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Are you getting the most value from your brand values?

Are you getting the most value from your brand values?

Featured press: first published in the drum

Consumers care more than ever that the brands they buy are ethical. Jed Price of Media Bounty explains how to help the planet – while boosting business.

Not so long ago most businesses didn’t know what their carbon footprint was, if their workforce or comms were inclusive, or whether their product’s packaging or supply chain was sustainable. Sometimes these things went without saying, but often they just weren’t thought about.

Thankfully, the world is changing. We’re all waking up to the fact that we all need to be more responsible to protect the planet.

According to YouGov, some 72% of shoppers reportedly prioritize sustainability credentials over brand names and businesses that commit fully to their principles enjoy real impact: 98% of those who’ve made real green changes have seen positive effects on their business performance.

Now we live in a world where seemingly every business is in a race to be the cleanest, greenest, and kindest. But many struggle to articulate to their prospective customers what they’re doing, why, and how it’s a good thing – and therefore get a bit jaded and risk backsliding to the damaging status quo of 1987.

Robert Ordever of O.C. Tanner knows this pressure too well: “When things go awry, there are those companies that are quick to ditch their values, seeing them as a ‘nice to have’ in the good times.”

Many brands are pretty awful at making their ethical efforts relevant to ordinary people, using complex business-speak and seeming corporate and bandwagon-y to consumers. Not everyone needs their washing powder to claim a ‘carbon-offset supply chain’ when they’re more worried about their bills shooting through the roof.

Some 59% of shoppers say they have been forced to choose less sustainable but cheaper options as prices increase. How much of that is due to brands failing to make their claims feel important and clear?

But what if focusing more explicitly and clearly on the ‘values’ of your brand could make your brand more desirable and valuable – and ultimately help it grow?

Don’t be a greenwasher

Some businesses become frustrated when their initial investment in sustainability and ethical practices doesn’t quickly result in new competitive advantage and improved consumer preference. Here’s why things might not be working.

Greenwashing and bad faith actors: people have become jaded with the sudden deluge of sustainability claims, especially when even oil and gas firms say they are green and co-opt the language of climate conservation. Greenwashing hurts us all and is now being challenged and understood more explicitly.

Miniscule claims that don’t move the dial: when we’re seeing wildfires rage and ‘unprecedented once in a century’ temperature records hit every week, a brand reassuring us that they’ve reduced plastic by 5% or replaced a few old diesel lorries feels far too removed from the reality of the situation we’re facing. Cards Against Humanity once mocked the practice of ‘for each product sold we’ll donate 1p somewhere’ by digging a slightly bigger hole in the desert every time someone bought a pack of their cards. This feels apt.

Claims unrelated to the product: in the same vein as small claims, when brands take actions that feel unrelated to their business or the products they sell – they don’t resonate as well as when they draw on the values that are built into the fabric of the company and its people.

How to extract value from your values

Root values in reality: because we’re all fed up with empty words, it’s crucial to show the direct impact of your values on people and the planet. Express clear values that can be tracked and focus relentlessly on showing their real positive impact.

Use your origin story and be convincing: some of the truest values of a business can be found by looking at its origins. The past can provide principles that stand the test of time and don’t feel like marketing guff. Boots’ founding vision to bring affordable drugs to the masses is a nice example.

Link values to product: values should also match up to what you sell. Sustainability is a table-stake, so you should go further and do more alongside being green to demonstrate commitment to your area of expertise. Like a haircare brand making their product planet friendly, but also helping people affected by alopecia.

Be human-focused: focusing entirely on climate change can lead comms to feel distant and vague. Instead trying to show the human impact of what you do can work wonders. TOMs giving a pair of shoes to someone in need whenever you buy for yourself is a wonderful example of this.

Show you’re serious: finally, to see real benefit from investing in values you can’t take any half-measures because people will see straight through it. You must show you’re serious about making a difference, even if it means being a bit counter-intuitive – like Patagonia asking readers NOT to buy their clothes if they didn’t need them.

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