Sustainability brand

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Sustainability brands are products and services that are branded to signify a special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits to the customer and thus enable the differentiation from competitors. [1] [2]

Brand identifies a good or service

A brand is an overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising. Name brands are sometimes distinguished from generic or store brands.

Contents

Overview

Sustainability branding is the process of creating and maintaining an identity of a specific product, service, or business that reflects special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits. [1] A brand is only perceived as being sustainable if it can credibly convey sustainability benefits which are noticeable by and relevant to the consumer. [2] A sustainability brand must have an integrated culture for success. The key to a sustainable brand is trust between the consumer and the brand, only when this is achieved can a sustainable brand truly generate a USP and reap the benefits of it.

Opposed to the term green brands which mainly focuses on environmentally sound business practices, sustainability brands additionally acknowledge the social dimension of providing products and services. This entails, among others, health and safety issues resulting from direct or indirect product use (consumption level) as well as the conditions under which a particular product is produced (production level). The physical protection and well-being of people at work (i.e. employees as well as workers within the supply chains) are important indicators of sustainability brands and sustainability marketing in general which adheres to the triple bottom line of ecological (environmental), social (equity), and financial (economic) sustainability. [1] [3]

Occupational safety and health Field concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of people at work

Occupational safety and health (OSH), also commonly referred to as occupational health and safety (OHS), occupational health, or workplace health and safety (WHS), is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of people at work. These terms also refer to the goals of this field, so their use in the sense of this article was originally an abbreviation of occupational safety and health program/department etc.

A brand is able to evoke positive or negative feelings, especially in the context of sensitive social and ecological issues. The more positive the perceptions and feelings are towards a brand, the higher will be the likelihood of identification and loyalty amongst consumers. It is therefore crucial in sustainability marketing to build up strong brands. In doing so, companies face far-reaching decisions in the areas of brand positioning (1), sustainability brand name selection (2), and sustainability brand development (3), in order to create and build sustainability brands that consumers associate with social and environmental added value. [1]

Environmental marketing claims on products and packages need to be made (and read) with caution. Ambiguous greenwashing titles such as green product, green packaging and environmentally friendly can be confusing without specific definition. Some regulators, such as the US Federal Trade Commission, are providing guidance [4]

Greenwashing Use of the aesthetic of conservationism to promote organisations

Greenwashing, also called "green sheen", is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly. Evidence that an organization is greenwashing often comes from pointing out the spending differences: when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being "green", than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices. Greenwashing efforts can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals to multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly. Publicized accusations of greenwashing have contributed to the term's increasing use.

Sustainability brands vs. Sustainable Brands

Since the adjective “sustainable” might convey the notion of brands that have long-lasting success, implicating durable competitive advantage without any particular reference to a sustainability agenda, the term “sustainability brand” should be used to prevent ambiguity. Albeit subtle difference, the latter explicitly emphasizes the notion of brands which have built their brand image upon sustainable business practices that consumers value. Sustainability brands are commonly referred to in the field of sustainability marketing. [5]

Sustainability brand positioning and the 8 C's

Sustainability Brand Positioning and positioning in general is part of the brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience [6] and can be described as an iterative process, consisting of deliberate and proactive actions aimed at the definition of distinct consumer perceptions. [7] Sustainable brand positioning is the brand positioning of Sustainable products and services. Sustainable products and services should offer an improved social and ecological performance during the whole product lifecycle and at the same time they have to satisfy consumer needs and wants. Many of the first generation sustainability brands failed in the market because companies overemphasized the positive socio-ecological product attributes, while they neglected to focus on other product attributes such as performance, functionality or design, too. As a result, many products could not compete against conventional products. [1]

To build up and position strong sustainability brands, there are some guidelines to follow. Marc Stoiber [8] summed them up in The five Cs of Sustainability Branding: [9] Consumer Facing, Competitive, Core, Conversational and credible. Perrine Bouhana added to that concept “a sixth C”: Consistency. Martin Belz complemented and revised this concept to “8 C’s” of sustainability branding and describes them as followed: [10]

Core
Sustainability should be tied up to the key problems and the core business through assessing the socio-ecological impacts of products along the entire life-cycle of the products and finding out the socio-ecological “hot-spots” of the product-life-cycle.
Co-operative
The solutions to the main socio-ecological problems associated with products along the entire life cycle require - both in the process of innovating and marketing sustainable products and services - co-operations with suppliers, retailers, consumers, scientists, and other non-market actors (e.g. NGO’s).
Credible
Fundamentals of credibility are first the solving of key socio-ecological problems associated with companies’ products and second tying sustainability to the core business. Co-operations with trustworthy partners and the use of independent, third-party labels (e.g. labels like Bio or MSC) such as a high level of transparency (e.g. through an online tracking system, which enables consumers to see the world of behind the product) can additionally increase the credibility of sustainability brands.
Consumer Benefits
Socio-ecological characteristics or attributes of products usually just play an auxiliary role (no core benefits). To broaden the appeal of sustainability brands, the companies should emphasize the inherent consumer benefits of socio-ecological attributes, including efficiency and cost effectiveness, health and safety, symbolism and status. Further they should align socio-ecological attributes with benefits such as functionality, design, and durability to create “motive alliances”.
Conversational
Sustainability branding is more effective as a two-way conversation, rather than a one-way announcement. Inviting consumers to enter into dialogues about the sustainability process strengthens the brand-consumer relationship.
Consistency
If sustainability is key to brand positioning, this requires a kind of integrated approach to sustainability communication: it is important to communicate in a consistent way, including e.g. advertising, personal selling or online communication. In addition to that, the sustainability product brand has to be consistent with the overall environmental and social performance of the company.
Commitment
Sustainability branding not only requires the commitment of the PR department and the sustainability officers but also requires the commitment of top management and marketing decision makers.
Continuity
Sustainability must reflect the core values of the brand and contribute to delivering the brand promise over the long term. This means that a brand cannot change its sustainability focus too often, or engage in too many non-related areas.

