How can you build a ‘good’ brand?

Sustainability is humanity’s biggest innovation challenge, and every company’s biggest business opportunity. But in what has become a green sea of sameness, how can you ensure your initiatives truly stand out from the crowd and deliver business value?

Luc Speisser, Chief Innovation Officer at LANDOR & FITCH

Today’s consumers relate to brands that do good for the planet and people. Climate change and plastic waste are the top environmental concerns, with well over a third of global consumers believing that manufacturers and brands are responsible for leading the way to a sustainable future[1]. People want more than pledges: they expect to see concrete actions from brands.

At the same time, regulators are clamping down on businesses across all industries, forcing organisations to respond to an increasingly complex set of environmental and social policy mechanisms. Governments, too, are driving greater sustainability at national levels, seen in UAE’s Vision 2021 and KSA’s Vision 2030 here in this region.

Yet, consumers will rarely pay more for greater sustainability. There is a huge value-action gap between what they demand and how they actually follow through with their wallets[2].

The result is that brands invest heavily in sustainability, but see limited returns. Many companies have jumped into sustainability as a way of complying, rather than seeking to actively differentiate their approach from competitors. Departments are tasked with executing measures to meet the standard quotas, with little enthusiasm or vision for the bigger picture.

Instead, we advocate for a different approach. Organisations should embrace sustainability as a chance to stand out from the crowd.

The opportunity is huge. Sustainable business model innovation could unlock economic opportunities worth $12 trillion[3], and sustainable brands often grow faster than the rest of a business[4]. It’s a space open for unprecedented innovation and profit.

Brands can, and should, do good while doing well.

The key is to approach sustainability through a brand-led lens. Certainly, we as marketers know brand drives differentiation, change, and ROI. Therefore, brand-led sustainable actions can contribute to creating brand preference and value through meaningful differentiation.

Building your brand to be good

Wherever you are on your sustainability journey, you can build your brand to be good.

Here are four areas to consider:

Transform: How can you future-proof a heritage brand? How can you pivot in new ways to embody your brand purpose? Embedding sustainability within your brand is key. We partnered with the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to create The Good Net; an award-winning sustainable project designed to remove discarded fishing nets from the world’s oceans, and turn them into volleyball nets for local communities.

Enhance: Is your portfolio optimised to meet consumer expectations? Creating new sustainable-native brands can help to infuse sustainability into your portfolio. We did this for Coty, creating WeDo: a new brand which considers sustainability with every touchpoint, from the formula of the products being cruelty-free, to the packaging being made from recyclable materials to the website being designed to run with less energy.

Accelerate: Does your brand truly epitomise your business model? If you have a sustainable business, you should build a brand to match. The financial fund To: has a unique mission to invest in sustainable businesses and wanted to ensure this resonated through their brand. Hence we developed their brand to only manifest through the companies that it is supporting, minimising its environmental impact.

Reverse: How can you boost the efficiency of your innovation and R&D functions through new lenses, new strategies? Spin your marketing model on its head. We created Less, a wine brand which can bring premium, organic wine to the masses through a new sustainable retail strategy.

Whichever of these opportunities you may want to explore, one thing remains essential: invest in sustainability in a way that offers differentiation. Find your focus through your brand purpose, and consider sustainability as an opportunity to innovate in exciting ways that drive both engagement and profit.

In a region synonymous with transformation and innovation, there is plenty of opportunities for brands to stand out – not just locally, but on the global stage too. Sustainability can be much more than a game of compliance: it can become a competitive advantage.

Embrace brand-led sustainability to grow your business by doing good. 

Catch up on The Marketing Society’s Brand Conversations on Sustainability here:


[1] Kantar Europanel, GfK: Who Cares, Who Does? 2020 Consumer Insights Report

[2] Kantar Europanel, GfK: Who Cares, Who Does? 2020 Consumer Insights Report

[3] WPP Sustainability Report, 2018

[4] Purpose 2020 Report, Kantar Consulting; Unilever Sustainable Living Report, 2018