There is a tangible opportunity for brands that create effective sustainable communications to stand out in a crowded market. Communications companies need to help build trust between business and consumers, especially when it comes to communicating sustainability.
The Four C's of Survival
... So what does it take to create sustainable communications? At Clownfish, we believe there are four principles, which conveniently fit into four C's: credibility, clarity, consistency and conversation. Putting them together in a creative solution will help to regain the trust of consumers.
This means no more fluff. Communications have to be underpinned by robust, verifiable technical data. This may not sound exciting, but it's important, because sustainability communications without substance are being singled out by nongovernmental organizations and are even being banned. In the U.K. in 2007, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that 19 ads should be withdrawn for making misleading green claims, a rise from the 10 banned in 2006.
Clear, genuine, authentic messages promote transparency, and research shows there is a positive correlation between transparency and trust. This means that instead of making vague statements about being "eco-friendly," touch points need to be tangible. According to Shelton Group, 88% of consumers have a positive association with the concept of energy efficiency, while only 62% feel the same way about "green." Eco-labeling, while sometimes helpful, does not always provide clarity. When Boots, a British retailer, surveyed its consumers after labeling a line of shampoos with its carbon footprint, they found that 28% didn't know that a product's carbon footprint was related to climate change.
Sustainability is not a trend. In fact, at Clownfish, we believe it's the business model for the 21st century. Sustainability is systemic and not about tackling single issues. As such, it should be applied consistently across business processes. Companies need to develop long-term sustainability strategies that are matched by rigorous business discipline and create a movement, not a campaign. Consistency is also important in the sense that messages must resonate with the company's existing voice in the marketplace.
In the old world of the Mad Men, the brands that won were those that told the best stories. But digital is changing that. In the new world, the brands that win will be those whose consumers and other stakeholders tell the best stories. It used to be a one-way narrative, and now it's a two-way conversation. Tap the interactive potential of the internet to engage your critics as well as allow your fans to get penetration into the blogosphere and create a clear call to action for your consumers.
But remember that ultimately (and this is coming from a sustainability-communications consultancy), what you do is more important that what you say.
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Published In Advertising Age / GoodWorks, on