This is without doubt a challenging time for branding and with climate change consistently topping the agenda, brands must start thinking and behaving differently.
'A brand is not what you say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.' Building a brand will always be a challenge but keeping this mantra close to your brand heart will ensure you won’t go far adrift. It’s a stark reminder that successful brands are built by understanding life through the lens of the customer in order to deliver indispensable value.
However, in what can only be described as a perfect storm of challenges and crises; the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, Brexit, social inequalities… there has been a fundamental shift in everything we thought we knew about customer ‘perspective’ and motivations.
Organisations in the Built Environment have been caught in the very eye of this storm, navigating through not only supply chain disruption, skilled labour shortages and ever-shrinking margins but are now also increasingly held to account on their direct impact on the environment and the personal health and wellbeing of our communities.
With clients and specifiers increasingly asking new, tough questions and seeking ever greater transparency, now is not the time for these brands to respond with (seemingly) poignant posts and carefully selected hashtags, nor to issue a temporary logo colour change as a ‘mark of respect’ for a movement or issue. Brands need to dig much deeper.
The Re-generation of Brands
Successful brands are only as good as their relevance. Climate change, as he poignantly reminds us, has become non-negotiable and a responsibility and priority for all. It will become increasingly legislated for and is already a key driver of purchase decisions throughout the supply chain. So when it comes to building ‘regenerative thinking’ into your brand, where should you start?
Everything you thought you knew has likely changed so as a priority, it’s important to get context for your brand. Brands thrive on loyalty, but loyalties are only as good as your relevancy right now. You might have the best reputation for aesthetic design but if your product can’t be recycled, or involves an environmentally damaging manufacturing process, you’ll lose not only the specification but the loyalty too, no matter its heritage. Data can only take you so far on this journey so get on the road, walk a mile (or two) in your customers’ shoes and see the world through their eyes. Understand their motivations, frustrations, challenges, choices, aspirations. Ask them directly, watch them work, feel their pain, get your context.
Think beyond sustainability
Sustainability alone will just not cut it. And the brutal reality is that the future of our planet requires a more transformative, proactive approach. But brands that are genuinely ‘regenerative’ in their thinking and behaviours are already a step ahead. They have an eye firmly on the future, focusing on long-term brand equity rather than short-term profits. They think bigger, more laterally, more responsibly. They invest in innovation and creative leadership to challenge the status quo. They deliver more value by focusing on proactively enriching the lives and environments of all the people they touch, whether directly and indirectly. All the principles of brand building that ultimately pay dividends. Think regeneratively.
Be authentically passionate
Regenerative Provocateur and Consultant, Martin Brown, regularly speaks with authority on a global platform (most recently COP26 in Glasgow) about regeneration initiatives in the Built Environment. He has clear words of warning for brands lacking authenticity in their green motivations; “Be clear and accountable about your claims and intentions.” Successful, memorable brands are built on differentiation and real, stand-out, authentic passion. Surely this presents an unmissable opportunity to stand up and be counted rather than tick a ‘sustainable’ box. It goes without saying that your customers, future workforce and wider stakeholders have quite quickly become experts at sniffing out authenticity and will expect full disclosure on your brand’s motivations.