The Power of AND

08 Jun 2010|Kelli Peterson

Yesterday was the soft-kick off for Sustainable Brands ’10, the annual conference filled with change makers, innovators and brand marketers defining the future of consumer and B2B sustainable business.

Filled with workshops and networking, there were companies big and small here to learn the“secret sauce” for playing in the sustainable brand space. What was surprising? Over 80% of the audience raised their hands to the question “is this your first year?”. Wow! An inspirational start to the day simply in numbers and a positive sign that indeed this fledgling industry is about to move mountains.

What did we learn? That integrating sustainable characteristics requires thoughtful, traditional research and development. In fact there is no secret sauce, it’s a matter of believing in the opportunity and then identifying what makes the most sense for your business model, including the customers that you serve. It involves a level of traditional brand development in measure with careful analysis of your core customers and product portfolio. Sustainability is first and foremost an operating principle, how you choose to market it is critical but secondary.

Integrity is a core operating value
Yes, we are talking about an industry that requires investment, R&D and is laced with a uniquely emotionally laden value system that has not traditionally encumbered most business propositions. However without it, without specifically understanding why your organization has entered the realm of sustainable operations, you will fail at all efforts of sustainable marketing. It is not a trend or a fad to consider. It is an operational mandate. As a business, there are metrics to meet. Executive leadership either decides that getting in the game creates a business opportunity. Sustainability is a business mindset, not a marketing opportunity. The marketing part comes AFTER the operational decision.

The portfolio approach makes sense for big brands
Taking the Clorox approach makes a lot of sense for companies. Consumers are brand loyal – even the darkest green of consumers. They trust certain brands and that trust takes time to build. If you have a range of products but are committed to sustainability, build from the ground up. Operationalize and then integrate your story. Your consumers will still love you and there will be opportunities to develop products for your greenest of consumers. Going green requires a thoughtful plan that does not happen overnight. Consumer behavior doesn’t change in a split second (more on that in another posting), so grow your new strategy as your consumers develop their new awareness.

Equity blending can drive your authentic brand promise
There are a range of attributes found within sustainability – ethics, optimism, science, humanity, health, love, aesthetics, and many more. How do you thoughtfully build off of and blend these traits into your master brand or sub-brands? If sustainability is a pillar of your business, it makes sense that some of these equities align and/or offer value within your brand experience. So, it’s not a secret sauce we’re looking for but chefs to help create the recipes using the methodologies of research and design thinking.

The fun part is that in fact we’re in a new economy with new ingredients (values, needs, requirements) at a time when we’re rethinking the infrastructure and relationships. Brands have always had to keep up (or ideally lead!) the times.

The power of AND – profit AND sustainaiblity – a new mandate critical to the future of busines and planet. The power of brAND – how an evolved brand promise will drive our shared role and vision for a sustainable economy and community.

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