How to Build a Sustainable Brand for People, Planet, and Profit That Resonates With Your Consumers
Why create a message of sustainability for your brand? It is simple, it impacts the planet and makes it a better place for our generations now and future generations. You’re probably fed up with the terms “millennial” and “Generation Y,” but they’re still helpful when describing that particular group of consumers.
Many will say, the new generations are not concerned about sustainable brands. Look at Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods. These stores are packed with millennials and generation Y buying natural foods, and many sustainable products such as natural cleaners and biodegradable products.
Why are Sustainable Brands Important for People
What does it mean to be a sustainable brand? Sustainability is a key factor when making purchases for many people. People now expect every reputable business to have a sustainability department and as a result, some level of corporate sustainability reporting is the norm. More and more companies are becoming B Corp because they believe in the inherent value of using business to solve social and environmental problems. A shift is underway to make sustainable business something every department needs to get behind.
How does a sustainable brand make an impact on the planet
A sustainable brand is one that has successfully integrated environmental, economic and social issues into its business operations. However, many companies that consider themselves to be sustainable only meet one-third of this definition.
The communications marketplace has been losing the battle to maintain the sanctity of this concept as companies, activists and others throw the word “sustainable” around to refer solely to environmental issues. However, as I’ve discovered in my work branding sustainable businesses, focusing on the environmental side is a good place to start.
Companies are profiting off a sustainable message
It was in 2006 I realized how important it was to voice the importance of sustainability. I launched a green initiative called the “Clean Air Green Tour.” At that time, I saw companies abusing our natural resources and dumping waste into the earth that would affect our future generations. Most of all, they were losing profits by not being green.
Looking back, I realized the companies could benefit by being sustainable and actually increase profits to their bottom line by including this in the brand message. Over the last decade, I have worked with many companies create that message of sustainability but most of all making a real impact on the planet. Many companies claim to be green but have no real proof to back this message. That is where my team has helped clarify and establish these strategies so companies don’t get greenwashed.
Leading companies that have implemented sustainable initiatives along their supply chains have seen a huge boost in their financial performance. Companies that instituted only one aspect of sustainability lost more money than they gained due to a half hazard approach and the wrong reason.
To understand the benefits of a business going green we must understand what the actual words of “Going Green” mean. When a company makes a conscious decision to reduce its impact on the environment, that is “Going Green.” It can be as simple as visibly taking steps to reusing procedural programs, reducing utility costs, to buying green products and services.
Benefits To Becoming a Sustainable Company
- Increasing energy efficiency saves on utility costs.
- Green marketing awareness can increase trust between your company and consumers and ultimately increasing revenues.
- Many countries offer incentives to companies reducing their carbon footprint.
- Employees feel safer working for green businesses which boost morale and performance.
When it comes down to it the benefits of going green for a business, the benefits far outweigh any negatives. The time and money it takes to establish new environmentally green protocols pay back in dividends over the years, not only in money but also in feeling good that the company is kind to the planet.
5 Fundamentals To Creating a Sustainable Brand
1. Understand Your Green Message
Sometimes we just want to go with our gut. Not always a bad thing, but proper research & analysis of your intended audience should always be the first step in creating a proper brand strategy. For example, many brands try to resist the NGO’s such as Greenpeace because of things they have heard, instead of supporting them and learning from them. Make a list of the brand attributes that are important to your targeted consumer. Then, dig deeper and see what your targeted consumer currently thinks about your brand. Which messages are connecting, and which are not? If your brand is new, conducting brand perception research and competitive analysis is critical in building your strategy. You have to know what consumers are thinking about you and your competitors and what it is that sets you apart. That is where your true brand platform will begin.
