The CMO and Sustainability Leadership

Branding Sustainability
CMO and Sustainability

Abstract: Can the CMO become a Sustainability Leader?

  • Edmund  Bradford says they are delighted to be joined by Stephen Mangham, a branding expert at Master of Scale international. Edmund says they will get down to more of the human level and talk about the person at the center of this, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
  • Stephen says the CMO must define the sustainability conversation in terms of the customer and the brand in terms of its inherent usefulness. Stephen says the CMO must have an organizing idea that inspires and guides the brand behavior and the brand action.
  • Edmund and Stephen discuss the key challenges they will face, including getting educated about the subject.
  • Stephen says consumers prefer products with a social purpose agenda, and that doing good is good for business. Edmund says the risk of doing nothing is more dangerous than the risk of doing something.
  • Stephen says brand growth depends on memorability and relevance.


Transcript How can the CMO become a sustainability leader?

[00:00:09 –> 00:01:51] EdmundI’m Edmund Bradford. I’m a director of the Good Growth Academy and in this series of short videos on marketing and sustainability, I’m delighted as ever, to be joined by Stephen Mangham, who’s a branding expert, much more of a brand expert than I will ever be, and also a Master at Masters of Scale International. Now, in the previous video, we’ve talked about sustainability and how it fits into the broad concept of good growth. We also talked about how it can be a real differentiator in the marketplace. But in this particular one, we’re going to get down to more of the human level and talk about the poor person at the center of this (from my perspective in many ways) which is the Chief Marketing Officer. So I think what’s interesting is that I’ve been in marketing for 25, 30 years or something, and I’m fairly new to sustainability in comparison. And I think what I found interesting is how very little in most companies, marketing seems to be involved in the whole sustainability conversation. They just don’t seem to be at the party. They’re sometimes at the end doing the brochures and the messaging about all the changes that the company is doing. But they seem to be like an add-on at the end rather than central to the whole journey. So, I’d be interested from your perspective, Stephen, how can a CMO, (a chief marketing officer), how can they get involved and how can they start driving and leading some of this change, if they can at all?
[00:01:51 –> 00:04:27] Stephen:  Good to be on-again, I think it does start with – if you like – with the Board, the C suite, they need to have defined the sustainability conversation in terms of the customer, and that’s when the CMO can help. So if their sustainability agenda is inherently customer focussed, customer-centric: “What is the purpose of our business, our brand, what is its usefulness?” That has to be a customer-facing conversation. If you start there, then the CMO has a chance of success and the CMO is engaged. What the CMO themselves have to do is, there’s a number of things, but perhaps the three most important things: First of all, I think it’s important that the CMO need to define the brand in terms of the brand’s usefulness or inherent usefulness. So they need to – as I mentioned in an earlier video -they need to put sustainability at the heart of the brand strategy. And to do that, they may need to look up various disruptive approaches where they look to re-frame the business they’re in or their role in it. So, for example, Tesla famously says, they’re not in the car business, they’re in the renewable energy business. They just happen to be…. cars are the particular way which they can make a contribution to that agenda. So number one is they need to re-frame the brand in terms of its inherent usefulness to consumers. What is its social purpose? Secondly, I think it’s important, then that there’s an organizing concept or organizing idea that inspires and guides the brand behavior and the brand action so that the integrated marketing communications is consistent with that. And then I guess the third thing is, is that they should have a plan. They should have a plan that says, “Okay, measurable objectives, and what’s our plan of action to get there?”. So I’d say that that’s what CMOs can do, from their perspective, to drive good growth.
