension around race in the US, July 2016 saw YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki encourage YouTube Creators – that is, the social media stars created by the platform – to speak up against racism.


Talk sports.

One of the most fertile grounds for RECONCILIATION MARKETING? International sports! At the Euro 2016 football tournament, McDonald's ran a series of posters showing fans supporting two teams at once. McDonalds said the campaign was intended to promote 'tolerance, diversity and generosity'.



Last month we flagged a truly epic trend: BIG BRAND REDEMPTION. It focuses on how big brands must take meaningful action to build a more sustainable and ethical future. Want to get started on that long journey? Offering some RECONCILIATION is a great place to start! Read the full free Trend Briefing to learn more.