Category — Transparency

Using Sustainability to Build Brands

17lbs. That’s the weight of the 2014 Restoration Hardware shrink-wrapped collection of catalogs – 12 catalogs to be exact – that arrived at my house, unsolicited, via UPS. My first reaction was disgust. Utter disgust at the waste of paper and ink and use of fossil fuels required to ship it to my house. As a diehard proponent of sustainability I am horrified, but as a branding consultant, I started to think about why so many brands are reluctant to challenge the way they have always conducted business in order to become more sustainable.

RH Catalog

Does Restoration Hardware really have to send out 17lbs of catalogs to sustain their business? Isn’t there a better, alternative way to market their products? Why is it so difficult for them to think outside the box and challenge the status quo? We live in a virtual world, a digital age where so much business is now conducted online and on mobile devices – you’d think that they would embrace online catalogs, finding new creative and innovative ways to showcase their products in a virtual world. Perhaps it’s inertia? Or fear of losing business. Or maybe they just have their heads in the sand?

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May 21, 2014   6 Comments

Sustainability and Authenticity Present Huge Opportunities for Brands

Riddle me this: how do you boost sales by almost one third while telling your customers to buy less from you?

Sustainability and authenticity are the twin brand values that can power this exemplary business growth, and Patagonia is the current exemplar.

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For some time now, Patagonia has been urging customers to repair and keep their $700 Patagonia parkas rather than buy new ones. The result? Sales increased almost one-third to $543 million last year, which included about nine months of the “Buy Less” marketing campaign.

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October 4, 2013   No Comments

Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Brands are symbols of trust – we use them as navigation beacons in a landscape of uncertain options. But the next generation of consumers is re-defining what it takes to be trusted.  At the core of this re-definition are two attributes: sustainability and authenticity. Brands that lack those qualities will struggle increasingly to attract either consumers or recruits.

According to research by The Intelligence Group, this next generation of consumers, described as Generation Y or ‘Millenials’, want to make the world a better place, and they’re demonstrating this intent in the brands and products they choose, ‘… products that follow ethical practices and are aligned with social causes’. (adweek: responsible youth)

For these digital natives, sharing is a normal part of life. Everyday they share photos, ideas, technology and information about themselves.  Defined by The Cloud, a key facilitator of this ‘open source‘ lifestyle is mutual trust and the brands that can demonstrate the qualities that drive trust, like honesty and authenticity, will benefit from Generation Y’s loyalty.

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August 2, 2013   No Comments

Is Consumerism Sustainable: What Do Brands Have to Say?

What can the difference between a straight line and a circle teach us about building a sustainable economic system that fuels growth without destroying our planet? And what do brands have to do with it?

The answers are “lots” and “lots”, respectively.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we will explore the relationship between brands and sustainability. So we thought we should start by questioning whether consumerism itself is sustainable. Is it reaching the end of its useful life? And if it is, what can replace it as an engine for economic growth?

The law of unintended consequences has meant that the existing model of consumption makes many of us sick, unhappy, stressed, and time-starved; it fails to produce affordable food that sustains healthy life; it fails to offer work that gives us a healthy sense of meaning and purpose; it gradually renders the planet itself unviable; and it makes only 1% of us wealthier.

For most of us, this is not a good deal. For our children, it’s disastrous.

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In his book ‘Cradle to Cradle’, William McDonough recognized that in nature’s cyclical design, resources are infinite.  Yet human industry is driven by a traditional linear economic model: Take (resources) – Make (stuff) – Dispose (dump when the new version comes out).

So which is the better (more sustainable) option? That’s where the circle comes in.

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July 15, 2013   No Comments

Doing the Right Thing is Good for Business

The past decade or more has seen a rise in environmental and social consciousness and with it, a desire by big business to ‘give back’.