[00:04:27 –> 00:04:59] EdmundAnd I think we just pick up maybe one or two of the key challenges that they’re going to face. For me, an obvious one is their understanding of the subject. We don’t expect the CMO’s to be sustainability experts. So what do you think could be the first steps that they take in just getting their heads around the subject, getting educated in this area? Any thoughts on that?
[00:05:07 –> 00:05:40] StephenWell, listen and learn. There’s a lot of expertise out there. There’s a lot of informed opinions. I recently read a book (I am not looking to plug it particularly) called Greener Marketing, which is a fantastic place to start in terms of helping someone reassess the role of marketing in promoting the sustainability agenda and creating that good growth.
[00:05:41 –> 00:07:05] EdmundExcellent. And if we’re doing book plugs, I think the one I really like is Rethinking Capitalism by Rebecca Henderson. It’s not about marketing, but it’s a very good business book. I completely agree, Stephen. I think what we should do as marketers – in a way – is just get educated a little bit about the subject and picking up a good book and getting better and looking for short courses and attending events. I’ll give a little plug for some of them: the Economist runs really good events. There are some really good speakers, like Unilever by the way that we mentioned, who talk at some of these events. So without much of an outlay and without committing yourself to a whole year of a Master’s on sustainability, you can actually get yourself up to speed with some of the key concepts. So there’s definitely an education challenge, I think, but they don’t need to become experts. They just need to know the basics. I would say. The other challenge, I suppose, Stephen, what about, let’s say some of the real challenges where you’ve got maybe a Board that isn’t that receptive to the green agenda. Any thoughts about how marketing or the Chief Marketing Officer (or the marketing official) can use the power of the customer?
[00:07:05 –> 00:07:57] Stephen: I think the answer lies in your question, the power of the customer. If I was a CMO, I’d be showing, as I said in an earlier video, there’s a wealth of evidence out there that consumers prefer products that have an articulated social purpose agenda. So there’s some very strong business arguments to be made to the Board to say, “We can grow our business, we can protect our business by pursuing this agenda.” So it’s not simply a nice to have or some form of do-gooding CSR exercise. It can be very hard-headed. Doing good is good for the business agenda.
[00:07:57 –> 00:08:24] EdmundYeah. Absolutely. I think it’s one thing I like about the examples of Rebecca Henderson talked about is that actually what we get to the point of doing is saying, actually, the risk of doing nothing is more dangerous than the risk of doing something. And the status quo, the “do nothing” option is no longer on the table. These changes are happening and we need to respond to them. 
[00:08:24 –> 00:08:43] Stephen: Absolutely. I mean, it’s an old saying: if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. And there are plenty of disruptors in business today who will eat your lunch if you take the soft approach and do nothing.
[00:08:43 –> 00:09:11] EdmundYeah. So, of course, that’s a whole area, isn’t it, of competitiveness? I mean, we talked about the power of the customer, but the other area the CMO should be very attuned with is the competitor activity, and there’s a danger in any industry I think that the organization that’s the least is left behind in the marketplace. And it suffers accordingly.
[00:09:11 –> 00:09:25] StephenI mean, brands grow or don’t on memorability and relevance. And if you’re not memorable because you’ve got nothing particularly strong to save, you’re not relevant. You’re going to wither on the vine.
[00:09:26 –> 00:09:48] EdmundThat’s excellent, Stephen. That’s all we have time for now but in the final little video in this series, we’re going to just pick up on this subject a little bit more and talk about the tricky issue of implementation. So thank you very again, Stephen, for your support on this and I look forward to our next video together.
[00:09:48 –> 00:09:48] StephenMy pleasure.

