Branding and sustainability
A combination gaining traction in Brazil
When looking closely at the behavior of the Brazilian population, we can note characteristics that clearly show this is a “high context” culture, in which most messages have a strong and complex meta-language behind them.
High context cultures use non-verbal and subtle clues in their communication, and understand messages by means of symbols and visual imagery, rather than just via text and rational ideas. Furthermore, these cultures have a “filter” through which a message will pass before a person forms their final opinion. The opinions of other people and the influence a brand may have will have a stronger weight within these cultures. This is why global trends and influencers are essential elements in the construction of brands in Brazil.
When observing the global consumer landscape we notice a similar growing movement. According to the Trendwatching 2020 report, the most salient tendencies in consumer behavior include “Green Pressure”; consumers will demand “eco-status” from brands, and will go as far as “eco-shaming” brands that do not adjust.
Nordic countries are recognized as some of the most sustainable in the world, and have sustainability as an intrinsic cultural factor; this is reflected by brands within these markets. In developing countries such as Brazil, the link between sustainability and branding is only just starting to gain traction.
Even though Brazil has so far only walked baby steps in combining branding and sustainability, there are already some strong cases of Brazilian brands built with sustainability at their core, and they have exported this value outside of Brazil.
Another demonstration of how relevant the concept of branding and sustainability has become is the arrival of brands that are full of purpose and that preach transparency.
Independent brands have the greatest ability to create real disruption in the market by means of more sustainable business models and a less aggressive sales agenda.
Consider Milk, a clothing company that positions itself as a “One Product Brand”. Its claim is that it produces the best t-shirt in the world, using sustainable production and employment methods. They promote messages such as:
- Do I really need this?
- Don’t fill your emptiness with “things”.
- Things cost what they need to cost in order to not promote a toxic market.
During Black Friday 2019, Milk published an open letter on social media stating that they were not running a promotion and would not be selling from their website that day. Rather than just talking about their values, Milk put them at the forefront of their sales strategy, and consequently reinforced their brand positioning.
Lead the way
Governmental agendas do not always respond quickly or with the right solutions to problems that are generated by industry, and that means consumers need to be the supervisors of the companies whose brands they engage with.
To Brazilians, reputation is much more than just another factor when choosing between brands; it is usually the deciding factor. The digital universe is not only a tool for brands to say what they are doing for the world; it also serves as a tool for people to research and expose brand behavior.
We believe that consciousness is a one-way ticket. Brazilian consumers who are now beginning to prefer brands that do the “right” thing, and to demand sustainability, are already encouraging brands and regulatory authorities to work harder towards achieving a sustainable market.
If a brand is the set of impressions that people have about products, services, or companies; and if sustainability is a new way of thinking and doing business with more ethics, transparency, responsibility, diversity, respect for others and the environment; a brand with a sustainability concept is one that can be perceived by its stakeholders not just based on the product or service it delivers, but also by the beliefs, principles and attitudes that define its character.
Executives in Brazil will have to think about how to create, manage and establish brands with a sustainable purpose, and offer authenticity and transparency. And this must extend from the business model through to raw materials, production, communication, smart partnerships, experience, and interaction with consumers and opinion leaders.