The future of brand identity: actions speak louder than words
PR and Marketing Executive, Ailsa, discusses why company actions speak louder than words in our latest blog post.
Brand identity should, in theory, represent everything a company is, does and why it does what it does. However, brand identities, especially ‘feel good’ ones, can be more superficial gloss than gritty substance – claiming a positive status without earning it. A lack of substance in brand identity will, and does, lead to misjudged campaigns that, in attempting to align with positive initiatives, cause more damage than good; for the brand identity and its ‘flavour of the month’ initiative. Take, for example, the seemingly endless, thoughtless ‘pink’ campaigns that, in attempting to empower women, often further the stereotype women are trying to shed.
However, the most popular ‘bandwagon’ of recent times – namely plastic pollution and sustainability – has avoided such marketing faux pas; it demands an authenticity that goes beyond appearance. The focus on plastic pollution and sustainability was spurred on by the nation’s fascination with the BBC documentary Blue Planet, which simultaneously captivated viewers with the wonders of the ocean and shocked them with the devastation humanity has inflicted upon it. Public awareness led to increased pressure on big companies and, in surprisingly quick succession, the domino chain of sustainable initiatives led all the way up to global corporations and the government. This is the climate in which brands realised their vulnerability to the consumer, and were forced to dig deep into the heart of their identity to ensure they were doing more than just talking the talk. The result has been an impressive example of what can be achieved when time, money and expertise are invested in truly urgent issues. Brands that focus on authentic internal operations will, in turn, create an organically positive brand identity as bi-product of their actions.
Two companies that prioritised sustainability and plastic pollution in their internal operations, and as such affected real change, are Carlsberg and LEGO. The two brands are both companies you might not expect to pop up in the news when you type ‘sustainability’, but their actions have heralded a new sustainable brand identity for both that, due to their authenticity, help them stand out against their competitors.
Carlsberg took on one of the most instantly recognisable symbols of plastic pollution and marine damage: the plastic pack ring. The plastic pack ring has been used as the standard holding device for multi-pack canned drinks for over 50 years and has become a modern day symbol of polluted oceans and damage caused to marine and wild-life. Within that 50 year period, there would have been countless environmental campaigns produced by companies that used such devices – creating a contradiction in some sense between what brands were doing externally and internally. However, the recent increase in awareness of plastic pollution has forced brands to address environmental issues in a more authentic way; as the meat and bones of a brand, instead of some side garnish.
As such, Carlsberg had to reflect on the sustainability of its practices from the inside out, and face its contribution to plastic pollution. From this internal focus on its identity, Carlsberg put sustainable and responsible ethics at the heart of its brand and not only recognised its role in the problem, but also created a solution to a problem it was part of. The solution to the plastic pack ring: recyclable glue. The simplicity of the ingenious solution, however, begs the question ‘why wasn’t this created earlier?’. Most likely, however unsavoury it is to hear, the reason would be that not enough people cared. By looking at internal actions rather than outward appearances, Carlsberg successfully created a solution that will cut its plastic output by 76 per cent – an achievement that goes deeper than the surface of its brand identity to the heart of the company. Read more about Carlsberg’s creation and its shift towards a truly sustainable identity here.
Another brand that refined its identity and inner workings to reflect a sustainable ethos is LEGO: LEGO recently announced that it had found a way to create its bricks from sugar cane (which is made into polyethylene) and that these sustainable options would be available before the end of 2018. The new sustainable bricks will be soft and flexible and almost identical to the conventional style of plastic used by LEGO.
In addition to the creation cutting the plastic output of LEGO, it will also offer an educational opportunity through the ongoing conversations parents and children will be able to have about the new range of products. The result could have an immeasurable impact on the future of sustainability; imagine if plastic pollution, environmental impact and sustainability were put at the heart of the future generation through simple playtime… Alongside the sugar cane bricks, LEGO has aimed to reach zero waste in its operations by 2030, and to introduce sustainable paper pulp trays for its advent calendar, reducing its contribution to plastic waste in landfill. Overall, this is another example of a brand practising sustainability instead of just preaching it. The positive public response to LEGO’s sugar cane bricks has proven the importance of integrity to the future of brand identity; actions really do speak louder than words. Read more about LEGO’s initiatives here.
Both companies not only recognised their contribution to the modern day plastic pollution problem, but also realised their influence over consumers’ actions and attitudes towards sustainability. By focussing their sustainable efforts internally, they have shown that true innovation can come from investment in actions that really matter. The resulting effect will ultimately carry the brands’ positive identities further than any quick-fix ‘feel good’ campaigns, and will continue to further the spread of sustainable initiatives and brand accountability.