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Five ways to make brand execution more sustainable

Marketers must genuinely communicate their brand’s commitments and progress to avoid falling behind competitors.

Every day, brands are working to lessen their environmental impact, reduce carbon emissions and solve human-rights issues in their supply chains. In addition to the moral imperative to address these issues, brands need to keep consumers informed of the progress they’re making. Otherwise, they risk falling behind competitors who have louder, clearer sustainability messaging. 

So how can marketers genuinely communicate their brand’s commitments and progress?

The answer is to align brand strategy and brand execution across all consumer touchpoints.

Take point-of-sale and physical marketing materials as an example. They’re not only sales drivers; they’re critical to delivering the right messages about sustainability and brand identity. 

Your brand is tangible: Consumers touch and engage with branded items as well as watching or hearing brand messages. These messages can be undermined by the physical materials used, leading to a jarring consumer experience, the suspicion of greenwashing and the loss of brand equity.

Here’s how to ensure your marketing materials reinforce your messages and align with your brand’s strategy:

Step one: Quantify your brand’s starting point.

The first step is to take stock of your brand’s sustainability status. What actions are you presently taking? How sustainable are your existing marketing materials? Do your suppliers undertake social audits? If assessing your supply chain sounds like a daunting task, look to an industry partner such as Adm Group for help. At Adm Group, we can provide you with quantifiable data on your carbon emissions. Our Green Design Tool, developed in partnership with Anthesis, provides clients with data on a variety of key metrics: greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, recycled materials and the recyclability of marketing assets. With this baseline, Adm Group can then monitor your performance, identify high-emission hotspots, set goals and begin reducing your environmental impact.

Step two: Redesign marketing materials with sustainability in mind.

Ensure your brand’s physical marketing materials are sustainably created. The design stage is your best opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of the items you use to activate your brand. It’s critical to work with partners who have genuine product design capability, who are experienced with physical marketing materials, who understand manufacturing processes and who can manage complex routes to market. At Adm Group, our Eco Design Team has developed a clear set of sustainable design guidelines which are applied to all new designs, mitigating environmental impact before it occurs.

Step three: Drive behavioral change across your marketing team.

Start with being clear about the types of behaviors you’d like your marketers to display, then identify how you can encourage those behaviors. It’s also important to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your sustainability mission. Well-intentioned team members might not be focusing on sustainability because of misaligned priorities or conflicting goals. For instance: Are savings targets having an impact on sustainability? Is the volume or frequency of brand activations reducing the quality of each activation? Are your balanced scorecards truly balanced? An expert partner such as Adm Group will help you to make sense of these key questions and understand where the opportunity lies to improve. 

Step four: Make sustainability a performance incentive for your team.

If sustainability is an important part of your brand identity, it makes sense to reward members of your team for helping to improve it — as all businesses are accustomed to doing with incentives for commercial performance. Until you see performance around sustainability as a key reward metric, you run the risk of brand strategy and brand executions not aligning. At Adm Group, for instance, a proportion of all bonuses for our employees are linked to the Group’s performance on four key sustainability metrics.

Step five: Plan brand activations further in advance.

While global conditions can make this difficult, and marketers need to be agile in order to respond to consumer or business needs, better planning can enable more sustainable solutions. Often, more sustainable options have relatively low uptake, precisely because they aren’t the status quo — that could be to do with materials, packaging, route to market, end-of-life or human rights. This presents a great opportunity to get ahead of the market. However, to ensure a solution is commercially viable, operationally feasible and ready for your activation dates, you need enough time to design the best products, negotiate the best price and establish the best route to market. At Adm Group, we can help manage this whole ecosystem for you with sustainability at the forefront, providing supply-chain compliance that goes beyond auditing. Don’t let a lack of planning prevent you from implementing the best solution.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of considering John Elkington’s concept of a “triple bottom line”: people, planet and profit. Marketers must ensure they market sustainably as well as market sustainability. Only then will brand strategy and brand execution align, helping to improve brand equity and drive volumes at the point of sale. 

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