By Chris Sherwin. Dragon Rouge
July 20, 2011—How will sustainability affect brand managers commissioned with building brands on a day-to-day basis in the future? Chris Sherwin, lead sustainability consultant at global brand marketing consultancy Dragon Rouge, maps future job requirements for brand leaders.
Work in the sustainability field and you’ll already see the trend, among B2C and FMCG companies especially, of moving sustainability from corporate down into brands. Why? Because doing so is a way for companies to leverage sustainability to tackle new business opportunities, making sustainability more market-facing, more commercially relevant rather than just a risk reduction or effeciency tactic. In essence, today’s brand leaders are taking sustainability to their customers and consumers though their brands.
As sustainability becomes mainstream in this way, the role of the traditional brand guardian will evolve too.
So what will the job of the brand manager look like in the future and what factors, issues and competences will it contain? Here are 10 things you may find in every marketers’ job description in the future:
1.Must be able to have a relevant and meaningful conversation with their sustainability or CSR manager – which both understand
2.Must be familiar with concepts like lifecycle analysis, carbon or water footprinting, or eco-impact assessment
3.Will seek insights from stakeholders – NGO’s, opinion formers, thought leaders – as well as consumers or customers
4.Will have read – and can reference – their companies Sustainability or CSR report. Will know and can quote – their corporate sustainability targets
5.Will follow trends from sources like Sustainable Life Media, treehugger, Business for Social Responsibility, Ethical Corporation, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Green Futures, and Guardian Sustainable Business Network
6.Will know how to track consumer views on sustainability through appropriate market research and consumer insight
7.Can measure the environmental and societal value, as well as the brand equity value, of their recent campaign, innovation or activation
8.Will take the lead on ensuring that sustainability is a core consideration in any new product or innovation programme within the business
9.Will know how to engage peers and especially brand and marketing teams in the importance and relevance of sustainability in everyday brand management
10.Will be prepared and able to build the business case on sustainability for any cynical or unenlightened senior manager or marketing director. Remember it’s about opportunity and reward. Not risk mitigation.
Lest you think this is a view toward ‘sometime in the future’, be aware that Unilever already has a sustainability manager embedded inside all its categories while pioneers like Ben & Jerry’s have a specialist Social Mission manager. While these are still separate, specific sustainability roles we believe they will and should become integrated and become simply part of normal marketing practice. Encouragingly, in our work we are seeing a new generation of young brand managers coming through for whom sustainability is simply part of their values, interests and behaviours. What companies must do now is harness, nurture and channel this interest, rather than beat it out of their yound leaders, or risk loosing top talent to more enlightened competitors.
For brand managers themselves, the need is to carve out regular time for getting clued-up on sustainability. I expect a wave of young marketers to start attending the many great sustainable business courses there are out there, to compliment their traditional branding skills. The brand manager of the future will focus on building great, profitable and sustainable brands.
This article is an extended version of one first appearing in DragonFly: sustainability edition, Dragon Rouge’s in-house magazine.