Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sustainability and (Cause) Marketing in 2014

Good marketing is about good storytelling that inspires action and drives results. The best sustainability and cause oriented storytelling involves the the right blend of emotion and logic. Given how well sustainability and cause oriented appeals lend themselves to good storytelling, they should be a marketers best friend. Far from being inseparable, they have not always fit together as seamlessly as they should. In 2014 there has been some rapprochement between cause marketing and sustainability and this is reinforced by a review of the top cause marketing trends from 2014.

An October 2014 Sustainable Brands article by Dimitar Vlahov reviewed some ways in which marketing and sustainability came together in 2014. He pointed to "new, combined Sustainability-Marketing thinking," in the corporate world.

It is not just storytelling but skillful “storydoing,” that is important. The term "storydoing," was coined by Ty Montague, author of True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business. Storydoing encompasses a philosophy of action and involvement, rather than bland advertising messaging and artificial brand positioning.

At SB14 in London, Montague outlined 6 key attributes of Storydoing businesses:

1. Put the story at the centre of your business, with responsibility moving to the leadership team at CEO level, rather than leaving it with the Marketers.
2. Be on a Quest — be clear what your ambitions are and strive to achieve those targets, no matter what company size or sector you’re in.
3. Have an enemy — know what you’re up against and what you’re trying to overcome.
4. Create shared understanding and adoption across the organization — giving Zappos as an example, Montague described how radical new approaches in customer service had real impacts on the workforce.
5. Focus on a few iconic innovations — new ideas that flow from the brand quests can help redefine the company to the world. Share inspiration throughout the company by word of mouth.
6. Fuel external participation — invite people to get more involved, allow greater shared experiences and increase social participation.

Vlahov also reviewed a book called Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, authors Simon and Maria Moraes Robinson describe big picture brand communications. Such an approach incorporates thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. Brands should not just be about economic value, they should be complex or holonomic. This incorporates wider concerns and leverages a range of psychological triggers. A brand experience should evoke an odyssey that incorporates grand ideals like love and truth. He added that marketers should be using data and research studies to help direct their narrative.

Vlahov is an advocate of a circular economy, stating the "business case for it is loud and clear." He also sees value in targeted employee engagement, a purpose-aligned set of corporate values and highlighting, “heroes of innovation.”

Last but certainly not least, Vlahov speaks to the "mighty force of building movements for behavior change at scale."

To help frame the discussion of sustainability and marketing, a Forbes article summarized the top five cause marketing trends in 2014. They are:

1. Strategic alliances
2. Engaging tough issues
3. Gaming for good
4. Real people, real issues real stories
5. Give Back, Get Back (Although not a new trend, providing incentives to consumers for participating in a cause campaign).

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