Sustainability brand name selection

In the course of choosing the right name, Sustainability brands must first –just like brand names in the conventional sense- follow well-established rules. In general, a good brand name should consider three areas: [11] memorability (distinctive short name, evoking emotions…), strategic fit (they should relate to the actual product; ability to expand to other brands) and legal (legal protection under trade mark law etc.) [12]

Sustainability Brands, however, go one step further and incorporate something that conveys the notion of social and/or ecological awareness.

A popular example is “Better Place”, a global provider of electric vehicle networks and services that works in a joint venture with Renault Nissan Alliance Motor Company to promote the use of electric cars. [13] The founder, Shai Agassi, was intrigued by a question posed at the World Economic Forum in 2005 "How do you make the world a better place by 2020?". [14] Thus the name Better Place. It is not related to the product (electric vehicle) but to much wider social and ecological issues (depletion of natural resources, CO2 emissions…), which the company addresses or rather offers the solution for.

Sustainability brand names can be part of a new product launch, an extension to an existing (conventional) brand or be so new to the market that they create a product category themselves. Each of these approaches has specific strategic implications.

Enter Established Market

Entering a saturated market such as the one for conventional household detergents with a sustainability brand might prove extremely difficult. However, there are companies that have successfully entered the market and positioned their brand as sustainability leaders. Seventh Generation, for instance, is the US market leader in four product categories (Household, Laundry, Personal and Baby Care) with products that –in the words of the company- “protect human health and the environment.” [15]

Brand Extension / Aligning Existing Brand

Established brands can leverage their existing brand recognition to extend their name to new products, which are then marketed as socially and ecologically friendly. Tide, a popular detergent brand in the US, expanded its brand to meet the demands of the ecological conscious consumer by launching Tide Cold Water Detergent in 2005. The product requires only cold water and thus saves energy. In 2010, it was given the Green GH seal, which is only awarded after a “cradle to grave” examination of the product. [16]

Creating entirely new Product Categories

Sustainability brand names can also succeed if they achieve to create a product category for themselves where there is virtually no competition yet. When the car-sharing concept was fairly new, companies such as Mobility CarSharing in Switzerland did neither compete with car companies nor public transportation providers. [1]

Sustainability brand development

Sustainability brand development Sustainability brand development.png
Sustainability brand development

Sustainability brands are subject to constant change. A sustainability brand that is well established on the market, can be further developed into different directions. According to Belz and Peattie [1] four main options for development are possible:

To create a sustainability brand it is furthermore important to adopt the right channels for marketing according to Lauterborns five Cs. Advertising in this case can help to create awareness of the brand and thus form the new brand experience. [1] [17] Furthermore, it is obligatory for Sustainability brands to obtain one ore more ecolabels, leading to a higher influence on consumer behaviour and the perception of the brand. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors. In order to position products or brands, companies may emphasize the distinguishing features of their brand or they may try to create a suitable image through the marketing mix. Once a brand has achieved a strong position, it can become difficult to reposition it.

Market segmentation is the activity of dividing a broad consumer or business market, normally consisting of existing and potential customers, into sub-groups of consumers based on some type of shared characteristics. In dividing or segmenting markets, researchers typically look for common characteristics such as shared needs, common interests, similar lifestyles or even similar demographic profiles. The overall aim of segmentation is to identify high yield segments – that is, those segments that are likely to be the most profitable or that have growth potential – so that these can be selected for special attention.

In business, a competitive advantage is the attribute that allows an organization to outperform its competitors. A competitive advantage may include access to natural resources, such as high-grade ores or a low-cost power source, highly skilled labor, geographic location, high entry barriers, and access to new technology.

Marketing strategy is a long-term, forward-looking approach to planning with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. Strategic planning involves an analysis of the company's strategic initial situation prior to the formulation, evaluation and selection of market-oriented competitive position that contributes to the company's goals and marketing objectives.

Advertising campaign series of advertisement messages

An advertising campaign is a series of advertisement messages that share a single idea and theme which make up an integrated marketing communication (IMC). An IMC is a platform in which a group of people can group their ideas, beliefs, and concepts into one large media base. Advertising campaigns utilize diverse media channels over a particular time frame and target identified audiences.

Green brands are those brands that consumers associate with environmental conservation and sustainable business practices.

