Consumers expect quality and financial return from brands but also a measurable, positive impact on the environment, the planet, our society, and its vulnerable groups. That’s, in short, what building brilliant brands is all about.
If I had to squeeze this whole subject into just one sentence, I’d say brands need to stay relevant. If you want to build a brilliant brand, the one that has a strong position on the market, you have to understand what’s important to people, set expectations, fulfill them, and ideally, surpass them.
In today’s dynamic market reality, brands need to evolve and adjust to ever-changing circumstances. What worked ten or fifteen years ago can be now outdated but, on the other hand, some ground rules are invariable. Honesty, transparency, high quality, and the thinking of others are the merits that will be appreciated always and everywhere. The vital question is – how can brands get there?
Consciousness is a must
Every time we work on brand development or conduct rebranding for one of our clients, we emphasise the importance of consciousness. Building a brilliant brand always means building a conscious brand. The brand purpose, product, and even the target audience (all of society) should be built around these values. Moreover, conscious brands care about building a community that shares the same values and wants to change the world in the same way. They speak clearly about what they believe in, even with the risk of turning some people away.
If the brand wants to thrive in the market and be relevant, it has to define answers to several crucial questions:
- Why do we do what we do?
- How and what do we believe in?
- What are our brand values?
- How and what do we want to communicate?
- Where do we want to go?
- How do we want to do it?
Only with satisfactory answers to these questions, brands can take the next step. Companies frequently add these answers in their mission statements.
The role of branding
In order to build a brilliant brand, you have to concentrate on branding, but it’s not only a logo and visual representation of your company. Today, a branding agency’s role is much different from what it was fifteen or twenty years ago. Back then, it was mostly based on creating a nice-looking trademark that symbolised the company and the quality of its products. Today, though, branding is based on putting a company’s beliefs and mission into a graphic representation and creating a set of principles guiding your organisation.
Therefore, the role of a brand is to inspire innovation and positive change, provide a sense of meaning and fulfillment and create value.
Did you know that their logo comprises 25 different symbols? And many of them represent the company’s values.
Some time ago, Unilever faced criticism for its focus on brand purpose, with a major investor saying its “obsession” is inhibiting growth. In my opinion, a purpose-driven strategy or prioritising purpose-driven initiatives will always have a positive mid to long-term impact. People identify with brands that change the world for the better. They want to have a real impact, and that’s what they expect from brands they love. Unilever seems to understand that perfectly.
In 2019, Unilever announced that their purpose-led, sustainable living brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivering 75% of the company’s growth. That truly says a lot. Moreover, they are also vitally engaged in CSR activities. They strive to:
- Reduce the carbon footprint and cut greenhouse emissions
- Eliminate deforestation from their supply chains
- Support human rights
The company’s current goal is to reduce emissions to zero within their operations by 2030 and to net zero across their value chain by 2039.
First, watch this short video, Who We Are: The Coca-Cola Company. Did you notice that they say a lot about their values and desire to make the world a better place? Today, Coca-Cola focuses on:
- Helping to provide clean water access
- Supporting package recycling
- Producing more sustainable packaging
- Empowering women and local communities
And here’s how they speak about their vision and recently published sustainability report:
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.”
Source: Coca Cola Company
Now, why does this work? Because they concentrate on the customer experience (craft drinks that people love), they pursue a universal and positive goal (to refresh people in body and spirit) and think about others (to create a better-shared future).
Does it mean that the company should write several sentences comprising some universal truths, and that’s all? It’s all about your real, deep beliefs. Successful brands are always authentic. Companies can’t talk about making a difference to the environment if that’s not their real goal, because customers expect honesty. Furthermore, brilliant brands always evolve. They don’t standstill. They recognize change and adjust to it. Sometimes, they can even trigger it if necessary.
Why do we all need a conscious branding
In one of their reports on global marketing trends, Deloitte stated:
“Conscious, goal-oriented brands record a higher market share and grow three times faster than their competitors.”
And here’s another interesting piece of research. In 2020, customers were asked about their interest in finding brands that were sustainable or environmentally responsible. Over 75% of respondents said that this approach is “very” or “moderately” important.