2. What is Your Green Strategy
Your research will guide, not determine, your strategy. Determining who you’re trying to reach comes before how you intend to reach them. In this phase, the development of the brand strategy is the roadmap all stakeholders will follow. It is the plan that outlines who you’re targeting, how you’re getting to them and what you want them to know about your brand. In this phase you’ll also develop key branding elements such as: name, tagline, brand promise/essence, brand attributes, brand values/behaviors, brand voice. What do you want each of your key audiences to know about your brand and how do you plan to engage them? Consider the best channels and environment with which each audience will be most receptive to your message. Be clear on what key differentiators set you apart from the competition. For example, we’ve determined that Core Values (faith, community, family) play an important role in buying behavior with the Scott Natural consumer. Once you address those questions, you will create the foundation of the brand strategy.
3. Create Your Sustainable Strategy
Now that the strategy has been laid out, it’s time to get the creative juices flowing. I like having the creative team involved in green strategy development so they have a deeper understanding of the context for the work we’re asking them to create. This is what helps when creating a smooth execution of your sustainable strategy. Strategy comes to life through creative and they must be in unison. The best creative in the world that doesn’t build an emotional connection with the consumer is worthless. Unfortunately, we see a lot of self-indulgent creative that doesn’t move the ultimate needle of building brand equity and driving sales. In the case of the Scott Naturals consumer, brands don’t need a different message but may need to consider how it’s being delivered. “Content” is another catch-all phrase in today’s marketing-speak. However, great content that’s out of context is a recipe for failure. Use the research from the planning stage, combined with the brand strategy and planning to guide the creative and make sure that every touchpoint is meeting your target audience where they are in their everyday life.
4. Launch Time
You have a solid strategy and your creative has been successfully tested. It’s time for a solid campaign launch. Even more important than a solid launch, is your ongoing efforts to ensure your message stays in front of your target in a way that makes sense for them. Going back to our definition of “brand,” now is where the “hundreds of perceptions” need to be managed. Make sure all of your marketing tactics and methods of delivery are authentic and resonate with what influences their buying behavior most. Continuity and consistency play important roles in implementing your strategy.
5. Analyze & Measure
Measurement is vital to success and should be woven into every element of planning. Measurement isn’t something thrown in at the end. You should not wait until the campaign is over to evaluate success. A rocket doesn’t go straight to the moon…it’s course-corrected along the way. Using the proper analytics is crucial as you measure your success and gives you the right info to make necessary changes.
Each step in the process is connected and vitally important to the overall success of the brand. A weak plan will yield weak results. Still, we see brand stewards who take shortcuts in developing the foundation for their brand – particularly in Steps 1 and 2 with little or no investment in research, analytics and strategy. 100% of the time, they have to re-do what wasn’t done properly on the front end, requiring significant resources. The upside is watching a strong brand strategy push through the inevitable and unpredictable market challenges to produce a successful and sustainable brand.
When considering people it is important to take in these considerations in any ethical certification.
- No child labor. The age of a child varies across countries but often ranges between anyone under 14-17 years of age.
- No slave labor. Employees must be paid.
- Fair wages. Companies provide workers a minimum wage, which varies by the economy.
- No discrimination. Employees can’t be hired, fired, promoted, or demoted based on anything other than merit.
- Right to unionize. Workers must be able to advocate for their rights and safety.
- Clear communication from management. Employees must know their duties and what’s expected of them, they must be treated in a respectful manner, and not be subjugated to physical or emotional abuse.
- Safe, healthy workplace conditions. Workers must have access to fire extinguishers and extensive safety precautions and processes.
- An environmental improvement plan. Factories must have a sustainability strategy that seeks to improve year over year.
It’s clear that consumers prefer sustainable brands. But without proper messaging to reach your consumers and show them what your brand is doing, they will end up buying from your competitors. Pay special attention to what you send out in press releases and on social media, as well as the general brand perception of your company, to ensure that you are showing consumers what you stand for.
Sustainable goes beyond green.
The greatest realization brands must make is that sustainability goes beyond caring for the environment. It involves three major aspects — environmental, economic and social — each of which must be taken into consideration for a true sustainability strategy. As a social media influencer, I am proud to be part of the change.