Last week, Unilever published their latest ‘Sustainable Living’ Plan. It reports that Hellmann’s, Dove and Ben & Jerry’s have delivered more than 60% of the company’s growth in 2016. The growth on these three brands is 50% higher than any other brand within the Unilever stable. Impressive stats, and one any brand manager would be proud to share with their CEO.
As we all know, our consumers are becoming demanding. They are searching for products which are the most authentic, and practice what they preach ie. Innocent’s brand positioning of ‘taste good, does good’ is lived out through their ‘Innocent Chain of Good’ campaign.
Social media is allowing consumers to clearly see whether a brand is upholding its promise. If it isn’t, it is quickly brought to task – think back a few years ago to the news around Nike’s sweat shops. Consumers not only actively look for transparency, but the values of a brand should reflect their own personal values and the causes they believe in.
With this growing trend, it is important for brands not to be caught out – they need to be one, two and even three steps ahead in terms of the impact they have on the world and the lives of their consumer. They need to make sure they are ‘clean as a whistle’ and cannot be brought to task. The brand's message must be positively enforced through good practice in its manufacturing process, or use of ingredients, or packaging materials, supply chain etc.
Building sustainable brand-led innovation into your current processes and Innovation Funnel is a major step towards helping ensure your brand is being responsible.
Three factors are fundamental in helping brands achieve sustainable brand-led innovation:
Innovations must be rooted in the brand’s purpose and, if possible, its functional benefit
Earlier this year, Castle Lite in Zambia launched a solar powered kiosk. The thought behind the idea was to unlock the power of the sun by bringing electricity to rural off-grid communities in Zambia in order to build thriving communities and truly deliver extra-cold refreshment functional benefit of Castle Lite .
“Our Dream is to bring people together for a better world,” said Zambian Breweries Marketing Manager, Nomonde Donsa. “We are committed to not only empowering retailers for our products but also in the use of renewable energy. We believe these solar kiosks will greatly help in that aim, especially in those areas that do not have a reliable electricity supply. The solar kiosks are bringing a low-cost and alternative source of energy to communities. We hope the solar kiosks will help generate more awareness of Castle Lite, especially in the areas where they will be launched. It is our wish that consumers of our products get the very best Extra Cold product experience.”
This innovation is a perfect fit for the brand, and showcases its purpose and functional benefit through sustianable brand-led innovation. The brand is unlocking the energy of the sun to deliver extra-cold refreshment in n innovative and dynamic way.
2. There should be a clear link between the solution, the brand and the values of your consumers
Given the current underlying tensions and diversity issues playing out in many countries across the world, Ben & Jerry’s have launched an ice cream and campaign which seeks to bring people together and focus on positive community stories in order to "challenge misconceptions of nationality, race, wealth and religion, and help to turn the tide on the rise of fear and prejudice around us” - Ben & Jerry’s ‘One Sweet World’.
The brand has partnered with civil-rights charity HOPE Not Hate, which aims to bring people together and celebrate unity in tense times.
Given that the purpose of the brand is to ‘produce the best quality ice cream in the nicest way’ this campaign fits well its values, and also current consumer mood.
3. The consumer must credibly understand why the brand is launching this innovation and the associated sustainable message
In 2006 Ariel launched a campaign in the UK ‘Turn to 30’ which was underpinned by a technical innovation within the laundry detergent. Up until this point UK consumers believed they needed to wash their clothes at 40 or 60 degrees C to get them clean.
Work by Ariel demonstrated that if consumers washed their clothes at 30 degrees C, they would lower CO2 emissions and save over a third of energy in every wash – thus, lowering their energy bills.
A Habits and Practice Study highlighted that pre-campaign only 2% of UK was loads were washed at 30%. By 2007, a report by IPC Green Matters showed that 88% of consumers washed their clothes at 30 degrees C, and 48% of housewives associated this claim with Ariel. In addition, the brand was responsible for a consistent consumer behaviour change and saw a volume increase in sales.
Furthermore, Ariel backed up with campaign with the launch of Ariel Excel Gel in 2009 – a detergent designed to deliver outstanding cleaning at even low temperatures such as 15°C.
In an ideal situation, the innovation solution would also support (and be measured towards) the sustainability mission of the company.
Many companies are embracing this sustainable brand-led innovation approach. Here’s one example of just how important it is to the Coca-Cola Company: “At The Coca-Cola Company, we believe the most profound and impactful innovations over the next decade and beyond will emerge at the intersection of sustainability and our vast global value.”
If done well, sustainable brand-led innovation will drive consumer behaviour and attitude towards change, and will build commercial return.
This article is Part One in Sustainable Brand-led Innovation. Part Two will look at the critical first stage in sustainable brand-led innovation, ‘getting your brand house in order’. Part Thee will focus on how brands can adopt sustainable brand-led innovation as part of their Innovation process.
Sources for blog post: Castle Lite example, Lusaka Times website; One Sweet World example, Ben & Jerry’s website; Turn to 30, Marketing Society and Cause Marketing.com; Coca-Cola 2020 Sustainability Commitments.