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Marketing and Comms
The Dos and Don’ts of Successfully Engaging the Masses

Day one of SB’s Brand-Led Culture Change event was loaded with insights from brand leaders and influencers on the ever-growing world of impactful brand sustainability communication.

Unsurprisingly, one of the key themes of our Brand-Led Culture Change event this week is best practices for brands aiming to nudge their customers toward more conscious habits and behaviors. Here are takeaways from an array of experts who shared their insights on day one …

How brands can build a purpose movement by prioritizing people

L-R: BCLC's Emily McDonald, ASICS' Alice Mitchell, Aveda's Paula Marrs and Traditional Medicinals' Jamie Horst | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

Brands aren’t the heroes; their customers are.

That was the message Thomas Kolster of Goodvertising Agency shared in a Monday morning workshop on creating a purpose movement by prioritizing people.

Defying Online Algorithms with Authentic, Impactful Storytelling

Join us as representatives from BarkleyOKRP lead a thought-provoking discussion with two brands that care deeply about their workers' rights and wellbeing, Tony's Chocolonely and Driscoll's, about how to successfully involve consumers in social-justice issues with authentic storytelling that defies online algorithms — Friday, May 10, at Brand-Led Culture Change.

“Brands are pretending to be superheroes,” Kolster said. “If I go into a bar tonight and scream out ‘I’m the world’s best lover;’ at some point, someone’s going to find out that I’m not. And unfortunately, it’s often quite the same with brands.”

Kolster calls this “The Hero Trap” — an all-too-common phenomenon where brands position themselves as the heroes consumers need to lead fulfilling lives. Instead, brands must be help their customers transform their lives by empowering or inspiring them to be their own heroes. Most of the time, Kolster said, brands are talking at people, not with people.

“Think about how to help people along on their own journey instead of obsessing about yours,” he advised. “Who can you help people become?”

Transformative brands insert themselves into culture, rather than mirroring it. Retail brands such as IKEA are democratizing their offering by empowering would-be customers to be a part of the purchasing journey — a shift from a transactional mindset toward one into experiences that transform.

Then, a panel of speakers from Traditional Medicinals, Aveda, British Columbia Lottery Corporation and ASICS provided tactical examples of how brand leaders can build transparent and authentic strategies and campaigns that can become movements toward lasting culture change.

Authenticity and experimentation — both internal and consumer-facing — are essential elements in becoming a transformative brand that empowers people to become the heroes of their own journeys. As Aveda’s Paula Marrs pointed out, new challenges arise every day; so, it’s essential to constantly examine and reexamine company priorities. Workplaces are a place of collective action, said Jamie Horst of Traditional Medicinals — so, build a system that empowers employees to become the change they want to see; then, scale that system to empower customers, as well. This means rejecting growth as a key KPI and instead embracing others such as biodiversity, education, waste reduction and more.

To engage folks in climate change, we need to make it fun!

Image credit: AWorld

Another Monday morning workshop explored the powerful intersection of gamification and rewards in culture change, led by two inspiring speakers and companies: Jenny Gottstein, formerly of IDEO and creator of the climate-action gameshow, “Beat! That! Heat!”; and Alessandro Armillotta, CEO of digital sustainable behavior game “AWorld.”

According to Gottstein, a “climate doom” mentality has become widespread due to the scale and complexity of solving global climate challenges; and the world needs more fun, exciting and engaging solutions. The audience enthusiastically agreed.

Drawing on a decade of experiential design leadership experience at IDEO, Gottstein created Beat! That! Heat! — a climate-action gameshow based on three core design principles:

  1. Design for laughter

  2. Dial up wins and dial down shame

  3. Make space to integrate.

“What if Family Feud, Celebrity Lipsync Battle and Double Dare all joined forces to defeat climate change?” the game’s site posits.

Gottstein took the audience through the game’s four rounds:

  1. Feeling the feels

  2. Understanding the solutions

  3. Celebrating wins

  4. Taking climate action.

Beat! That! Heat! is available for partnership with organizations of all sizes looking to engage their workforce in the climate-action fight in a light, fun way.

Similarly, AWorld is a sustainability-themed game experience — but entirely digital. Created by Armillotta and his cofounders — CTO Alessandro Lancieri and Italian football star Marco Armellino — the game leverages the latest research in behavioral psychology and social science to inspire, engage, educate and measure the impact of individual and collective sustainable actions.

Participants can sign up and learn about and commit to take measurable sustainable actions, and can also issue and participate in team-based challenges within their organization.

The game has measured more than 11 million actions to date and partners with leading organizations in the US and Europe including Prada, Blackstone, the UN, the EU Commission, Cambridge University, the University of Florida and more.

Content creators for good: Partnerships that value the influencer as much as the brand

Image credit: Vladamua

The influencer space has grown into a recognized career field. The brands we care about now place great emphasis on aligning with customer values and wish to partner with those who demonstrate such. As brands present their offerings to target audiences, so do online content creators who cater to a specific segment of consumers — this is known as micro-influencing.

As Christina Lampert — Director of Growth & Innovation at HowGood, known online by her followers as the Sustainable Millennial — points out, micro-influencers curate inspirational content that conveys passion, sincerity and a willingness to be seen as a peer within the community they cater to. The first set of panelists on the subject discussed how to ensure brand-influencer marketing partnerships are authentic for both the brand and the content creator. Jessica Padula of Nespresso highlighted the notion that it’s not as authentic for a brand to showcase its own achievements, rather than when others get talking about the brand.

“It is good to educate, but also tell the story from others’ perspectives,” Padula said.

When it comes to a successful brand strategy, creating partnerships that are values-driven is top of mind. It’s a two-way communication in how you can tell a story in a way that works for both brands. Cosmetic artist influencer Vlada Haggerty, founder of Vladamua LLC, is currently partnering with Sustainable Brands to promote the SB Nine Sustainable Behaviors — a campaign that generates awareness of the ways that both consumers and brands can create positive change — in a digestible format, with Haggerty providing the artwork (example above). This kind of two-way communication ensures collaboration and values remain consistent throughout.

On the content creator end, influencer Dominique Side of The Luxury Vegan shared that she makes it her job to spend time educating others on what her values are. “I approach veganism with a compassionate mindset,” Side said, adding, “The Luxury Vegan is a consultancy. We help thought leaders on being compassionate and authentic.”

The second set of panelists, moderated by Tara Nolan of Fractional, discussed the growing creator economy — currently estimated at $100 billion. Consumer reports show that people are searching online for ways to make an impact — and influencers are an increasingly trusted source for connecting customers with brands that can show them how.

“Creators are creative; they are not only content publishers,” said creative development executive and producer Davida Hall. In order to establish win-win partnerships, brands cannot treat creators as just salespeople; trust should be placed in the creators’ hands that what they produce will resonate with their audience.

Attendees of the session got to put the Dos and Don’ts of influencer partnerships into practice. Groups identified a potential creator to partner with and outlined key criteria to ensure a successful, ongoing partnership that created trust between the influencer and the brand’s audience.

If brands are to create an influencer strategy that advances both its business and impact goals, it is critical to place faith in the influencer’s own creativity and values that drive them in the content they promote and the audiences that they connect with.

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