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Playful Plenaries Extoll the Power of "And" on Day Two of SB London Conference

Unilever's Marc Mathieu shares his thoughts on reinventing business, brands and marketing today at the SB London Conference.

Day Two of the SB London Conference was once again full of lighthearted yet informative presentations, in which some of the world’s biggest brands shared insights illustrating the many ways they are building better business through The Power of “And.”

Dragon Rouge chairman Dorothy Mackenzie emceed the morning plenaries and kicked off by presenting Brand Futures, Dragon Rouge’s “part playful, part serious” projection of six well-known British brands (including Primark, easyJet, Bupa and Morrisons) into an aspirational sustainable future. The project shows “the potential for today’s brands to innovate, and adopt new approaches and business models without losing their core brand essence.” Brand Futures proposes three levels of brand-led innovation — improvement, product and service innovation, and business model innovation  a conversation that continued in a breakout session on the topic later this afternoon.

Dorothy Mackenzie

Dorothy Mackenzie

Julian Borra, Global Creative Strategic Partner at Saatchi & Saatchi S, began his “playful plenary” by equating it to an AA meeting: “Hello, my name is Julian Borra - I’m a populist.” He pointed to the power of the word "sustainability" — and its ability to clear a room full of brand people  and therefore the need for careful selection of language to avoid alienating various stakeholders, to take the “Babel” of various agendas and make the “s” word irresistible as part of a brand’s story. He estimated 80% of his audience needs to be engaged in other ways, which is what led him to come up with “Six Quiet Rules for Shaping Life-Sized Messages and People-Powered Movements”:

  • Change the language
  • Stories not statements
  • Planet “me” beats planet “we”
  • Simplify
  • Playgrounds, not train sets

He concluded with an ask, that the “dark artists” of the brand world and the “pure” sustainability advocates get into a room together more often.

Next was “dark artist” Marc Mathieu, Global SVP of Marketing, Unilever, who started by congratulating the SB team for bringing this conversation to London. His focus is reinventing business, brands and marketing to make sustainable living commonplace; he joined Unilever a year-and-a-half ago because the company is setting out to do just that through its Sustainable Living Plan. Mathieu detailed 10 “and”s helping to create a ripple effect in how business and brands behave: 

#1-3 speak to the role of business and brands in society:

  • Doing well + doing good (and doing well x[by] doing good)
  • Social + environmental + economic (growth = social value/environmental impacts)
  • Suppliers + manufacturing + consumers

#4-6 speak to the power of marketing:

  • people (put people first) + brands + magic
  • product truth + brand purpose
  • magic + behaviour change

#7-9 address the power of scale:

  • small actions + big difference
  • communication + co-creation (ex: Unilever’s collaboration with Carrotmob)
  • product brands + company brands

#10 sums them all up:

  • brands + marketing + people = better planet

Next Tobias Fischer, CSR Project & Relations Manager for H&M, described how the company aims to surprise, inspire and connect with consumers by building sustainability into their whole offering. Though their first “green” line debuted in 1995, its name (“Nature Calling”), brown color palette and unstylish design failed to delight shoppers. 77% of H&M customers polled do not actively seek out environmentally friendly clothing, but they want to trust the companies they shop with. Fast-forward to 2005  the company started working with organic cotton, got Stella McCartney to design an organic T-shirt and found the key to engaging consumers on sustainable fashion: leading with style over substance. As the world’s biggest buyer of organic cotton and a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, H&M is helping to educate farmers to reduce water and pesticide use. The company is also looking into other materials including organic wool, hemp and linen, tencel, and recycled wool and polyester. Other initiatives include a pilot program in Switzerland asking customers to return their used clothing for resale as vintage items or for donation, or for sealing fibers in auto manufacturing (such as Ford’s use of recycled denim). Fischer concluded by saying the fashion industry must make more conscious decisions throughout the textile supply chain, and collaboration is key for creating “better” (not “sustainable”) fashion.

Tobias Fischer

Tobias Fischer

Sainsbury's Director of Corporate Affairs, Alex Cole — who considers herself both a brand and a sustainability person — discussed the rejuvenation of the company’s 150-year-old brand through an exercise in crowdsourcing through customer feedback. The company knew its five main corporate values best for food and health; sourcing with integrity; respect for the environment; making a positive difference in the community; and being a great place to work needed to be incorporated into the brand. They introduced 20x20 20 commitments for the year 2020, all of which sit under one of the five values. Sainsbury’s built its values-led brand equity by staying just ahead of the consumer; putting customers at the heart of everything it does; broadening its consumer proposition (Live Well for Less); competition and collaboration; creating brand advocates by engaging employees; and creating scale and mobilization, inside and out. Sainsbury’s goal through its sponsorship of the Paralympics was to align its brand values with the right proposition, to engage customers, employees and communities, and to change behavior. Last week, the retailer released “New Fashioned Values,” a report containing a host of insights into understanding the customer mindset.

Alex Cole

Alex Cole

After a refreshment break, Kim Slicklein, President of OgilvyEarth, introduced Frances Way, Co-Chief Operating Officer of the Carbon Disclosure Project and Denis Darragh, Managing Director of Forbo for a session on the “Definitive Business Case for Sustainability.” This engaging panel of leaders shared examples of businesses and brands across the globe that are incorporating sustainability initiatives into the core of their values and creating compelling objective and subjective case outcomes while doing so. Several inspirational examples came from Chipotle, IBM, Patagonia, Nike and Method.

Phil Cumming, Corporate Sustainability Manager of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games was next up speaking about the opportunities and challenges of executing the 2012 London Olympics - the first Summer Olympic Games to commit to sustainability. He focused on how sponsoring brands and media partners seized opportunities to tackle global sustainability problems - ex: Rio Tinto stepped forward to show traceability in Olympic metals, starting at the beginning of the supply chain with sustainable mining efforts. Sustainability was a strong driver for Olympic sponsorship, and brands and companies who stepped up as commercial partners were able to “turbo charge” certain initiatives set forth within the Organising Committee.

Wrapping up the second exhilarating day of plenaries, Michael Wilde, Communications & Sustainability Manager from Eosta – Nature & More provided a beautiful story of how traceability, transparency and consumer engagement in the organic food industry can rally a shifting economy. This international distributor of organic fresh fruits and vegetables offers consumers the opportunity to meet the growers and learn more about their farms and products. A “Grower Stamp” includes a code with access to their website where consumers are literally linked to growers. Beyond the fair trade aspect, consumers can learn how their purchase dollars are used to support local communities and economies where their food is grown.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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