How can sustainability be a real differentiator for companies?

Good Growth Sustainability
Sustainable brand

In this video:

  • Edmund Bradford and Stephen Mangham discuss how “sustainability” and “good growth” can be real differentiators for customers and other stakeholders
  • Stephen explains that consumers are more attracted to brands who have a social purpose.  There is far more interest, awareness and expectations from consumers that companies are making a positive difference to the world, or at least mitigating any damage they may be causing.  “Sustainability” therefore, must be a strategic imperative.


The timings are shown to help you jump in to the video at the right point if needed.

[00:00:09 –> 00:01:10] EdmundHello, everyone. I’m Edmund Branford. I’m a Director of the Good Growth Academy, and I’m delighted to have Steven Mangham with us today, who’s a branding expert and a master at Masters of Scale International. Now, in the previous video, we talked a little bit about sustainability, good growth, and marketing, and just getting our heads around the concept a little bit. Whereas in this video, I think it’d be really nice to talk about how sustainability and good growth can be a real differentiator for customers and perhaps other stakeholders in the marketplace. So, Steven, thank you again for joining us. What are your thoughts on how sustainability can be not just a box-ticking exercise for suppliers when filling in tender documents, etcetera, but more of a real differentiator, either in B2B or B2C? 
[00:01:10 –> 00:02:22] StephenWell, it’s not new news that consumers are more attracted to brands with an attractive point of view on the world who are promoting a sense of usefulness. I remember when I worked on Coca-Cola Live Positively back in 2010 (so it was a long time ago now,) and there was a lot of day-after recall research evidence that said that the advertising that had the most impact in terms of memorability and persuasiveness were the ads that carried social purpose messages. And there’s a wealth of evidence out there in the last few years that – all other things being equal – consumers would prefer to buy a brand that has an attractive social purpose over one that doesn’t. There’s absolutely a strong consumer reward if you can communicate and articulate a strong set social purpose for your brand.
[00:02:22 –> 00:02:31] EdmundAnd do you see that both changing and getting stronger in B2C and B2B situations?
[00:02:36 –> 00:04:06] StephenBroadly, yes. Certainly from a B2C point of view, there’s far more interest, awareness and, frankly, expectations from consumers that they expect that companies and brands are doing something positive for the world or at least mitigating any damage they may be causing. And that’s getting stronger and stronger. And of course, with a social media-driven world, there are constant conversations all the time about how well brands perform in this way or not. So you can’t ignore this as a brand today. From a B2B point of view, I think, to be frank, every customer and every stakeholder now has an interest and an expectation when it comes to these matters. For example, if you look at the growth of ESG-driven investors, it’s a common question today in analyst meetings, “What’s your ESG strategy?” If you don’t have one, those investors may think twice about investing in you.
[00:04:07 –> 00:04:39] EdmundAnd there are very interesting stats now on ESG investment. I think it’s interesting, isn’t it, that a lot of this change is being driven both from the customer side, as you talked about, but also from the investor side and from the government side as well. And it’s almost like this perfect storm now of a force pushing companies towards more of an ESG compliant future, whether it be B2B, B2C or other situations.
[00:04:39 –> 00:04:42] StephenAbsolutely. Because of all of these stakeholders.
[00:04:45 –> 00:05:07] Stephen: They are both very aware of the wider expectations of the people they serve. And then as individuals themselves, there’s an awful lot of them are thinking it’s important that we do this anyway. So I think, as you say, it’s something of a perfect storm. You certainly can’t ignore that today.
[00:05:07 –> 00:05:57] EdmundI think from my perspective, maybe more than the B2B space than the B2C space. I think it used to be an old tick box exercise. I have one client I’ve been working with for over 15 years, and their client is Unilever. And so in the past, Unilever has kind of just said “Tell us what you are doing doing on sustainability” and fill in this space on the form.  You’ll get the tick in that bit and then it’s on to the other aspects of the service. But now you can’t do that anymore. It’s about “I want to know what you’re doing. What metrics are you going to be using for measuring the change? When is it all going to happen? I want concrete plans. And by the way, if I’m not happy about it, you’re not a supplier anymore.” So it’s much more of an order qualifier now than just a little bit of icing on the cake.
[00:05:57 –> 00:06:31] StephenAbsolutely. And also, as we said in the previous interview, it’s not about being looking at sustainability as a useful add-on, or it’s some additional measures that you’re taking. Is it at the heart of everything you’re doing? Is it a central part of your strategy? And I think that’s a major shift. And I think companies like Unilever, for example, I know, are expecting from their suppliers that they want to see that sustainability is a strategic imperative for their suppliers as well as for themselves.
[00:06:32 –> 00:06:49] EdmundThat’s excellent. And, of course, the heart of all this, we have this Chief Marketing Officer trying to get their head around it. Trying to make it all work. And in the next video, we’ll talk a bit more about the marketing function and the Chief Marketing Officer. Steven, again, thanks very much for your time.
[00:06:50 –> 00:06:50] StephenMy pleasure.
[00:06:50 –> 00:06:53] EdmundI look forward to our next short video in the series.
[00:06:53 –> 00:06:54] StephenThank you.

What is a Sustainable Brand?

Marketing Sustainability
Sustainable brand

An interview with Stephen Mangham

The marketing function is often seen as the greenwasher of sustainability. Some would say that the other functions do all the hard work of making real progress and the marketers simply share the stories!

Yet, marketing and sustainability actually have a strong connection.   In this interview, we explore the subject of sustainable brands with Stephen Mangham.


The timings are there to help you dive into the video at the right point if needed.

