15 July 2020

Why sustainability is the tip of the iceberg for challenger brands

Nick Ford-Young

The increasing availability of eco-friendly alternatives, coupled with broader human commitment to sustainability, has seen an influx of brands claiming and striving for, at the very least, carbon neutrality.

Whilst this is harder if you’re ‘turning the ship’ of a long established brand with entrenched supply chains and practices it is far easier and prevalent amongst new challenger brands, who commit to carbon neutrality from the outset with their eyes firmly fixed on driving change.

More than this, many are not stopping at carbon neutrality but positioning their businesses to also address the full, broad spectrum of wider sustainability issues from day one. These focus not just on planet, but people too (and of course profit).

We are seeing that for new brands coming to market, a strong sustainability policy is beginning to become a happy ‘given’.

So what implications will this have on the brand landscape?

With sales trends clearly and understandably showing that products proving themselves healthier for consumers and their homes are growing in demand, brands increasingly champion conscious consumerism to continue to stay relevant and mitigate facing scrutiny.

Sustainability was once a way for challenger brands to differentiate themselves to consumers (for a huge amount of established brands there is of course a long way to go), but with sustainability and challenger brands now coming hand in hand, they must already go a step further in demonstrating their innovation and creativity to stand out.

And, speaking as an agency rooted in fusing technology and creativity, this space is getting extremely exciting.

By harnessing innovation, brands such as Smol are transforming conventionally boring industries into something really quite cool. Eco-conscious consumers can now shop laundry detergent guilt-free with their laundry capsules arriving in revolutionary, plastic-free packaging that cuts out the corporate middle man, turns up at your door based on how many washes you do a month and niftily fits through your letterbox.

Meanwhile, the circular shopping platform Loop has reinvented the packaging of everyday essentials. Loop allows consumers to replenish their favourite products by receiving them in zero-waste packaging that is cleaned and refilled to be reused, again and again. If arriving within an exclusive Loop tote bag wasn’t already snazzy enough, Loop will pick up the same tote from your home for free once you’ve finished your products and go about their business to prepare the packages for reuse and refill – impressive!

The development of new technologies, trends and even laws can also elevate even long-established product offerings. For example, the growing use of CBD oils to manage anxiety and pain has been harnessed by companies such as Daye to revolutionise feminine care products: CBD infused tampons that soothe menstrual cramps, whilst also boasting all the sustainable benefits of using natural, toxin-free fibres unlike leading offerings.

With more and more challenger brands relishing the opportunity to differentiate themselves, the challenger landscape is becoming increasingly progressive in both product offering and creative messaging whilst being better for our futures.

Brands must to be able to adapt to lightning-quick market changes and capitalise on them immediately to find white space and cut through the noise.

The global pandemic perfectly illustrates market unpredictability, with consumer behaviour changing almost overnight. Retail challenger Trouva was, in many senses, ahead of the curve. By providing an online destination for consumers to reach a global network of brick and mortars, Trouva ignites creative curation in an otherwise wholly digital and dehumanised ecommerce space.

Being perfectly placed during the pandemic, the brand has seen a resurgence of business whilst being ethically underpinned.

Whilst some already progressive existing brands have thrived, new brands too have found a temporary gap in the market.

Lost Stock was swiftly formed in response to an inconceivable £2.4bn worth of clothing orders cancelled by Western fashion brands during the pandemic outbreak. By purchasing a £35 fashion box, Lost Stock united cancelled garments headed for landfill with new owners in the UK, whilst paying a fair price to factories and making a donation for food aid for a family in Bangladesh.

It is therefore evident that adaptable, reactive messaging is becoming an increasingly important mechanism to convey a brand’s unique offering to consumers. This means super-short-term strategy that can and must still fit with both the short and long term.

An agency approach that ensures agility and takes all comms disciplines into consideration is no longer a want, but a necessity.

Boldspace designed its pioneering approach fusing technology and creativity with ambitious challenger brands in mind, in order to equip ourselves with tools to effectively enhance the dynamism that these exciting brands require.

By using innovative technology, agencies can help brands decipher where creativity is best placed to make a real impact; technology can mitigate any associated marketplace complexities by guiding on where to act, whilst allowing creativity to run free. In this way, technology and creativity go hand-in-hand.

The most exciting brands of tomorrow will see sustainability as the tip of the iceberg, with innovation and creativity being the real points of difference.

How challenger brands continue to evolve will certainly be one to watch, and a space within which agile and dynamic agencies will be able to add indisputable value.