By the time I saw the Metrolink train billboard, it was too late. I was already cheerfully guzzling natural resources and spitting out emissions along the 5 Freeway from L.A. to San Diego. I gasped and shook my head at my stupidity and selfishness for driving to Sustainable Brands, which took place June 6 - 9. Conference check-in officials seemed to sense my crime and asked, “Did you take the train or are you a hypocritical fraud who drove? And are you sharing a hotel room or wasting resources in a room by yourself?”
Maybe the interrogation wasn't exactly like that, but these questions were a reflection that Sustainable Brands is:
In addition to setting a good example, Sustainable Brands provided guidance on how to act on and communicate brand purpose to a variety of key audiences, not just consumers. Three key takeaways:
Build a business case to win internal sustainability buy-in
Many attendees I met were corporate social responsibility professionals, not marketers or executives. As such, much of the event was devoted to learning how to optimize conversations with marketers and finance colleagues, to convince them to integrate purpose and sustainability into the business.
Help your employees find and live their personal purpose
I presumed the conference tagline “activating purpose” pertained just to the brands we represent, but on opening night a Buddhist monk urged us all to find our personal purpose. And then speakers from LinkedIn and PwC, among others, made it clear that employees of all ages want purpose-driven work.
A critical element of integrating and activating your brand's purpose is making sure your employees understand and buy into the brand purpose (which takes more than just top- down declarations of purpose), and how their efforts contribute to it. This helps not only with authenticating your brand's purpose, but when purpose is top of mind within the organization it increases the chances of shining through to consumers.
Talk sustainability only when you need to
One of the common traits Freya Williams uncovered about “Green Giants” is they have mainstream appeal and don't just cater to tree huggers. Here are two examples of brands targeting the masses with sustainable products:
Everyone was talking about Nike Flyknit. About its $1 billion+ revenue, its minimal materials and reduced landfill waste, and how Nike leads with messages about performance, only subtly mentioning sustainability for consumers who are looking for it.
When Green Works cleaner by Clorox launched, its packaging had conflicting cues, including a prominent “all natural” label which would appeal to tree huggers but deter Clorox lovers who believe natural ingredients are less effective. The packaging also showcased a Clorox logo, appealing to those wanting a powerful clean, but deterring tree huggers offended by toxicity of Clorox. In updated packaging, Green Works has made changes that suggest an attempt for mass appeal. They've removed the Clorox logo and emphasized efficacy with the tagline “powerful cleaning, done naturally.” Case study presented by Omar Rodriguez-Villa of Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.