If a brand is a perception based on an emotional connection, what does this tell us about sustainability and, perhaps, better business?
Seeking a definition of what exactly a brand is, or what branding means can be a thankless task, says our sustainability guru, Giles Crosse. Indeed it’s a task that may well be never-ending, with myriad definitions and opinions out there.
But these are essential questions to answer. Your brand defines your business goals, your aspirations, ideally your very reason for being.
There is one definition, included in a Forbes article on sustainable branding, which bears closer examination.
Forbes’ definition is this; ‘A brand is a collection of perceptions that develop an emotional connection’. Does this have anything useful to tell us about branding, sustainability and, perhaps, better business?
Sustainability; might it be at the core of human emotional experience?
Emotional connections are among the most valuable human experiences open to us. We develop them with films, with music. More obviously, we develop them with the people we love and, hopefully, the careers that we cherish.
More interesting still, it’s also clear that we want all these connections to be sustainable. The best relationship or marriage is sustainable, as is the best career path, or indeed the best album, that you will still enjoy hearing a decade from now.
All of this hints that we react powerfully to sustainable emotional connections, they make up the fabric of our lives.
If this is the case, then it may be no leap of faith to argue that businesses which build an emotional connection with customers, in a sustainable way, based upon truly sustainable practice, can win a dedicated fanbase for life too.
If Forbes is right, building your brand’s emotional connections in a sustainable way, shouting loud about your sustainable criteria, is the top marketing move you can make.
How we think about brands
There’s some evidence available on the value of sustainable, emotional connections. Sustainable Brands, a top website on the subject, has this to say about your corporate story:
‘A good story is not a corporate PowerPoint; an effective narrative talks about people, customers, suppliers, partners, inspires an emotional reaction in an audience, always has a plot; a beginning, a middle and an end, poses a big question to be resolved.’
What larger question requires resolution today than climate change? What more effective narrative than a sustainable story could a firm develop to respond?
Our friend and collaborator creative director Mike Garlick has something to say on the matter, too: ‘At the most basic level, all decisions are of course emotional ones. When we engage with a company and buy or use its products and services, we make emotional decisions and then we start to find some logical basis for them. An emotional response, once triggered by a brand, stays put in the subconscious of the target audience. My view is that if you keep fanning this response, you will find that the messaging achieves a sustainability of its own.
The next step; sustainable, emotional business connections
By now it’s clear that your firm needs to be shouting loud about your corporate sustainability, and delivering that message in an emotional way that engenders long term relationships.
What not to do at this stage; lie. If you don’t feel your sustainability metrics are that great yet, say that. If you don’t even know; admit it. Deliver an emotional message explaining why you feel you have to better. Put the truth out there; you need to improve, and make it plain your corporate heart is set on doing so.
Of course, if your sustainability story is strong, then you have the tools in place to get to work already.
Part of the reason sustainability is intriguing is its all-encompassing nature. By definition, we need a sustainable planet to survive, to live, breathe and to drink fresh, clean water.
But we also require sustainable relationships and connections too, not just with people, but with the businesses we buy from and the advertising messages we scoop up on a daily basis.
Not so long ago, sustainable holistic theory was something etched in the minds of yogis or Eastern gurus. No longer. Sustainability is just simple, honest business sense. It should be centralised within your firm from top to bottom, in procurement, in reporting, and in marketing.
When it’s there, you will see enormous internal benefits, cost improvements, to say nothing of harming the environment less.
But most pleasingly you will, if you communicate right, find your customers become sustainable too, trusting your brand and sustaining your business by so doing.
Interested in talking to us about sustainable branding? Say hello to the team.