Building a conscious brand

What is a conscious brand and why does it matter?

Why do we do what we do? That is something a lot of us may have reflected on after watching Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk some ten years ago. The talk, where Sinek lays out why businesses should start with the Why (the purpose) before moving on to How (the process) and What (the product), has been viewed 50 million times just on the TED platform. He was one of the first to ask leaders to reflect on Why does your company exist? Why should people care? Sinek urged them to behave in a way that reinforces the answer to those questions. A conscious brand in this context, would refer to brands that show consideration for the world they operate in and has an identified purpose beyond maximising shareholder value.

Environmentally conscious brands

This was certainly part of the challenge given to us by Padstow Distilling Company in developing their visual identity and bottle design. They wanted every aspect of their brand to reflect their commitment to the environment that provides the ingredients for their products. They were very intentional in the materials they wanted to use, like choosing glass and cork over plastic, with labels printed straight onto the bottle without using any type of film. They also offer to refill bottles, further extending their lifecycle.

Check out our branding and packaging work for Padstow Distilling Company.

Sustainability for people and the planet

Moving through the pandemic has reminded us that we are only a part of the natural ecosystem. Add to that the California wildfires, the BLM movement and Extinction Rebellion, and I think we can firmly say that 2020 has given the world a wake-up call. This is the year when the climate crisis and social justice issues finally moved from fringe into the mainstream of everyone’s responsibility.

Alternatives to outdated financial models are being developed and given more attention which can only be good news. Like Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Investment wrote in a letter to CEO’s a couple of years back; 

“Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate”

The letter prompted discussions on whether the purpose of a corporation is only to maximise shareholder value? And this year he followed up with another letter equating climate risk to investment risk. Doing good for the climate makes good business sense.

If you haven’t already, we would highly recommend reading Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics which outlines a financial model that takes into consideration social and planetary boundaries. Is your company able to declare a profit after the cost of maintaining natural capital has been taken into consideration? And environmentalism and social justice can’t be separated - illustrated by models like both the triple bottom line and the doughnut.

Socially conscious brands

While some companies are playing catch up, other for-profit companies have built their brand directly to tackle social issues in new and innovative ways. 

We recently worked with an exciting new online community called Valence whose purpose is to work towards closing the racial wealth gap by helping companies reach Black candidates directly and showcase the great opportunities they have available. For years, co-founder Kobie Fuller was being asked for advice on where to find Black talent, but being limited to recommending the people in his immediate circle, he saw the need for a centralised network to showcase the global Black professional community, provide mentorship, create career opportunities and spawn new ventures.

We worked with Valence to build their organisation directory to facilitate communication between candidates and businesses, the posting of jobs and services and allow people to create groups based on shared interests, industry etc. We also worked with them to help launch their Boost Challenge campaign - a programme that encouraged Black leaders across America to offer 30 minutes of their expertise, ie. Give a Boost and for other users to apply to Get a Boost from someone via their profile page. Valence are creating a win-win platform for everyone involved. Want to find out more about Valence? Check out the organizations directory and the forward-thinking brands that have joined them.

Brand authenticity

Purpose is a word that is being thrown around a lot, but as the now infamous Pepsi campaign, where Kendall Jenner dissolves tensions between protesters and police with a can of Pepsi, showed -  in the age of transparency, this is not something that can be plastered on as an afterthought. Pepsi tried to jump on a movement they obviously had no understanding of and ended up trivialising peaceful protest in order to sell some cola. This type of tone-deaf content not only doesn’t work but also caused a massive backlash against PepsiCo. 

As part of our brand building workshops with clients we always look at the humans behind the brand, what are their purposes and values? A corporation means literally a body of people. How can a company integrate sustainability with who and how they are in the world? Each brand must consider and define how their brand connects to the wider-world around them. What impact does your business have on the environment and on people?

Socially consious brands have good vibes.

Looking at the types of new businesses coming out of the Falmouth Launchpad, it is exciting to see so many environmentally and socially conscious brands, we may see a day when doing business any other way becomes unthinkable. It seems to us that Cornwall is at the forefront of this conscious business frontier, which is not surprising when you get to live and work in an area of outstanding natural beauty and see the effects of plastic pollution right here on our beaches. 

As a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Marketing showed, 60% of marketers list brand reputation as their top priority post-lockdown, and with the rise of the intentional consumer, the integration of sustainability into your business is a chance to build stronger relationships with audiences. What an opportunity to redefine what it means to be a good brand.

Looking to build a conscious brand? Drop us a line to greg@gendall.co.uk.