Brand Strategy

Who Gives a Sh*t if You're a Purpose-Led Brand?

Green. Sustainable. Conscious. Purpose-led. These days, terms like these are tossed around the business world like compostable confetti - it’s all greenwash this and sustainable brand strategy that. But in reality, does anyone actually care if you’re supposedly fighting the good fight? 

Spoiler alert: Yes. Many. Enough to warrant a full-grown overhaul of your business, if you’ve not already done so. Turns out, people care a lot about where they’re putting their hard-earned coin pouches, which will absolutely reflect on your business one way or another in the long run. Yes, having a purpose-led brand strategy is great. But how’s your brand strategy sitting in the context of the big wide world? Are you leading the charge towards the good kind of change, or is your purpose quietly sweeping the bigger picture under the rug in the name of profit?

Customers care if your sustainable brand strategy is walking the talk. So whether you’re here for their spending habits or whether you’re here because you want to leave your sustainable footprint on the world, read on for why writing sustainability deep into your brand strategy is the most important thing you can do today.

Consumers vote with their wallets

Don’t just take it from us. According to a recent study by Nielsen, 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. And 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. That's a commitment to putting real cash on the line for good values and the right ambitions. What’s more, Edelman's 2022 Trust Barometer tells us that 62% of consumers believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for governments to impose it.

Bottom line is, there’s a growing contingent of good humans who want businesses to step up, step out and make a real difference. It’s clear that enough people are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting sustainable and purpose-led brands. We know there’s demand - so what’s going on with supply? 

When 'sustainability' becomes a joke

This next bit might ring a bell or two, or twenty. But let’s take a moment to consider what happens when preachers of sustainability stop saying their prayers at night, conveniently forgetting to pay due diligence to the environment while simultaneously boasting a ‘sustainable brand strategy.’

Enter Volkswagen. The auto giants that once proudly proclaimed themselves as champions of sustainability. They rolled out ad campaigns boasting about their commitment to the environment, yelled it from the proverbial rooftops, and even claiming that their diesel cars were next-wave eco-friendly.

And yet, turns out it was all talk and no trousers. In 2015, it was revealed that VW had been cheating on emissions tests, making their cars seem cleaner than they actually were. The public felt betrayed, Volkswagen's credibility went down the drain, and their brand became the poster child for greenwashing, showing us all what happens when a brand's claims of being 'sustainable' turn out to be the punchline.

Though this debacle highlights the danger of empty sustainability claims - and though consumers are becoming more discerning with each purchase - as a business owner, it’s still all too easy to find yourself floundering in the quagmire of buzzwords and potentially hollow claims.

Perhaps for you, all the best intentions are there, but the how-to isn’t. You want to grow more sustainably, but where to start?

Well, our first recommendation is to weave the good green stuff right into your business goals. Make it as much a part of your business’ success metrics as revenue and profit, holding it up to the light in every conversation to make sure it’s not getting left behind or conveniently forgotten. We like to think of it as your ‘triple bottom line’: people, profit, and planet.

Finding your true north

Let's get to the heart of the matter: finding your true north. Your why. Your reason for living and your reason for being, as a business. Claiming a sense of purpose doesn't mean squat if it’s in your comms and not your core - it’s the brands that dig deep and ask themselves the big questions that are the ones with the real point of difference. 

Do you know why your business exists? Why you’re doing what you’re doing beyond just making money? A clear sense of direction is what will keep you from hitting the fan when shit gets hard. It’s what will dictate your NPD strategy, your brand strategy, how you onboard new staff and how you take your coffee in the morning. It’s the business leaders that live and breathe their ‘why’ that steer the strongest businesses. And again, the proof is in the pud. Let’s take a look.

  1. Lush. A UK-based natural cosmetics company with a global reach. Their belief system hasn’t changed for 25 years - they’re driven by innovation and ethics, and we see that in every single thing they do. When COVID-19 hit, we thought they’d disappear with UK high-street monoliths like Woolworths or Wilko. Instead, their driving mission led to them launching a Green Hub (a factory to create carbon-positive packaging, repair machinery to keep them in use longer, and reuse wastewater), to opening an industry-first hair salon that reduces waste from hair treatments while offering the client a kind of ‘sensory massage’, to making drastic changes to their marketing strategy by refusing to channel cash into the hungry tech giants at Meta.
  1. Yu Mei. Luxury handbags, NZ founded and Australasia distributed. Founded with a mission to simplify life’s complexities, this has become the brief for all product design and is the reason for their now widely recognised utilitarian aesthetic. They made Deloitte’s Fast 50 last year, and have legitimate ambitions for global expansion.
  1. Leon. Another UK goody and the home of ‘naturally fast food’. Their mission has always been to make high-quality food accessible to everyone. During COVID-19, when restaurants and food joints closed their doors, this mission kept them going. They continued to provide good food (for free) which was distributed to front line workers. Goodwill for the brand grew, and formed a customer base eager and ready for their return post-lockdown, free PR, and sustained employment for their teams. 

And, not to be the ones that bring up COVID three times in one blog, but the examples above just go to show that a solid brand direction will help you weather all life’s proverbial shit-storms. Be that a global pandemic, a recession, or whatever else this decade has up its sleeves for us. 

So, why does your business exist beyond making money? What's your raison d'être, your North Star? If you can't answer that without corporate jargon or resorting to a cliché (you’ll know it when you see it), it's time for a little bit of soul-searching. Read, time away from client work and inbox sifting. Instead, it’s time to identify a unique purpose that sets you aside from your competition and fulfils a real need for a genuine audience. And then make sure that everything you do flows from that.

Not to toot our own horn, but this is exactly the kind of thing we can help with, in a couple of ways. Our brand strategy workshops are designed to burrow into the intricacies of your business, your heart and soul, and pull out that golden nugget that forms the basis of your brand positioning statement. And our impact consults - a bolt-on to our brand strategies - are an opportunity to build an action plan towards that triple bottom line, in a tangible and real way. The ROI may not be immediate, but it will be substantially greater in the long run. 

So, don’t let yourself drown in the ocean of buzzwords. Instead, be sure of where you’re headed, and consider what that direction means for our poor, crumbling, exhausted world. We know - it’s far easier said than done, but fear not. That’s why our next instalment is going to provide you with real-life, step-by-step guidance on discovering your brand's why. We're here to help you navigate the maze and make real impact as a business in a world that's had enough of empty promises. 

And, if you’ve got a specific problem to talk about in the meantime, you know where to find us.