BfG News Issue 17 - Editor's Column: The time to innovate is now

17 Dec 2008|Added Value

AV_PolaroidImages_kristyThe question of whether to provide a sustainable option is becoming no longer a choice for businesses and brands. Consumers expect it and their purchasing behaviours are shifting as a result. Mindsets which were once the preserve of the ‘green progressives’ are quickly being adopted by the mainstream consumer; for example – the pressure to recycle has driven 63% of consumers to put wasteful packaging at the top of their list of sustainable issues that would impact on their purchase decision (Added Value ‘Branding For Good’ Research November 2007).

This renewed awareness and ardent involvement by consumers engaging in sustainability is fuelling an expectation for brands and businesses to deliver solutions which address the issues and so minimise trade-offs. It’s true that with the focus firmly on the economic downturn, consumers are primarily concerned with managing their money to make every penny go that little bit further. But it’s also true that sustainable solutions go hand in hand with this more frugal mindset; a prime example of this being the save money by saving energy promotional activities we’ve seen recently.

So, how should brands deliver against these consumer expectations? Sustainability poises a huge, but exciting challenge to tackle head on. Interestingly such tough demands often produce the best results as businesses pull together to meet the challenge.  Creative thinking is stretched to its limits, pushing technological possibilities, and forcing cross-functional expertise to collaborate on identifying the problems and coming up with “the answer”. A robust recipe for true innovation in uncharted territory. Brand innovation at its best has always been about satisfying consumer needs and changing consumer behaviour – and this is absolutely the task for sustainable innovation.

Understanding how far your brand can stretch to address sustainability is key. Challenger brands have the perfect platform to develop disruptive innovation to create a real step change in the category. Considering the whole brand experience presents new opportunities by dialling up or incorporating a service element to the brand offering that includes sustainable options. For example Fiat’s eco-drive widget assesses driving efficiency, offering tutorials on eco-friendly and fuel efficient driving.  Similarly, in a time when we’re all being encouraged to use & consume less, brands should consider multi-functional product solutions. Such as the new breed of printers that double up as scanners and fax machines. Or the more simplistic approach of re-using the packaging for another purpose i.e. a chocolate spread jar re-used as a drinking glass.

Great innovation relies on having a clear vision of what your brand stands for and what you are setting out to achieve. There is a danger that the best intentions could be interpreted as “greenwash”: if the communication lacks credibility by not being true to the brand; or tangible in the claims about the sustainable benefits on offer. It is important to frame the innovation brief in the context of the brand’s intent within sustainability. For instance, how overt is the brands’ dialogue with consumers going to be about sustainability? How inter-twined is sustainability with the brand’s equity both today and in the future? Our sustainable brand models help to frame this thinking.

Consumers don’t expect innovation to be the ‘magic solution’, but they do expect it to go beyond the superficial with easy steps to deliver tangible and relevant change; essentially the enduring truth for any innovation strategy.

Kristy Richards
Project Director
Added Value UK

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