BfG News Issue 18 - Editor's Column: Good for Business

18 Jan 2009|Added Value

Leslie(2)Contrary to popular belief, a sustainable strategy can be good for business. Profit is one key component of the triple bottom line – if a project is not profitable in the long term, it will not be sustainable. So the new breed of responsible marketers ensures that sustainable projects drive profit potential through cost savings, revenue generation, increased consumer loyalty, or all three! We help our clients develop a sustainable marketing platform by using three building blocks: brand, stakeholders and category.

Brand – Marketers need to understand their brand halo and brand shadow. The halo is all the good stuff, all the equity that can be used to stretch and grow a brand. Brand shadows are the negative impacts that your brand currently has on people and the planet. Like skeletons in the closet, they are risks for the future, whether it’s excess packaging, a supply chain partner who has failed to reduce pollution or has a bad reputation for working conditions.

Often these shadows can become opportunities if embraced and addressed. For example, Ariel examined its brand when developing a sustainable strategy. They asked themselves what they did best, and worst. They realised that no brand was better at guaranteeing impeccable, white laundry than Ariel. And Ariel’s shadow? In fact, the biggest footprint for the brand was in the home, where consumers wash with hot water, using a lot of energy and emitting CO2. Ariel put these two findings together to develop a sustainable strategy that fit the brand to a T. They promoted a powerfully performing product that could wash at lower temperatures. It made sense for the brand and simultaneously addressed the shadow.

Stakeholders – To understand your consumers you need to hone in on the drivers that motivate them. Consumers are influenced by other stakeholders, from the activists that lobby on certain issues, to the well informed blogs like Treehugger and With digital coming of age, so many voices are influencing your consumers more quickly than ever before. The critical experts are no longer your enemies – they’re your best friends, who can tell you what you’re doing wrong, what people expect of you and how you can fix certain issues.

Category – Prioritise the ethical and environmental issues that are most relevant to your category and benchmark against what is being done elsewhere. Our consumer research shows how issues vary across sectors. For example, transparency in banking is top of mind for consumers. For airlines, energy companies and the automotive sector, it’s not surprisingly reducing carbon footprints.  Health and safety issues are highlighted for household cleaners and beauty companies, while packaging and recycling remains the key issue for retailers, food and household appliance companies.

A good sustainable strategy will not survive unless executed impeccably. This is where many brands fall down. Moving into execution too quickly or without a sound strategic base can lead to the ‘greenwash’ label. We advocate four simple guide-posts to ensure you are heading in the right direction.

Your message needs to be Positive: focusing on what the brand and consumers can do together to make a real difference.  Your conduct must be Authentic, which means speaking and acting in a way that is true to your brand. Your promises Tangible, concrete and verifiable and your dialogue with consumers and stakeholders must be Honest, it mustn’t ignore your shadow, but instead admit when you’ve done something wrong and try to learn from it.

By following the PATH and using sustainable issues as a springboard for innovation, you can strengthen your brand and drive positive consumer change and long term revenue growth.

Leslie Pascaud
Added Value Europe

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