“Consumers don’t necessarily want—or need—more stuff. Rather, they want ‘better’ stuff, and a growing majority wants companies to move from ‘less bad’ to ‘net good’.”
Our friends at BBMG have come up with a timely and insightful new sustainable branding strategy they are calling “Disrupt & Delight”. In their latest publication, the folks at BBMG lay out five principles for sustainable brand innovation based on their direct experience and the best practices of leading companies like Nike, Patagonia and Unilever. You can download the publication here.
1. Start With What’s Sacred
Ever notice that Coke and Zappos proclaim to be in the business of happiness not the products they sell? That’s because at their core, these brands value the gestalt of experience and emotion and are curating a brand interaction, not just promoting product use. They seek consumers who value the experiences and emotions their brands evoke. In fact, those consumers then become loyal members of a tribe that shares the same sacred values. In this Web 2.0 age, as Seth Godin adeptly observes in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, tribes can easily and instantly make a difference or start a movement leveraging social networks and emerging technologies. A tribe of conscious consumers can help elevate a brand beyond the commercial realm to actually lead a social impact movement. Consider Chipotle, a food company that burst on the scene to not only change perceptions about fast food, but also champion a ‘Food with Integrity’ movement that has consumers demanding more transparency and accountability across the food industry.
2. Design Holistically
Sustainable design is design that takes nature and lifecycle into account from concept through production through use through afterlife (recycle, repurpose). Glowing examples of brands that understand holistic design are Levi’s with their Water>Less jeans (featured on this blog) and InterfaceFLOR with their modular carpets.
3. Create Collaboratively
There are many ways to collaborate, especially leveraging technology. Think about crowdsourcing ideas on platforms like OpenIDEO or open sourcing product development like Mozilla did with Firefox. Or maybe you can invite your supply chain and sustainability experts to your summit on improving your environmental footprint like Walmart does. How about getting together with your competitors to help solve a common challenge like many major food companies are doing with The Partnership for a Healthier America to help end the childhood obesity crisis? Or take a look at Unilever’s open invitation to individuals, nonprofits and business alike to suggest ideas for its research and development pipeline.
4. Be Playful
Did you think playful offices were just for Silicon Valley? Think again! You don’t have to have a ball pit in the conference room, but companies that foster a playful approach to work and problem solving see results in employee development and retention and more, better, faster innovations. Recyclebank is a rich example of a company using gamification and creative rewards to turn the recycling industry on its head. LiveOps, working with gamification consultancy Bunchball, integrated game mechanics like badges and leaderboards directly into their internal community to improve the performance of virtual call agents. People thrive on competition, recognition and fun, so why not weave those concepts into how your work is structured or how you are interacting with consumers?
5. Disrupt and Delight
In the end, it’s not about whether your company has the best commitment to sustainability, it about whether that commitment is paired with an authentic, relevant and unique brand promise. BBMG cites the example of Warby Parker, an eyewear company known for its social impact via a ‘buy one, give one’ model similar to TOMS Shoes. However, as BBMG asserts: “Warby Parker has succeeded not because of its noble commitment to social good, but because they disrupted an entire industry by giving customers what they never knew they always wanted: high-quality, fashion-forward eyeglasses, online shopping, a no-risk home try-on policy.” As the Boston Consulting Group experts explore in Breaking Compromises: Opportunities for Action in Consumer Markets, when you solve a hidden problem a consumer didn’t even know they were putting up with, you open the door for your loyal tribe to join your movement, whatever it may be. That’s powerful.