The big spring clean and what it means for brands
“I love you but I’ve got to let you go.” Hard words to say to someone. Even harder to say to a 3 month old magazine.
Yet there’s a growing trend towards making these difficult decisions. While on holiday earlier this year in Australia and New Zealand, I was struck by the decluttering frenzy taking place. Despite being the height of summer and the perfect time to be outside, I was witnessing a frenzy of (ahem) ‘spring cleaning’.
These revitalized cleaning habits have been partially inspired by Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The show is a followup to Kondo’s 2011 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and has inspired an enormous number of memes, social media posts, articles and videos.
So what is the ‘KonMari Method’ really about?
Marie Kondo’s decluttering method encourages us to acknowledge the things that we connect with emotionally. This is done by categorising our possessions and discarding all the items that do not ‘spark joy’. This has become known as the ‘joy’ test.
What started as a method for reducing the amount of personal clutter has sparked a global conversation around Marie Kondo’s practice and how the pure love of ‘things’ can be applied to any part of your life.
This has lead to the phenomena of ‘Marie Kondo’ing’ your life: to keep only what brings you joy. Your love life, for example, and even the way you use social media, have all been caught up in the movement.
The limited space we have is often cluttered with things we don’t need but can’t quite let go of, that we’re either too attached to or too lazy to dispose of.
There are some obvious winners from the Marie Kondo movement; charities will undeniably benefit from this wave of second hand stuff.
A second, less obvious beneficiary of the movement is brands. Firstly, brand can create new forms of communication that resonate with KonMari neophytes. Secondly, the KonMari movement has reignited the debate around packaging; a form of daily clutter. Removing the excessive packaging on products (particularly for those we buy online) is already in demand from consumers for its obvious environmental benefits. However, amidst this decluttering craze, brands are now given an additional imperative to streamline packaging.
The more extreme end of the decluttering spectrum is the perspective from the Guardian journalist Alexandra Spring who’s simple solution to decluttering is to buy less crap.
She argues that the KonMari phenomenon leads to transforming homes into minimalist heavens, the side effect being an incredible amount of landfill waste. We are thus better off stemming this problem at the source. Ergo, think twice before buying.
This presents a problem for brands planning to adopt a robust decluttering philosophy. This action would be antithetical and smacks of a hypocrisy that few but the most righteous brands could pull off.
Patagonia famously did so in their Black Friday campaign discouraging shoppers from buying their, or any other brands’, products. They pulled off the marketing equivalent of doublethink – saying and believing one thing that directly contradicted a known reality. Yet it was powerful and truthful because it resonated with their brand purpose.
A better philosophy for brands to promote is not ‘stop buying’ but rather ‘buy better’. As consumers move towards a ‘less is more’ mindset, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain pole position as product of choice. Consumers are raising the bar for brands, forcing them to focus on what they are good at. A prime example of a brand that has embraced this consumer trend for continued success is Hiut Denim: it celebrates the fact that it makes one product. With no distractions, all their energy is focussed on making that product the best it can be.
Rather than simply promoting the Kondo message to their consumers, brands should turn their thinking inwards. This offers the opportunity to declutter their own product ranges and “expand beyond the realm of stuff” by more clearly imbuing their products with values that elevate them in the minds of their consumers.