How to Tell a Sustainable Brand Story Your Customers will Listen To

20141104_160002
In a workshop on Monday morning, day one of SB ’14 LondonFuterra’s Head of Brand Strategy, Daianna Karaian, and Marketing Manager Stuart Duncan shared several guidelines on customer engagement and suggested a 4-step strategy to effectively enhance customer–brand relationships. Starting point: Companies need to involve their customers while communicating their brand promise in order to get their attention and consideration for future purchases.

  • The first step toward an effective engagement relationship (which may sound basic but which some companies still don’t seem to take) is to understand your customers. Karaian emphasized the fact that consumers are normal people with names, hobbies, preferences and needs. Only by focusing on who they really are and what they really want will companies successfully engage them.
  • The second step is to recognize what are those benefits customers would get from brands.Products could provide functional benefits (they are good products), emotional benefits (they make customer feel happy, satisfied, etc) and social benefits (they make consumers feel part of a community, etc).
    Too often companies are centred on the functional benefits, leaving the rest aside. Showing the social and emotional gains represents a way to better connect with stakeholders. Consumers will then feel 100 percent engaged and open to listen to the corporate messages.
  • The third step regards sustainability and materiality. Companies should be able to answer to the following question: What are the most important sustainable issues for customers?Companies often perform materiality analyses in order to understand which topics have an impact on stakeholders and society at large. Raw material, the supply chain, the employees, the operation or distribution, responsible marketing, the environmental impact, product end of life — all potential material topics that organizations should identify by engaging internally across the business and externally with stakeholders.
    Being able to recognize the most important consumers sustainable issues represents the most effective way to prepare and to deliver a sustainable story customers will listen to.
  • The fourth step concerns the creation of a “sustainability value proposition.” Organizations need to offer more in order to meet customers’ expectations. Brands should in fact deliver a whole new benefit that includes the existing benefits (functional) and creating shared value. Only by offering products that are relevant to consumers will companies connect with them.

After the mid-morning break, Karaian and Duncan presented the storytelling method and the use of a good narrative to encourage consumer loyalty.

According to the speakers, a good story:

  • is not a corporate PowerPoint — an effective narrative talks about people, customers, suppliers, partners
  • inspires an emotional reaction in an audience
  • always has a plot — a beginning, a middle and an end;
  • poses a big question to be resolved.

Storytelling helps to foster a brand’s message and engages the audience in a personification process with the hero of the story.

The moral: A good story and a proper brand value proposition are key ingredients for a successful engagement approach.

Here our Founders’ article in Sustainable Brands blog.