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Responding to Cultural Tipping Points:
Co-Creating a Brand Culture for Good

Keynotes from day 2 of Brand-Led Culture Change shed light on collaborative behavior-change and stakeholder-engagement approaches that are changing the way brands are creating products, stories and strategies.

Solitaire Townsend

“Humanity does not change in a linear way; we change in an exponential way,” Futerra co-founder Solitaire Townsend told hundreds of eager changemakers on day 2 of Brand-Led Culture Change.

Townsend’s new book, The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future, sets out what it takes to join a new generation of entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders transforming business to create a more sustainable society. History has shown that culture change happens in stages, sometimes at the expense of ambitious goals. Currently, we are on track to bust through the 1.5°C target set by The Paris Agreement, bringing to light the reality of the culture we find ourselves in. Fortunately, major brands have the potential to shape the culture of today for a more hopeful tomorrow (which is exactly what we’re all here to discuss this week). Consumers want brands to help them lead a more sustainable lifestyle, with 98 percent believing that brands have a responsibility to contribute to changing the world. Townsend said that behavior change begets attitude change — the more we do, the more we will believe it.

When it comes to bringing behavior changes to light, we must first reflect on the mental models that guide our current actions. Making the shift from focusing on problems to creating the desire for solutions can unveil the potential benefits to be reaped by everyone.

How General Mills is creating a movement of good

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Mary Jane Melendez and Sam Monnie

In an onstage conversation with Sustainable Brands’ Samuel Monnie, Mary Jane Melendez — Chief Sustainability & Global Impact Officer at General Mills — expanded on this by sharing how sustainability informs the inner workings of the company. Melendez explained the importance of internal engagement about what sustainability means to the brand and how employees can do their part — citing as an example the company’s goal for all of its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2030 (they’re currently at 92 percent). When it comes to driving a better culture forward, Melendez stressed the importance of being intentional in how to engage with the many stakeholder groups out there.

The power of Responsible Marketing: How to reach for more & keep it real

Lola Bakare

Intentional stakeholder engagement is also vital when it comes to responsible marketing — which tells real stories and creates real opportunities. Lola Bakare, founder of impact-driven marketing-leadership consultancy be/co, highlighted that responsible marketing itself is multilayered — as it focuses on social and environmental issues. According to Bakare, 74 percent of consumers say it's important for brands to help audiences see beyond stereotypes. In the wake of social tensions and an uptick in natural disasters, multicultural marketing is now mainstream; Bakare stressed that reaching today’s conscious consumer audience must be rooted in authenticity and transparency.

Storytelling in the anthropocene

Etienne White

The morning plenaries continued with a discussion of the critical point we have entered in our history as a species. The anthropocene is the most recent period in Earth's history, when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet's climate and ecosystems. Our actions have led us here and how we respond can play a big difference in how it’s handled going forward. But unfortunately, marketing has not caught up: As storytelling has evolved to present our lived experiences across society, so too must it present the truth of our planet’s reality. According to climate scientists, holding the global temperature to 1.5°C is likely not possible moving forward. Approaching this phenomenon with a delayed reaction or willful ignorance will not do any good — but by facing the situation with acceptance, we can enable a radical re-wiring of how we approach our future.

Today, many claim to connect with visuals and emotion rather than hard facts. “We need less statistics and more storytelling,” said Etienne White, founder of Let’s Create Possible — a consultancy working at the nexus of sustainability and marketing. White suggested there needs to be a fundamental shift from a culture of harm to a culture of creating community.

“Talk is cheap; listening is expensive. The attention of listeners is scarce,” she said.

With effective listening, storytellers can speak to the future state to work towards. Future thinking unlocks creativity — which allows us to reflect and establish the steps needed to get to the future we all wish to have.

Uncovering Unilever's experimentation engine

Unilever's Uncovery incubator has yielded brands such as Mojo Wellbeing — personal-care products for women experiencing perimenopause | Image credit: The Uncovery

And what we want is a future that is inclusive and empowering. As Laura Fruitman, CMO of The UncoveryUnilever’s engine of experimentation and brand incubator for its beauty and wellbeing units — asserted: “We want to over-serve the underserved.” Building on the growing trend of brands actively collaborating with consumers to improve their products, Uncovery’s purpose is to develop meaningful beauty & wellness brands that positively impact people and the planet — driven by input from consumers, who help the company pinpoint voids in the marketplace.

By approaching change with curiosity, experimentation and a willingness to discover the process, brands can help create a culture of community with consumers — one in which we co-create the future we want to see.


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