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Sustainability and the Big Idea: Delivering Integrity

Examining the consistency, authenticity and impact of brand communications.

Submitted by: Guy Champniss

Posted: May 31, 2012 – 09:28 AM EST

Series: Brand Valued

Tags: marketing, brand marketing, sustainability, csr, advertising


In the last blog post, and my recent webinar with GlobeScan (download the slides here) I argued that businesses that are serious about using their brands to leverage sustainability efforts, should avoid the ‘bolting on’ exercise of taking sustainability and CSR outputs and trying to force-fit them into the brand strategy. Instead, they will be better served focusing on uncovering the business’s Social Signature. 

The Social Signature is the core expression of how a business adds value not just to consumers, but non-consumers, employees and society as a whole. And we’re not talking solely about what we could call Immediate Value (which is more often than not a mixture of tangible, symbolic and personal), but Embedded Value also (which is social, collaborative and participational).

Re-surfacing your Social Signature is, we believe, good for your business, as it strengthens the firm’s integrity: structural, collaborative, participational and delivery integrity (see more on this here).

But it’s that last piece – delivery integrity – that I'd like to discuss in more depth today.

Delivery Integrity: The Authenticity of Your Brand

Delivery integrity describes the consistency, authenticity and impact of all brand communications.

Specifically, the Social Signature gives a brand the opportunity to develop what we call long-arc creative narratives: the opportunity to translate aspects of the Social Signature into various initiatives and campaigns that are underwritten by the central purpose of the business – ensuring buy-in, engagement and consistency, as well as removing the risk of inadvertent green- or social-wash.

At a recent marketing forum at the business school where I am carrying out research, I had the opportunity to hear Claire Spencer from itoi research, present the results from the latest IPA Effectiveness Study. She explained four types of campaign strategy:

  1. No Integration
  2. Advertising-led Integration
  3. Brand-led Orchestration, and
  4. Participation-led Orchestration

While Advertising-led Integration is still the most popular (the same message delivered across numerous channels), Brand-led Orchestration is the one deserving our attention. This describes a campaign that is anchored around one compelling idea, and then adapted for the various channels and vehicles used by the brand.

The good news is that these campaigns prove most effective for driving hard business metric results, with nearly 80 percent of all brands recording improvement as a result of the campaign. More specifically, Brand-led Orchestrations outperform all the other strategic choices, when it comes to customer acquisition, sales gain, profit gain, customer retention, as well as market share defence and gain.

In short, when it comes to hard metrics, these types of campaign win hands down.

Toyota Ideas for GoodBut there is a real risk as recognised by many of the companies featured in the IPA research: coming up with that big, central idea is not easy. There’s the risk the idea is not strong enough to run across so many channels for any period of time. There’s the risk that the idea is not salient to all of the audiences across touch points. And there’s the risk the idea is actually not a fair representation or expression of the brand.

Brand & Sustainability: The Central Idea

But all of these concerns can be eliminated when we focus on the Social Signature as the central, organising entity that gives rise to this big brand idea. By using the Social Signature as the impetus for a Brand-led Orchestration we can be far more confident that these risks are controlled.


Because working from the Social Signature ensures we are considering what value means for every constituent – leading to broad but salient engagement, we’re considering what has driven the business over many years (durability), and we’re considering something that is the core representation of the business (authenticity).

So then is the Social Signature a powerful route to properly embedding and leveraging the business’s motivations and aspirations for CSR and sustainability into the brand? Yes but more than that, it may well be the ideal platform upon which to build what is fast being recognised as the most effective brand-led campaign approach, the Brand-led Orchestration.

Goes to show that sustainability is in fact a vital piece of the brand conversation – and very possibly the most vital piece when it comes to engaging today’s brand constituents and delivering tangible results to the business.


More from Guy Champniss:

Brand Marketing & Sustainability: What's Your Social Signature?

Business, Brand & Your Social Signature©

Greening the Consumer Mind: A Complex Battle Between Values & Social Intuition

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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