Brand extension or brand stretching is a marketing strategy in which a firm marketing a product with a well-developed image uses the same brand name in a different product category. The new product is called a spin-off. Organizations use this strategy to increase and leverage brand equity. An example of a brand extension is Jello-gelatin creating Jello pudding pops. It increases awareness of the brand name and increases profitability from offerings in more than one product category.

Sustainability advertising is communications geared towards promoting social, economic and environmental benefits of products, services or actions through paid advertising in media in order to encourage responsible behavior of consumers.

Green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. It incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, sustainable packaging, as well as modifying advertising. Yet defining green marketing is not a simple task where several meanings intersect and contradict each other; an example of this will be the existence of varying social, environmental and retail definitions attached to this term. Other similar terms used are environmental marketing and ecological marketing.

The societal marketing is a marketing concept that holds that a company should make marketing decisions not only by considering consumers' wants, the company's requirements, but also society's long-term interests.

Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.

Sustainable distribution refers to any means of transportation / hauling of goods between vendor and purchaser with lowest possible impact on the ecological and social environment, and includes the whole distribution process from storage, order processing and picking, packaging, improved vehicle loadings, delivery to the customer or purchaser and taking back packaging.

Choice editing refers to the active process of controlling or limiting the choices available to consumers so as to drive to an end goal, specifically by banning things or imposing punitive taxation. The term has gained currency in discussions about sustainability.

Sustainable consumer behaviour is consumers’ behaviors that improve social and environmental performance as well as meet their needs. It studies why and how consumers do or do not incorporate sustainability issues into their consumption behaviour. Also, it studies what products consumers do or do not buy, how they use them and what they do with them afterwards. One mechanism to spread information about sustainable consumer behaviour is word of mouth.

Sustainable services as components of sustainable strategies and operations basically are offerings that decrease negative environmental impact while providing improved social and environmental benefits to consumers and producers.

Customer cost refers not only to the price of a product, but it also encompasses the purchase costs, use costs and the post-use costs. Purchase costs consist of the cost of searching for a product, gathering information about the product and the cost of obtaining that information. Usually, the highest use costs arise for durable goods that have a high demand on resources, such as energy or water, or those with high maintenance costs. Post-use costs encompass the costs for collecting, storing and disposing of the product once the item has been discarded.

Sustainability marketing myopia is a term used in sustainability marketing referring to a distortion stemming from the overlooking of socio-environmental attributes of a sustainable product or service at the expenses of customer benefits and values. The idea of sustainability marketing myopia is rooted into conventional marketing myopia theory, as well as green marketing myopia.

Open sustainability innovation is the use of open innovation in the development of sustainable products, services and initiatives. This is an approach to marketing for companies may prove to be advantageous as it is not point of sale based, but rather offers consumers information they have previously never been exposed to. Creating a basis for more long term conversational relationships. As a result of this conversational relationship between companies and consumers ideas about the importance of sustainability and how people relate to this through consumption can arise. By offering an open communication way of marketing to consumers, companies may ultimately gain a competitive advantage based on trust and disclosure. Thus not only will open sustainability innovations promote the use of sustainable products and services, it will actually create a snowballing effect to other companies who will have to adopt new sustainability practices in order to remain on the market.

Traditionally, market orientation (MO) focuses on microenvironment and the functional management of an organisation. However, contemporary organisations have widened their focus to incorporate more roles, functions and emphasis on the macro environment. Firms have been concerned with short run success and often not taken into account the long-run ecological, social and economic effects from their activities. Despite growth in the MO concept, there is still a need to reconceptualise the concept with a greater emphasis on external factors that influence a firm.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Belz F., Peattie K.(2009): Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons
  2. 1 2 H. Meffert, C. Rauch & H.L. Lepp. 2010. Sustainable Branding — mehr als ein neues Schlagwort?! Marketing Review St. Gallen 27 (5) Pages 28-35
  3. Peattie, 2001
  4. "Environmental Claims". Federal Trade Commission. 2008-11-17. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  5. J. Ottman.2010. The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., San Francisco, California
  6. Aaker D. and Joachimsthaler E., 2000, Brand Leadership, FreePress
  7. Kalafatis, S.P., Tsogas, M.H. and Blankson, C. (2000), “Positioning strategies in business markets”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 416-37
  8. The 5 C's of Sustainability Branding From "Maddock Douglas Innovation Engine: The Innovation Engine Community
  9. A Sixth ‘C’ For Sustainability Branding: Consistency – Sustainability & CSR Conversations
  10. Sustainability Marketing: The “Eight Cs” of Sustainability Branding
  11. Three Criteria of a Good Brand Name - Brand Development
  12. Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2004) The Principles of Marketing, 10th edn, Upper Sadde River, NJ: Prentic Hall p. 293. for brand name selection in general
  13. Better Place | The Global Provider of EV Networks and Services Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine .
  14. Copenhagen Climate Council
  15. About Seventh Generation | Seventh Generation
  16. Eco Friendly Laundry Detergents - Tide Coldwater Laundry Detergents - Good Housekeeping
  17. Lauterborn,R (1990) 'New marketing litany: 4 Ps passé; C-words take over', Advertising Age"

Further reading