February 22, 2018 /Trend

The New Self Is The Unself // Welcome to the era of brand transcendence

The New Self Is The Unself - Welcome to the era of brand transcendence

‘We all have a deep-seated urge to self transcendence’, argues author Aldous Huxley. We were reminded of this sentiment in Jules Evan’s The Art of Losing Control. In his philosophical search for ecstatic experience, he reminds us that ‘we all need to find ways to unself’.

This is certainly interesting and he goes on to explain how philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch explores the concept of ‘unselfing’. Why?

In a climate of a gig economy, we are amidst a work revolution.

According to Stylus, by 2037 the word 'work' will no longer exist as we know it.

In 2015, we attended a Ted Talk in Fulton St New York, where it was disclosed that by 2025, 75% of the population will be freelancing. The 9-5 day as we know it is outmoded.

Whilst it is certainly important to note the increasingly fluid nature of consumer lifestyle, it is also worthy to recognise that we live in a world whereby technology is all encompassing and consuming. We speak to our clients about a 24-hour opportunity to engage with their consumer. Our strategy team talks the language of 360º brands, holistic experiences, the journey before, during and after purchase.


The possibilities to reach consumers are endless.

Yet, residing in this constantly switched on climate is exhausting. Consumers are challenging this notion of striving to be productive, always. We are witnessing being busy backlash. Most recently, feminist driven brand Girlboss shared on their Instagram page, ‘your worth is not measured by your productivity’. The seeds of the sleep revolution began to manifest in 2016, when Arianna Huffington published her book exploring the profound impact of a sleep deprivation crisis.

So how has this always connected, switched on and ‘busy’ climate left society? Continuing with Jules Evans’ exploration of Iris Murdoch’s philosophy further, we are left with people with minds that are hyper aroused. They are anxiety ridden, self-preoccupied and fundamentally, unhappy.

A way to counter this, and inspire happiness is to create moments of ego loss. Moving forward with the concept of the unself, it is interesting to note that, according to Maslow Hierarchy of needs, the sixth stage, which is often left off the classic five tiered model, is self transcendence. According to Maslow, this can be achieved through spiritualism and altruism. Widely speaking, both of these attributes involve contributing to something greater than the self.

Let’s start with the former, spiritualism. This is where Evan’s investigation of the unself is interesting. We are observing a growing interest in Buddhist teachings. At the start of the year, we went to a talk at Somerset House for a lecture surrounding Self Optimisation which explored the concept of ‘many selves as opposed to one self’. Ruby Wax’s latest book ‘In How to be a Human’ explores notion of our ‘inner lives’ through a discussion with Gelong Thubten, a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Another notable recently launched title is Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True, which examines the science and philosophy of meditation and enlightenment.

With these teachings growing more prolific, what lessons can brands take from this?


In a climate of anxiety-provoking self-occupation, how can brands encourage consumers to step outside themselves and inspire moments of ego loss?

Last month, we explored wonder. This is one tool which can inspire consumers to reach transcendence. Brands must now move beyond the idea of promoting moments of narcissism and instead inspire unselfing. As consumers begin to resent hyper productivity, spontaneity and rest become two new desirable experiences.

Secondly, altruism is interesting for many reasons. According to Havas, 75% of consumers expect brands to contribute to a wider social cause and improve the world. We are seeing this more with ‘do good brands’. Millennials in particularly are savvy with their spending, with the Financial Times documenting their increasing interest in ESG investments and using platforms such as Wealthsimple, in which there is an option to invest in stocks that are contribute to a wider social cause.

Brands must enter the realm of transcendence. As such, creating moments of altruism is vital for brands, authored by ego-less moments that contribute to something greater to themselves.

Key Takeaways

Enter the world of the unself. Embrace brand transcendence. Create ecstatic experiences through ego-less moments that stimulate spontaneity, curiosity and wonder.

Reflect upon how rest and anti-productivity can be inspirational platforms for engagement.

Consider how your brand, store design and retail experience can be a platform for your consumer to connect to something greater than himself or herself through altruism.


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