Opportunities to Reimagine Brand Purpose: 3 Key Takeaways from Day One at Sustainable Brands London 2014

Three themes stood out for me in the midst of all the great presentations and discussions on the first day of the Sustainable Brands conference in London.
First, we kept hearing about shifts in the relationship between brands and consumers and the opportunities that are opening up for marketers. James Goodman (Forum for the Future) reflected that brands need sustainability and that the relationship with consumers is moving from the linear to the circular. There’s also increasing complexity in channels of influence, with my colleague, Eric Whan, highlighting the need for brands to leverage trusted tribes and networks. Ben Maxwell from Wolff Olins said it all adds up to a move towards a give and get relationship (or fair exchange), uncovering new dimensions and new ways for brands to interact. This evolving, more holistic relationship was brought to life by Nick Liddell of Dragon Rouge. Their highly creative video imagines a future where the M&S of 2030 doesn’t just deliver your shopping but also takes away your empty packaging and recycles it.
Second, as the consumer-brand relationship extends into sustainability, there is a need to bridge the gap between marketers and sustainability professionals. With her background across both sides of the P&G business, Virginie Helias gave several points of guidance for engaging marketers, such as linking sustainability to the brand DNA, integrating it in core processes of innovation, brand building and training, and engaging hearts and minds through story telling. And David Hawksworth from Given London took this further as he and his colleagues shared their Brand Substance model, with a host of ideas for getting marketers excited.
Third, it’s clear that one of the key opportunities being seized by the most progressive companies is setting their corporate purpose. This is the ‘why’ for a corporate brand that relates to the company’s societal role. The case for a corporate purpose emerged when Andy Last, Co-Founder and CEO of Salt, shared insights from their survey of Generation Z – these are the post-Millennials who see responsibility as core to business. Andy also described how CSR is evolving from a separate, siloed department, into being more integrated in other functions and BUs, to becoming the heart of a business.
As we brainstormed how a brand can move from being a laggard, to a start, to a leader, it became clear that having a strong corporate purpose at the centre of the brand is crucial for making progress.

Sustainable Brands Day 1 recap video: