The Future of Brand

models in black dresses

As 2020 drew to a close, we learned that the fast-fashion and high-street behemoth, Arcadia Group, was yet another casualty of the year that no one wants to remember (but will).

Whilst I felt no pang of regret for Arcadia Group (owners of TopShop, Miss Selfridge, Burton, etc) as a whole, I’ll admit to feeling a momentary pang of sadness at the end of TopShop, in the way I feel when a pop-star passes away – another slice of my youth disappearing.

Feb 1 2021: News in that fashion giant ASOS has now bought the brands TopShop, TopMan, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands has thrown an interesting curveball into the mix. Whilst the high-street shops will still be closing, the brands live on.

Who knows what that will mean for sustainability – I hope they will look at that as part of the takeover. But what it does attest to is the power of brand.


TopShop had a special place in my heart, growing up: it was where I went shopping with school-friends, then with uni mates, the number one destination before a big event, party or holiday. The experiences were all linked to ‘good times’ for me. As a Gen X-er, brands that marketed based on good times, hedonism and fun had an easy win – think everything from Shockwaves hair products to Club 18-30.

Even in my media days, working in Soho, the flagship TopShop at Oxford Circus was a regular lunchtime haunt, with their more off-beat, recycled collections and designer collabs. By now it was the early 2000s, Gen Y (Millenials) were driving a move towards this more-eco-conscious approach. But this was the flagship store in Central London – it wasn’t yet mainstream.

But it got me thinking about how brands become, like people, inextricably linked to our lives, some for a moment, some for life. And just as with people, we can fall in or out of love with a brand. A brand that doesn’t move with the times or with consumer feeling can quickly lose even its loyal fans.

In recent years the Arcadia Group was besieged by scandalous allegations surrounding the behaviour of its owner Sir Philip Green, his dodgy financial dealings and mistreatment of workers, court cases and parliamentary debates….as I write there is a petition running to strip him of his knighthood.

But the fall of Arcadia Group was not just down to one man.

ASOS started something big when it launched in 2000. I remember, at the time, they were known as ‘As Seen On Screen’ and copied red-carpet looks. But in the last decade or so, even more online brands have mushroomed in the ‘fast fashion’ space (BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing, Shein, Never Fully Dressed…), squeezing the high-street brands.

Never has it been easier to buy throwaway fashion…and I was shocked to learn last year that returned clothes quite often go straight to land-fill as it costs too much to resteam and repack them.


Conversely, at the other end of the market, there has been a counter-movement against fast-fashion and towards more sustainable choices.

To buy fewer items of higher quality, buy second-hand, re-purpose existing pieces or  ‘shop your wardrobe‘. Fashion with a conscience. Fashion with ethics. Fashion that cares about the planet, the materials and the people that work for the business.

2020 Mintel research indicates that brand values will be increasingly vital for business success over the next 10 years.

So the question is: are you building a pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap business or is it a company based on good values and sustainable business practices?

I predict that businesses who don’t act from a place of good, of conscience will be put under increasing pressure…

The Future of Brand

By 2030 there will be 8.5 billion people on the planet. That’s roughly 20% less land and resources per person from 2020.

Companies have to take responsibility for their actions now, not just in order to survive in business, but to ensure the survival of the planet.

Brands need to demonstrate values in as many of these seven key areas as they can, in order to win – not just in their marketing, but transparently, throughout the business. These are (in no order)

  • Wellbeing (physical and mental, putting people before profit)
  • The environment (caring for nature, the earth, sustainability)
  • Technology (helping us in the physical and digital worlds)
  • Rights (feeling respected, protected, supported, cared about)
  • Identity (understanding and expressing our place in society, diversity, inclusion)
  • Value (finding tangible, measurable benefits)
  • Experiences (seeking and discovering; mental, emotional or physical)

It’s simply not sustainable any more to put the pursuit of profit at all costs, above all else.

When I was interviewed by Julie Barber of Spark! Consulting, she echoed these trends: she said that the companies which are demonstrating any of these values are the ones securing investment right now.

Over the next 10 years, with a new ethical generation of consumers (Gen Z) commanding 40% of all consumer spend by the end of 2020, the Future of Brand is hopefully in doing the right thing.

'Let's Get Visible' Book Cover

My best-selling book ‘Let’s Get Visible!’ goes into more depth on the Inner Brand and Brand Values and guides you through the whole VISION Process, to get brand clarity, stand out in your industry and supercharge your business growth. Buy it here.

If you want to create a brand your customers will truly connect with, both now and in the future, book a free 30-minute VISION call with me and let’s see what we can do…