" Welcome to the grey area of Clean Living | Haines McGregor

What does Clean Living mean for brands?

Marie Kondo captured the attention of the world with her KonMari cleaning method. The idea behind the approach was to find, and keep, the things in your life that “spark joy”. She once explained the genesis of this approach. 

“I was obsessed with what I could throw away. One day, I had a kind of nervous breakdown and fainted. When I awoke I realized my mistake: I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.”

In short, the art of living clean had nothing to do with finding things to get rid of. It was all about finding what you wanted most to keep. 

“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment”

 

– Marie Kondo

What does it mean to your audience?

Consumers are increasingly looking to clean up their lives. And this act of cleaning can take many forms. Brands need to understand the macro factors shaping this change – and use this insight to ensure they are on the list of ‘things to keep’.

In this piece we speak to senior marketers who have worked brand-side in this space:

  • Korina Karadimou, Nutritionist, formerly research & planning at Futures Team, Diageo 
  • Brendan Williams, Founder at The Free Consultancy, former Group Marketing Director at Carlsberg for Alcohol Free 

“Healthy and clean can mean different things to different people. It can be better for you, or better for the planet. There is also a transparency element to it – truly understanding the processes of the products you consume.”

 

– Korina Karadimou

A greater awareness of health in general has led to people seeking an overall sense of wellbeing. Consumers now understand how mental, physical and environmental influences all contribute to their health.

Brands and services becoming more closely scrutinised for their product, processes and ingredients. Consumers have become confident about healthy eating, with a recent report finding that two thirds feel they can easily find information about a product’s nutrition on the package, and 73% saying they are confident that they can choose healthy foods.

This extends into fashion and ecommerce. Millennial and Generation Z shoppers are gaining more buying power – research has found that 73% of millennial consumers said they prefer to purchase from sustainable brands. 

“Clean Living is about making positive consumption choices. The motivation to buy a plant based drink crosses over with the motivation to buy an electric car. These options exist across so many consumer goods categories. Clean living extends and integrates across these consumer trends. 

 

It is a lifestyle. This is what we are sold. From influencers to social media – it’s about surrounding yourself with content and brands that support this lifestyle.”

 

Brendan Williams

The trend towards Clean Living can no longer be viewed as a temporary fad or a passing fashion. It is a real and permanent shift in consumer zeitgeist – and brands need to understand the behaviours and motivations shaping this space. 

What is driving this change?

There are three macro-factors spearheading behavioural change in consumers. 

– Excessive consumption and overstimulation
– Distrust in the establishment, organisations and the processes which bring us food and goods
– Social consciousness and awareness of the environmental impact of consumer behaviour

Each of these factors speaks to different aspects of our lives – and each is increasingly influential in driving behavioural change. These factors are the fuel, but they are only as important as the pistons which push consumers into action. 

Media 

We are immersed in digital media. The latest Ofcom report shows that UK adults spend an average of three hours and 47 minutes online every day. 

“People have more pride in their life choices. People want to be part of something bigger. More control, making small positive choices everyday. And increasingly there is less need to compromise. The internet and social media arms people with the information they need to make better choices.” 

 

– Brendan Williams

This innate connection means we have an increased awareness of global events, and can plug into specific publishers, podcasts and video which expands our horizons. The recent Seaspiracy Netflix documentary attests to the power of digital to spark debate.

Equally social media influencers are shaping discourse around lifestyle choices. Joe Wicks, Alice Living and Deliciously Ella all wield significant influence over healthy eating lifestyle trends. 

Government 

Sustainability is an increasingly influential part of government legislation. From incentivising the development of EVs, to wider environmental development and the implementation of the sugar tax, legislation is increasingly driving sustainable behaviours. 

Technology 

Technology is empowering us to make better decisions. 

Smartphones and smartwatches are empowering people to track the effects of their lifestyle – and adjust their behaviours based on data. As these technologies proliferate and are adopted across demographics, we expect to see the rate of behavioural change amplify. 

How is Clean Living impacting brands?

Clean Living means many things to many people. It is as much about happiness and wellbeing as it is about provenance and prevention of illness. But whilst our personal definitions may vary – the impact for brands does not. 

“If it is dominant in the minds of consumers, then it must be reflected in your brand’s communication. But it should be said that ignoring the trend is less of a risk than embracing the trend inauthentically. This is the most dangerous thing a brand can do. If you engage without authenticity, consumers see straight through it.” 

 

– Korina Karadimou

If it matters to your audience, it has to matter to your brand. Research from Nielsen showed that four fifths of consumers globally believe companies should help improve the environment.

For some brands, particularly those in the CPG and health & beauty space, these factors will be far more influential. Consumers are holding, touching, wearing your brand. These brands must make sure that when consumers are looking to clean and tidy up their lives – that their products are the ones that “spark joy”.

Brands like Patagonia have successfully built a reputation for helping their customers live cleaner lives. Patagonia’s corporate philosophy is “100% For the Planet,” – but this isn’t to say they are perfect. A huge part of the Clean Living movement is centred around transparency – and Patagonia has been open and honest about the areas of their business that need improvement, like using fossil fuels to produce shells for their coats. 

Equally, brands like Thinx are working to create a cleaner, more sustainable future for female sanitation. Thinx offers ethically sourced, reusable “period-proof” underwear. A woman can go through 11,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in a lifetime – which is a substantial amount of single use products. By combining a Clean Living product with a witty and unbashful brand voice and imagery, the brand has successfully built a powerful connection with a new cohort of consumers globally.  

Take also our work with Arla, helping reinvent their organic offering to bring relevant, lasting, unique value to their consumers through a deep appreciation of what the business, the co-operative and the brand could stand behind in the future.

“The intimate brands, the ones you wear or consume, are the most impacted. We’ve passed the point where brands are able to ignore the impact they have. People don’t want to compromise, but want to be offered alternatives which are positive or neutral. My message to brands is simple: ignore at your peril. This is a multi-generational macro trend. And it has been accelerated by COVID. To ignore it is to embrace irrelevance.”

 

Brendan Williams

How is this changing consumer behaviour?

The Clean Living movement isn’t about choosing less. It’s about keeping the things that matter more. 

Consumers are making informed choices about what habits and behaviours they keep – and discarding the excess baggage. Brands need to adapt to ensure they are on the right list. 

At Haines McGregor we have a deep understanding of the motivations and identity needs driving the Clean Living movement.

To learn more about how your brand can better fit into your consumers lives and reflect their lifestyle aspiration, don’t hesitate to contact us.