5 steps to marketing a purpose-led brand

Leading brand experts reveal what it takes to position a sustainable brand to the right customer

View all images

It’s challenging to find innovative ways to stand out, but it’s even harder to make your purpose-led brand message heard through all the noise.

Speaking at the Sustainable Brands Event 2016 in Sydney, four leading brand experts discussed their tried and tested strategies to better position their purpose-led companies to get the right response from customers.

1. Clarify your company’s core values

From an internal perspective, you need to start by outlining clear core values for your company, according to global brand manager of adventure gear and apparel company Kathmandu, Tim Loftus.

“One of the biggest challenges we found so far is the word sustainability itself – which has a stigma and the fear of costs attached to it,” he said. “But none of that is actually a reality. In fact, sustainability needs to be engrained in your core values.”

At Kathmandu, Loftus said core values include integrity, resourcefulness, environmental action, openness and directness, as well as love of travel and adventure.

“Culturally, you need to be proud of what you’re doing in terms of sustainability to drive your business and celebrate it internally,” he said.

2. Be collaborative in your approach

Loftus also stressed sustainability is a team sport; you cannot be expected to have all the answers for your customers on your own.

“Don’t do it alone, ask for help,” he said. “Customers don’t expect you have all the answers, but they do expect you to be honest and transparent in what you’re doing.”

One example of Kathmandu’s response to solving a widespread consumer concern through collaboration was its approach to downsourcing.

“We have an endless amount of social media commentary on downsourcing, which is a contentious issue in our industry and at the same time critical to our business commercially,” he explained. “What we had to do was drive innovation and sit next to our competitors like the North Face and Patagonia, and work collaboratively together. And one of the great experiences was having a global collaborative approach to such solution-oriented projects.”

3. Don’t be purely motivated by campaigning

But it’s important to remember sustainability should not be exploited as purely a marketing tactic, but embraced because you genuinely feel like you need to play a part in the bigger picture, Serendipity Ice Cream’s CEO, Sarah Mendleson, said.

The carbon neutral specialty brand started 50 years ago, and creates premium local ice-cream from mostly locally sourced ingredients. It started with a commitment to use 100 per cent green energy, which overnight cut the company’s carbon emissions by over 80 per cent.

“Our journey over the next nine years continued with the help of local council, which gave us a lot of advice on issues like resource recovery, reuse and recycling,” she said. “And we track our carbon emissions via a calculator, which I developed specifically for our business use in-house.”

While the brand has incorporated sustainability in its marketing, website and packaging, Mendleson stressed at no point was the company motivated to act action on sustainability because of marketing.

“I would certainly not pounce on taking on any sustainability initiative purely for marketing benefit,” she said. “Nor would I amend making environmental sustainability your single point of difference – unless you’re Tesla or perhaps Greenpeace. You need to consider the triple bottom line – people, the planet and profit.

“But once you do include it in your marketing, you better be committed to doing what you say. If you don’t, you’ll alienate the very people who care about what you’re doing in the first place and it will be difficult to recover.”

4. Celebrate real customer stories

Externally, Loftus said the focus for the 30-year old brand has been to benchmark global best practice, commit to complete transparency and engage customers on the journey with real stories.

“We want to be a more global brand, so we need to position ourselves in such a way that we are achieving global best practice in sustainability,” he said.

The company sought to relay three key brand messages: Sustainability as a team sport, to reframe the conversation, and to engage real people with real stories.

“Keep the message easy and simple,” he said. “For instance, our customers can easily say 17 plastic water bottles turned into this backpack.”

It’s important to engage the customer with the brand and connect them with your core values, Loftus continued. For instance, the brand often celebrates remarkable stories of customer’s charitable adventure missions, and even gives them gear to help them farther their stories.

“We also take our own loyal customers on our photoshoots and let them tell their stories for us,” he added. “Our customers want to be part of the conversation and part of the solution. They know we can’t do it all on our own and they want to be involved.”

5. Avoid scaremongering and embrace transparency

One of the challenges a sustainable brand has in the face of its competition is avoiding the risk of being scaremongering and negative, while trying to relay the right message, highlighted household cleaning and bodycare brand ecostore’s co-founder and CEO, Malcolm Rands.


“At ecostore, one of our challenges was how do we let people know about the nasty chemicals in their household products and that they were being poisoned, without being scaremongering and going negative,” he said. “We wanted to let people know from the outset that we don’t want to poison you, and we’re so into it that we actually reject 50 per cent of green chemicals because we want to look after your health.”

In order to put a positive spin in the message, ecostore decided on a culture of complete transparency when it comes to suppliers and ingredients.

“We’ve outrageously opened up our books – so if you go on our website you can see every single ingredient, right through to the independent third-party scientific proof of how healthy or unhealthy our ingredients are,” he explained. “We’re completely transparent.”

One of the latest things ecostore has done, which Rands claimed was a brave step for the company, is moving away from traditional plastic to be the first company in the world to completely change all its plastics into sugar-based plastics.

“We’re actually carbon positive, so one kilo of our plastics actually captures two kilos of carbon dioxide and keeps it out of the atmosphere – so we’re using plastic to help solve climate change,” he said. “Now this is costing us a fortune, half a million dollars a year, but we’re doing it because we think it is the right thing to do and because the multi-nationals refuse to. And in the end, our customers really respond to it. So it’s working for us, even if at first glance it looks like financial suicide.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

More Videos

Algorithms that can make sense of unstructured data is the future. It's great to see experts in the field getting together in Melbourne t...

Sumit Takim

In pictures: Harnessing AI for customer engagement - CMO roundtable Melbourne

Read more

Are you sure they wont start a platform that the cheese is white, pretty sure that is racist

Hite

New brand name for Coon Cheese revealed

Read more

Real digital transformation requires reshaping the way the business create value for customers. Achieving this requires that organization...

ravi H

10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

thanks

Lillian Juliet

How Winedirect has lifted customer recency, frequency and value with a digital overhaul

Read more

Having an effective Point of Sale system implemented in your retail store can streamline the transactions and data management activities....

Sheetal Kamble

​Jurlique’s move to mobile POS set to enhance customer experience

Read more

Blog Posts

Brand storytelling lessons from Singapore’s iconic Fullerton hotel

In early 2020, I had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened Fullerton Hotel in Sydney. It was on this trip I first became aware of the Fullerton’s commitment to brand storytelling.

Gabrielle Dolan

Business storytelling leader

You’re doing it wrong: Emotion doesn’t mean emotional

If you’ve been around advertising long enough, you’ve probably seen (or written) a slide which says: “They won’t remember what you say, they’ll remember how you made them feel.” But it’s wrong. Our understanding of how emotion is used in advertising has been ill informed and poorly applied.

Zac Martin

Senior planner, Ogilvy Melbourne

Why does brand execution often kill creativity?

The launch of a new brand, or indeed a rebrand, is a transformation to be greeted with fanfare. So why is it that once the brand has launched, the brand execution phase can also be the moment at which you kill its creativity?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in