flux branding

The Paradox of Progress


How do you feel about things today?

As things get better, there’s more to lose.

We finally reached the end of the 2020 campaign season. It’s branded as the most important election of our lifetimes. The contrast between candidates is night and day. Competitive versus collaborative. Winner-take-all versus common-ground. It feels like everything is teetering on a razor’s edge.

We’re facing existential threats of global pandemic, climate change and information warfare. Looking at these challenges, it can seem like we’re living in the end of days. But there’s also an uncomfortable truth underpinning it all: from a cosmic perspective our lives are insignificant. The universe is a really, really, really big place and it’s been around for a really, really, really long time. Our politics, crises, challenges and accomplishments may seem important, but from a universal standpoint they’re not even measurable.

Consider these facts

While we’re in the safest and most prosperous time in history, we feel like everything is falling apart. That’s because with progress comes fear of loss.

The exceptional advances in technology, business and lifestyle have simultaneously raised our quality of life and increased our concerns. This is the paradox of progress.

Progress forces us to make value judgments.

We judge the rightness, wrongness or usefulness of a new advancement based on a comparison to other things we already understand. These evaluations are often based upon limited information and are made quickly and impulsively. They are not universal. There are different evaluations because we don’t all agree on what is good or bad.

Values are learned culturally.

This is why understanding the existing mindset of your market is essential. While you might be tempted to make your brand appeal to everyone, targeting a specific niche helps accelerate its adoption. It begins with identifying the people who have the most to lose without your offering. While the optimism of empowerment, delight and virtue are noble, the paradox is that motivation is driven by fear of loss.

The Big Three Paradox Motivators

The paradox of progress is a complex dynamic and is only one of the many elements that brands use to generate loyalty. While it’s valuable in establishing messaging, it must be combined with other communications strategies to generate reliable results. Used carelessly, excessive focus on fear and loss can result in brands that fail to inspire consumers over time. But when balanced with equal parts of vision and promise, the paradox is an important ingredient in motivating action.


The pandemic is still unfolding, and there are no clear paths. Surprising new data indicates that discretionary spending is up from last year, fueled by a new mix of consumer demands. Technology continues to reshape how we work, shop and communicate. The pace of progress is showing no signs of slowing.

If you’re still thinking about your brand’s role in the new normal, now’s the time to act. One thing’s certain, the world’s in flux. Take the time now to assess your brand, and prepare for progress.


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