Brands need to enable change
Today, building brilliant brands is all about enabling change and offering consumers a partnership that allows them to make a positive impact. That’s why strategies like co-creation and storydoing are so vital today. Co-creation is a specific approach to brand design where consumer input plays a key role and is at the very center of everything the brand does.
And what about storydoing? It’s the next step after storytelling – your brand not just telling a story but enables people to participate in it. This way, people feel like they take part in something bigger, something real. And that’s what every brand strategy should help to achieve.
Brilliant brands are not only about marketing and sales
Making money cannot be the brand’s only purpose. Companies need money to grow their business and to implement new technologies and strategies that will help them, their customers/users, and the planet in the future. But brilliant brands try to do more. They have their own green policies that they execute willingly because they understand the importance of such an attitude and they want to be socially responsible.
Secondly, brilliant brands need to look for the best talents that are willing to work on the same sustainable mission. Companies shouldn’t treat people only as a workforce but as an investment and a source of potential to build their conscious strategy. It’s crucial to look for people who share the brand’s values and point of view. Because these people will help your brand pursue its mission and act in compliance with its values. This way, it will be much easier to create a globally renowned and appreciated company.
It’s the same story with partnerships. Remember that video about Coca-Cola’s mission? Just recently (in February 2022), the company announced to boost the use of refillable bottles to reduce plastic waste. Their plan is to sell 25% of beverages in refillables by 2030. Of course, they will need conscious partners to support them to pursue this goal. I hope they will make a wise decision here. Anyway, the main lesson is this: Look for partners that understand your goal and mission. This way, you will be able to achieve your goals more easily.
More examples of brilliant brands
I want to mention three more companies that managed to build brilliant and at the same time conscious brands. With each example, I want to turn your attention to something essential and unique to each brand. Let’s have a closer look at these companies:
They try to make the most of the circular economy to decrease their impact on the environment. By 2025, Philips plans to generate 25% of their revenue from circular products, services, and solutions, and close the loop by offering a trade-in on all professional medical equipment and taking care of responsible repurposing.
Moreover, Philips willingly engages with shareholders, customers, business partners, governments, and regulators through a variety of platforms in order to listen to their voices and continually improve their operations. Undoubtedly, that’s what makes them a brilliant and conscious brand.
One of their slogans is “We’re in business to save our home planet.” Every year, they transfer 1% of their revenue to support environmental non-profits working to defend the quality of air, land, and water around the globe. Their products are made the same way – with sustainability in mind. They are not focused on growth or making money. Everything they do is driven by their care for the environment. And many of their customers identify with that way of thinking and see Patagonia products as a way to express their own values.
They are transforming diverse industries in order to achieve a more productive and sustainable brand of the future, and we are helping them to do that. For instance, ABB is highly interested in electric mobility. ABB is the main sponsor of the Formula E World Championship, and they develop a whole range of solutions for e-mobility, from EV chargers to battery energy storage systems. And since they also have chargers for individual users, they make the most of storydoing as well. In their 2030 sustainability strategy, they strive to actively enable a low-carbon society as well as work with their customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across our value chain and the lifecycle of ABB products and solutions. Additionally, they concentrate on lowering carbon emissions, lowering product waste, and increasing recycling and reusability.
Building brilliant brands in troubled times
Undoubtedly, we live in both exciting and difficult times. This year, the challenges of communicating the brand’s values, brand identity, and purpose will fully come to light. We’re slowly emerging from the pandemic, but other problems torment our world, just to mention the environmental crisis, the cost-of-living crisis, and runaway inflation. Now, also facing potentially one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe caused by the war in Ukraine. Your role is to show how your brand is addressing those problems. Adopting and following the purpose-driven approach is your best bet.
Embrace the reality we live in and take time to explain the brand’s mission and get committed people on board. You have to understand that social expectations about your company have never been greater. Each company must achieve not only financial results but also show a positive impact on society and our planet. Today, you need a well-thought-out branding and communication strategy more than ever. And that’s where our role begins.