Why brand, design and sustainability are critical to delivering “thick value”

Forgive me for what is basically a re-hash of my previous post, but hey, ideas are always subject to iteration aren’t they?

I think I’ve finally managed to get the various strands to come together as a more coherent whole – aided to a large extent by re-reading the Arthur W. Page Society’s brilliant white paper on The Authentic Enterprise, and some interesting research from Havas Media that my learned pal, Indy Neogy, pointed me towards.

According to the latter’s Brand Sustainable Futures report, based on a survey of 33,000 consumers across four different continents, two-thirds of global brands are considered “irrelevant” by consumers. Those brands that are considered most meaningful are the ones building their relationships with consumers through sustainability.

So, here’s the “new and improved” elevator pitch. See if it floats your boat…

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Brand. Design. Sustainability. These aren’t words that tend to loom large in the average CEO’s lexicon, but they should. Given the values shift we are already seeing as a result of the global financial crisis, they are increasingly important lenses through which to view innovation, value creation, and business transformation.

Why? Because the consequences of thin value – of profit decoupled from the people and resources impacted by its generation – have been exposed like never before in our lifetime. In order to rebuild credibility, demonstrate relevance and achieve lasting and meaningful differentiation, the big challenge facing corporations today is how to deliver thicker value.

1. Thick value means uniting all stakeholders around a clear sense of purpose. The corporation that wants to achieve long-term success must, more than ever before, be grounded in a sure sense of what defines it – why it exists, what it stands for, and why it matters. And that must be seen to dictate consistent actions and behaviours. That’s strategic branding.

2. Thick value means connecting brand and business strategy to a higher social purpose – not taking “business as usual” for granted and merely minimising the unfortunate side effects, but rather seeking to maximise the primary effects of what you do. Simultaneously creating value for business and society by innovating to solve social problems is what true sustainability is all about, and (according to the likes of Rosabeth Moss Kanter) it’s the next great competitive advantage.

3. Thick value means being authentic – ensuring that strategic intent is implicit in the very products and services you provide, how you organise yourself, and how you conduct your daily business. In other words, it has to be baked into everything you do – by design.

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