Update Day 1 - Sustainable Brands Conference 2013 San Diego – June 3rd, 2013
The first day of the conference was, as usual, a workshop day focusing on Consumer Insight. Tom LaForge, Global Director of Human & Cultural Insights at Coca-Cola began the day talking about the importance of studying the right things as well as studying things right. Tom appeared extremely well-read and knowledgeable. Among other things, he mentioned Jeremy Rifkin´s focus on "When I connect with you, I feel empathy for you" and suggested that you (the companies) must find a way to increase the level of empathy in society. Personally, I think that the prospects for this are good since technology nowadays allows people to connect with each other everyday.
A highlight was, as usual, Havas Media's study Meaningful Brands. As previous years, the study showed that a vast majority of major global brands could actually disappear without consumers caring. On average, 73% of brands today can be judged as meaningless. Amy du Pon from Havas Media argued that one of the main reasons for this is that that relationships are broken down between brands and people - brands have become too impersonal. Interesting to note is that consumers in Europe and the U.S. are more judgmental than in Latin America and Asia. Amy could not yet reveal the 2013 results but mentioned that among the top brands, more than half were technology companies. That's an indication of the fact that technology plays an increasingly important part in our lives today, this in turn means a higher commitment level – something that technology companies are able to take advantage of.
Raphael Bemporad at BBMG then went through the Re:thinking Consumption study. He explained that the basis of the problem today is the chicken or the egg situation – consumers often respond that they are willing to buy more sustainable products if these could be found on the shelves, and companies say that they would produce more sustainable products if consumers had requested them. Consumers today are also torn between environmentalism and materialism, wanting to do good things but also keen on consuming. According to BBMG, the solution may lie within the group called “Aspirationals”, a group trying to find the balance between sustainability and consumption, largely comparable to our Behavioral Group “Conscious” on the Scandinavian market.
The most interesting speaker of the day was probably Renée Lertzman from Royal Roads University. With a background in psychoanalysis, she presented some of the problems in the design of today's research. The problem is that we often ask questions assuming that people are self-aware and rational. This is rarely the case. Studies today often focus on how we can get consumers to act in a certain way while Renee argued that we instead should try focusing on the factors preventing people from acting in a certain way. We need to identify the consumers´ anxiety, aspiration and ambivalence.
Cone Communications then unveiled their Global CSR Study 2013 containing some interesting findings. For example, there is a big problem in that consumers find it hard to actually see the effects of things that companies do. The visual impact of your sustainability efforts is still weak. This is yet another example of the importance of simplifying your sustainable message. The study also showed that 94% of consumers claim that companies´ must do more than turn out a healthy bottom line. Cone´s presentation, however, brought back the focus to Renée´s discussion of how to design studies. Many of the questions were asked with the assumption that the consumer is really self-aware and rational.
Otherwise I spent the day helping Thomas Kolster getting ready to launch the Where Good Grows project.