28 September 2020
Author: John Grant
So, what do these commitments mean for marketing? Firstly, get the product right for tomorrow’s green economy. Meeting these commitments means taking action in the supply chain, sourcing, service and product design. There is usually a nettle to grasp. For Starbucks’ CO2 footprint, its biggest producer (at 21%) was dairy – hence Starbucks partnering with oat milk brands to offer plant-based alternatives.
Secondly, set an inspiring radical purpose that defines your value to society. TESLA produces cars, but it’s also here to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Tony’s Chocoloney wants to make chocolate 100% slave free. Unilever’s CEO Alan Jope has even said: ‘We will dispose of brands that we feel are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier.’
Embrace your cause in your marketing and don’t be afraid to be partisan. We’ve seen it with Nike and its support of Colin Kaepernick and Ben & Jerry’s support of people seeking asylum – they know that by championing an issue they will polarise opinions. And that’s okay. As Netflix said in a tweet (that gained 1m likes) during the Black Lives Matter groundswell, ‘To be silent is to be complicit.’ Being radical today – provided you are sincere – is to be in tune with mainstream feelings.
Another aspect, which is hugely relevant to Generation Z, is be performative. If you look at the way brands and trends catch on in the era of TikTok and YouTube, an element of physical ritual or movement is often a factor. Like upcycled fashion brand andagainco, which built three times the following of Burberry through mesmerising clips of sewing and remaking clothes.
But what do these commitments mean in the long-term? Businesses must go through a transformation at least as radical as the last 25 years. It’s a paradigm shift. A journey of 1,000 pivots. Ranging from farming and deforestation codes to redesigning their business models and purpose. Those that cannot or will not pivot face a Darwinian form of disruption at the hands of others. And as Unilever has shown, such a transformation can also drive business success: its portfolio of Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than the rest of the business in 2019.
John Grant is the author of Greener Marketing, his new book for 2020 that unpacks how meaningful marketing can make a positive impact on the climate crisis and on improving human life in troubled times.
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