[00:00:05 –> 00:01:02] EdmundHello, everyone. I’m Edmund Bradford. I’m a Director of the Good Growth Academy and today we’re going to be talking about sustainability and marketing, which I think is a really interesting area.  I’m delighted to have with me Stephen Mangham, who is a branding expert and also a Master at Masters of Scale International. You and I, Steven, have chatted a little bit in the past about branding, sustainability and another concept that we’re kicking around called “good growth.” It’d be really interesting to get your thoughts on what we mean by Good Growth, a good growth brand, and how that is different to other brands that are out there. So any thoughts are very well received!
[00:01:02 –> 00:01:29] StephenOkay. Thanks. Well, the purpose of marketing has always been to produce growth. So in today’s world, I’d argue that the role of CMOs is to produce good growth, where sustainability is a strategic imperative at the core of their brand strategy.
[00:01:31 –> 00:01:40] Edmund: When we talk about good growth, do we mean sustainability? Is that something different to sustainability?
[00:01:40 –> 00:02:29] StephenWe do mean sustainability. But I’d say two things about it. First of all, that it is where sustainability is at the core of the brand strategy. It’s defining the brand in terms of its social purpose rather than being an add-on or an addendum or a part of the brand, it’s core to the brand. Arguably, it goes further than simple damage limitation or mitigation. It’s about the idea of being that good that you put in more than you take out.  When you define a brand in terms of its social purpose, ultimately it’s putting more into the ecosystem than it takes out.
[00:02:29 –> 00:03:02] Edmund: That reminds me of something that I saw a couple of weeks ago from Professor Steve Kempster, who’s a Professor at Lancaster University. He was telling me about the fact that we now talk about a regenerative company as being a higher goal. You’re thinking there about being “net good”. Is that a higher goal than just being sustainable? 
[00:03:02 –> 00:04:12] StephenYes, I think it is. Net-zero is a very laudable target, don’t get me wrong. But it’s about a different way of looking at your business as your brand. It’s about the idea that it isn’t looking at sustainability in terms of damage limitation or defining it in terms of mitigation or what steps can we take to mitigate the impact we have on our world. It’s looking at it in terms of what is the inherent usefulness of our brand or our business? Where is it actually a promoter of good things in some way? And it’s about looking in terms of the brand as saying, on balance, that it has a strong social purpose that is inherently useful to society in some way. It’s taking all the right steps in terms of its impact on our world, both in positive terms as well as negative terms. But at the end of the day, it’s actually about being net good.
[00:04:13 –> 00:04:24] Edmund:  Which companies would you put down as at least attempting to do this in a proper fashion?
[00:04:24 –> 00:05:00] StephenThere are so many companies that are doing that at the moment, and obviously, there are some companies that were created from scratch with a sense of social purpose. Who Gives a Crap, for example? But actually, there’s also a large number of the larger companies who are taking significant steps. So if you think of Unilever, for example, Alan Jope has famously gone on record as saying that if a brand in their stable of brands doesn’t have a social purpose that they can define, they’ll sell it.
[00:05:01 –> 00:05:04] EdmundYes, that’s right.
[00:05:05 –> 00:05:19] StephenThey’re taking major steps in terms of giving all of their brands a defined social purpose and measuring the impact and the success – or otherwise – of that purpose.
[00:05:20 –> 00:05:38] EdmundExcellent. And I think when we’re talking about a kind of good growth brand, it’s a brand that can be applied at a company level or could be applied at a product or service level. Do you see that? Or is it only a corporate level where this works?
[00:05:38 –> 00:06:52] StephenIt can work at a corporate level. Of course, it can. It must because you have to look at the way you do business as an organization. But I guess what we’re talking about here more specifically, is defining your brands in these terms. By doing that, you are looking at your brands. At the end of the day, you define your brand in terms of consumer appeal, and a brand lives or dies. Of course, in terms of how strongly it resonates with customers and how it persuades more consumers to buy it more often. So when you’re looking at sustainable brands as opposed to sustainable companies, you’re defining it in customer-facing terms. How is the brand inherently useful for its customers and defining it in terms of social purpose? How will a brand, as a result, be more relevant to consumers, drive talk-ability, even protect its price elasticity, for example? So with brands, we’re talking about a customer orientated centric conversation.
[00:06:53 –> 00:07:06] EdmundExcellent. And that, by the way, is a great teeing up for our next video, which is going to be all about differentiation. So many thanks, Steven. And I look forward to another conversation with you shortly.
[00:07:06 –> 00:07:08] StephenThank you very much. Great to talk to you. Ed.
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