Much of this is driven by necessity.  Motivated by a wider understanding of the human impact on the environment, there is growing expectation in the market for brands to make it easier for their customers to make better choices.  A market that has become increasingly brand literate and now, empowered by the open forums of social media, has a platform. Putting profit before people and the planet, is no longer good for business.

But it’s also driven by savvy marketing and good business sense.  A brand that finds a purpose beyond their product, inspires loyalty in their customers who feel proud of their association with the cause.  This connection with the brand goes beyond any need for the product and builds a far more sustainable relationship.

However, intention must be met with action.  If the brand wishes to be taken seriously, change cannot only be made on the outside – on billboards, or in PR releases – change must be seen to be happening on the inside too.

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April 9, 2013   No Comments

Do Brands “Sweat” When They are Stressed?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article by Sumanthi Reddy on new theories about why people sweat when under stress… it made me think that there is a strong parallel with brands and how they react to difficult business situations. Scientists now believe that stress-triggered sweat plays a role in sending warning signals to people around us that something is wrong. This body odor conveys a lot of information from one individual to another.

Brands under stress can “sweat” too.

American

They can give off signals, much like odors, and we can sense that something is amiss. Take American Airlines as an example. They have been under stress in bankruptcy for quite a while. Not only have creditors been worried, but also travelers. So what did they do… they rebranded themselves with a new modern look. In some ways, we all smelled a rat. No, they haven’t really gotten much better… their service is as sparse as other carriers, and their equipment is not significantly better than others. So they put on some new lipstick. Now we know that it was part of a complete, quiet financial re-packaging ending up with a recent merger with US Airways. So their “stress sweat” was apparent. To some extent, this scent should be a signal for investors and creditors alike. [Read more →]

February 19, 2013   No Comments

Is Your Brand Ready for the “Inside Out” Movement?

Professional services brands may want to take inspiration from the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which the architecture community is touting as the next truly great building of this age. Why? Because big screens on the outside show who is practicing and performing on the inside. It shares itself with the world. It adapted technologically to our human desire to “be in the know” about everything all the time. Brands in the next generation will have to be the same way. They will be expected to show what’s on the inside (their values), not just talk about their services. Brands must reflect the DNA of the company within.

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January 24, 2013   2 Comments

Brands that Deceive will Ultimately Lose

False advertising is not new. But now, more than ever, it is time for brands to clean up their act and show some respect to their consumers. Truth and transparency are foundations of strong brands in today’s world.

Having grown up in South Africa, I am addicted to Rooibos tea, a naturally caffeine free tea that grows exclusively in a few small regions in South Africa. When I first moved to the US 15 years ago, rooibos tea was no where to be found in stores. Fortunately that has changed over the years as tea has become more in vogue and many established brands like Bigelow and Lipton have expanded their range to include rooibos and other tea varieties. [Read more →]

January 8, 2013   No Comments

What Branding and PR Professionals Can Teach One Another

“Long-term brand equity and growth depends on our ability to successfully integrate and implement all elements of a comprehensive marketing program.” – Timm F Crull, Chairman & CEO of Nestle

Branding and public relations (PR) professionals have a great deal in common. Branding professionals develop and communicate a promise. PR professionals bring that promise to life through stories, case studies, videos, events and points-of-view. Despite the common ground, branding and PR professionals don’t always collaborate. In some cases, this is because accountabilities reside in different departments. In other cases, it’s because each discipline has its own way of doing things.

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May 1, 2012   No Comments

“Less is More” is the New Paradigm in Building Brands

Who would have predicted that in the year 2012, a silent movie would win the Oscar for Best Picture? The fact that “The Artist” defied the odds is a manifestation of consumers’ demand for “less is more”. Consumers are rejecting the “bigger is better” culture that dominated the late nineties and 2000’s and came crashing down with the global economic crisis. Add to that the daily barrage of information, advertising, news, social media and politics and you have a consumer audience begging for simplicity, less clutter, honesty and integrity.

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February 28, 2012   No Comments