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Purpose Differentiates in an Age of Disruption

Image Credit: Will van Wingerden

What makes a good company successful in an age where we are blessedly cursed with a wide selection of products in every category? With technology being a widespread disruptor, the business landscape is rapidly changing and making some companies obsolete almost overnight. Do you recall Blockbuster? In our new book The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good, we show that in the present marketplace where almost everything is commoditized, it is critical to build relationships with customers that connect to shared values.

Dr. John Izzo
will discuss
Getting Employees
to be
Ambassadors for Your
Good Life Brand

at SB'18 Vancouver

Today, consumer preferences are increasingly shaped by buyers focused on purpose. Sixty percent of customers currently report making socially conscious buying decisions and 83 percent of customers say that buying from a sustainable company is important. What a change from the past, where consumers were primarily concerned with product quality. Muhtar Kent, chairman and former CEO of Coca-Cola, framed it this way: “In the old days, you made a good product, manufactured it with quality so that it tasted good, and then made it available. All you had to do was have the product be well understood through good advertising.”

Of course, good products still matter, as do all the other traditional differentiators, but true relevance now comes from connecting with customers’ deepest values and the ability to build an authentic relationship. The value of relationship can be significant. For example, at Unilever, brands that have made a purpose connection with customers, such as Dove and Ben & Jerry's, are growing 35 percent faster than the rest of the company’s portfolio of brands.

The challenge for sustainable companies is communicating corporate commitments in a way that fosters relationships with savvy environmentally conscious consumers. A  Unilever study reveals that 33 percent of consumers choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good, and that an estimated €966 billion opportunity exists for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear.

Seventh Generation believes in creating ingredient transparency with its customers and several years ago began highlighting the key value attributes of its products on the labels. For example, on laundry detergent: “No dyes, optical brighteners or synthetic fragrances, Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent…[is] made with plant-based ingredients [and] is a USDA Certified Biobased Product 97%.” The company believes so strongly in customer education on this issue that it spearheaded ingredient transparency for all cleaning-product companies with the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, which became law in California in 2017.

Sustainable consumers may even care more about the environment than they do about their own wallets. Joey Bergstein, Seventh Generation’s CEO, said a 2014 Earth Day ad — which didn’t even mention the products — had a larger impact on sales volume than did all the coupons they offered for a year. In the ad, the company tackled an issue that it felt was important to its customers and invited them to get involved directly. The campaign was much more than a simple marketing effort. It solidified Seventh Generation’s relationships with its customers and reinforced its mission for good.

Because we never know what will resonate with consumers, it’s critical to test your purpose initiatives for business impact and find out what resonates. Today, the marketing is ultimately about building a more authentic relationship with consumers centered around your shared values. Find out how in The Purpose Revolution, which shows business leaders what today’s consumers truly want and offers practical strategies on winning in an age of social good.

Dr John Izzo is the bestselling author of seven books including the international bestsellers Awakening Corporate Soul, Values Shift, The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, The Five Thieves of Happiness and Stepping Up.

John's passion in helping organizations… [Read more about Dr. John Izzo]

Jeff Vanderwielen is vice president of consulting at Izzo Associates and a former senior change consultant at Ernst & Young with 20-plus years of experience helping organizations manage large-scale change and articulate a compelling purpose — their core good — as the…
[Read more about Dr. Jeff Vanderwielen]

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