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"New Natural?" Hey, if the shoe fits...

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Forget natural. Think New Natural. The New Natural is all around us, and if you're not seeing it, it's because you're not looking outside the natural products industry.

Hesitation to tap other industries for inspiration and insight is an attitude endemic to nearly any industry born of a counterculture movement — just like the natural products industry. But take one look at the leading natural brands of today, and you'll see they have a lot more in common with the mainstream brands they were built to rally against. A deeper look at the mainstream is revealing a new trend with profound importance for this little movement of ours: "Natural," whose definition has historically been bent and shaped to the whims of wiley manufacturers, is starting to mean something it's never meant before. The New Natural is challenging convention, and actually means... "Natural."

Look around, and you'll see the New Natural nearly everywhere. 

The New Natural is cropping up in places so obvious, no one would've ever thought to look there. Suddenly, the AMA has "new science" showing that breast milk is (gasp!) better for babies than formula! Suddenly, people are starting to accept that a day in the sun is (gasp!) better for you than letting your skin soak in chemical paste. Suddenly, wisdom is taking hold that fresher, more local, cleaner and more un-messed-around-with is (gasp!) better for you.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more compelling than in, you guessed it, the running shoe industry. (You didn't guess that?)

I know you've seen 'em, the finger-toed freak-show neoprene booties people are jogging around in these days. Suddenly, running barefoot is (gasp!) better for you than lading your perfectly well-functioning pedi with padding. At first blush, I have to admit, I took minimalist footwear to be a fad. But then I saw the Minimus from New Balance, and then Fila's Skele-toes, and I thought, "What the heck are all of these mainstream brands doing chasing down the natural nutcases?" And then it hit me: This is the New Natural. It's a mainstream concept that's simple to understand, intuitive, emotional and even rational. It's everything positioning should be, and it's how brands get built.

Breast milk, vitamin D from the sun, fresh whole foods, barely-there running shoes. What do they have in common? All are designed to support a body that's functioning the way a body in its natural state is meant to function. It's the way our ancestors' bodies functioned. It's not about living with less, or sacrificing modern convenience. It's a celebration of our most natural, human self being supported while functioning the way it was designed to function; and THAT is the core sentiment resonating cross-category, cross-culture and cross-country.

For too long, mainstream marketing has told us that we're NOT perfect the way we are, and that we need to spend money to fix it. This new trend called New Natural is celebrating human perfection, naturally, and letting consumers spend their money to celebrate it.

For natural brands, the New Natural means letting go of the idea that your brand is natural, and instead letting your brand let people celebrate themselves, naturally.

Image courtesy: BrettMorrison on Flickr

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