Meaning-Based Economy

Icebreaker, the maker of men's and women's fashion, makes renewable, recylcable, and biodegradable merino wool clothing that also connects you to the farmer who raised the sheep- the company provides long-term contracts to the farmers to give them economic stability while raising their sheep.

Icebreaker, the maker of men's and women's fashion, makes renewable, recylcable, and biodegradable merino wool clothing that also connects you to the farmer who raised the sheep- the company provides long-term contracts to the farmers to give them economic stability while raising their sheep.

I was looking through my e-mail and found an unread blog post of one of Boulder, Colorado's most interesting and prolific investors, Brad Feld, from 2013.  A quote in it struck a chord in me.  He had written about a company he invested in called Barnanas- a dehydrated banana snack covered in chocolate that managed to make its way into Whole Foods, kind of the holy grail of stores you want to get into.

Feld made this observation about the Barnana team.

Interestingly, a majority of the Barnana team is comprised of tech guys. It seems more and more people are entering the fast growing natural foods space from other high growth industries like tech. I asked Matt why he feels natural foods world is so appealing to techies.

We are transitioning from a price based economy to a meaning based economy. Not only meaning for your customers, but meaning soup to nuts throughout the entire organization. The notion of meaning is supported across multiple verticals, from the maker revolution to local and organic foods, to the various kickstarter campaigns. It’s simple – people want meaning. And bananas.”

A meaning based economy.  I love that phrase.  I mean, people still look at prices, but we also want our product to be sustainable, we want to feel like we're connecting with the people who actually made the product, we want to feel like we've been understood by the people who created the brand, and we want to feel like we're doing good in the world by purchasing the product. 

Last night a friend gave the example of Warby Parker donating a pair of glasses to someone who needs them when you buy a pair.  This morning I read about Evrnu, a cotton-recycling company that takes discarded cotton clothes and turns them into a new fabric for re-use.  Companies are tuning into this sentiment and finding ways to do good all over, even if it arouses all our cynicism- like Wal-Mart pledging to be the biggest supplier of organic food in the world. 

I personally thought the meaning economy phrase was more like "a brand gets me".  Like my favorite company, Club Monaco's branding gets the meaning I want to convey when I wear my clothes and do my hair so I'll buy their clothes because their visuals tell the right story.  That was my narcissistic interpretation of "a meaning-based economy", which I'm sure is still legitimate, but the guy who wrote the quote was probably meaning moreso the do-good-by-purchasing-our-product kind of idea.

Either way I'm fascinated.  How do you interpret "meaning-based economy"?  What have you bought recently simply because it had meaning to you?