Astghik Zakharyan, the founder and CEO of Kendani.com marketplace, shares her advice after analyzing “EVERY” sustainable brand in Spain. Her startup currently works with more than 100 sustainable Spanish brands.
What makes a sustainable brand more successful? What makes the business good? Is Impact everything? Since we represent thousands of products on the platform, we also get to see what people click on, and what they look for in a brand.
Nowadays, regardless of real intentions, every brand is trying to have a connection to sustainability. A lot of times, they use marketing and the power of storytelling to appear more impactful than they really are. But we won’t be talking about them today.
Today we dedicate our time on sharing knowledge for brands which have positive environmental or social impact as their main indicator for success.
When an entrepreneur is starting a business, there are always limited resources available. Limited money, limited time, limited manpower. So focusing on the key indicators that lead your business to success is very important.
Often, when running and building an environmentally and socially responsible business, a dilemma comes up between investing in sustainable practices and investing in marketing and design.
My team at kendani.com – the marketplace for sustainable brands and products – has analyzed and connected with around 1000 Spanish sustainable consumer brands. Our mission is to create visibility for sustainable brands and to enhance conscious consumption. With that in mind, our team has been working with both small and medium, as well as big sustainable consumer-goods brands.
There are very simple points which determine if a brand is going to stay small or it will grow and be successful. Note that here, when we talk about success, we are referring to financial success. Even for brands that have high social and environmental impact as their core values – the one thing that ultimately defines the positive impact created is the business’s ability to sustain itself financially.
1. The design and the “feel”
Spanish consumers hold design and aesthetics at a very high regard (sometimes even too high). We see this reality also at our platform, as we get to see exactly what people click on, and what they end up buying. It is a pity, but even conscious consumers almost always prefer a product that has an appealing design, well-designed packaging and good brand visual presentation.
I (Astghik) believe the same applies also to most non-Spanish consumers. Typically immediate personal needs have higher priority than issues of sustainability or caring about the wellbeing of others. This means that many times it is the wealthier people that have the capacity – the luxury – to think and act in line with sustainable values. It is important to realise this aspect, and to understand that wealthier people will not be satisfied with average design or quality. They simply have higher demands, for the values a product or brand represents, as well as for aesthetics and convenience.
To conclude: the majority of conscious consumers also have higher aesthetic demands, so product presentation and visual (digital) design are aspects that help make or break a brand.
2. The Brand
There is not much you can do about this, when you are just getting started. The only way to make a difference with your brand in the beginning, is to present and represent yourself as a more established one, rather than a very new one. We look at it with pain, but this is the reality. When there are two identical products listed on the platform, the customer usually shows more interest towards the products of a bigger brand or the brand they are familiar with.
To solve this, when you are building your brand, make sure you establish the important cornerstones correctly. Decide on a few key messages, set visual designs, and the purpose of your brand. Always communicate the same message, because through repetition your brand will eventually be remembered by your target audience, and next time they will take a deeper interest in your products too.
3. Communicating your sustainability values.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming because you understand your impact others understand it too.
Moreover, nowadays many non-sustainable brands try to make themselves look better by claiming to be all-natural, green, or eco-friendly. They might colour their brands and logos green, add a non-existing certificate-like logo, use marketing messages that make them seem more responsible than they really are, or use other means for greenwashing their brand.
This has caused many consumers to be very critical when they see claims like that. So unless you explain why your product is all-natural, or what all-natural means for your brand, you are risking to be judged and potentially your impact claim being dismissed by your audience.
Your impact statement needs to be as clear and simple as possible. For instance: 1 of my products = 3 plastic bottles. Sure, find creative ways to express your impact but keep it very simple.
Ok, here I feel you. If you are not a professional brand designer or don’t have the pre-knowledge of how to build coherency, you may understand this point but not know how exactly to implement it. When we say coherency we mean your words need to match your pictures,your pictures need to match your impact, your impact needs to match the feeling you want to create, and they all need to be in harmony, but even more – remind people of one another. Meaning, if they see your text they should imagine or recognize your brand pictures and so on. Simply put, everything your business communicates, needs to match.
If you don’t know how to carry this out, ask for feedback from friends, that will help. If you have a few hundred euros saved, your brand design and creation, including implementing coherency may be the palace you invest in, by hiring a professional.
5. Show up and promote
This may sound obvious, but people want to know who they buy from. With the majority of the sustainable brands we work with, the founder/s remain invisible and hidden behind their brand. Well, I know who they are, but neither our nor their customers know them.
People buy the face behind the logo, the stories behind the brand, and they want to support people who are creating a better world. But only once they get to know them. Most people are willing to help anyone, but only if they know them. This is true especially in Spain. So if you are making a product video, appear there. If it is a product picture, show your face. They will eventually get familiar with it, and what follows is – they will love it, subconsciously.
6. Collaborate with anyone relevant
I also see a lot of brands closing themselves down to only work with retailers, being afraid to do unconventional things, or limiting their options in other ways. There are great marketplaces out there, that want to give your brand visibility and help you grow. Reach out to them and ask if they can feature or represent you, or let you list the products on their website. Kendani.com is a great example, where it takes only signing up and qualifying for the positive impact you are making. And voila! You have an active promoter that promotes you more than you do alone.
7. If you have a chance, focus on products that have high use, on daily basis
One good example of this are toothbrushes. 10 years ago no-one was talking about toothbrushes. They were this oral hygiene product that you used twice a day and it wouldn’t come to mind any other time than when you were in the bathroom starting or finishing your day. Nowadays, they are one of the most trending sustainable products. It’s sad but happy at the same time. By switching to a bamboo toothbrush, we don’t save the world, but it is still a step that many people know they can take to avoid the next piece of plastic entering their home.
We interact with hundreds of brands and customers and these points keep coming back as a foundation for any brand’s success.
While there are many more steps and challenges in building a brand, these seven points sit on the brand’s foundation and determine where the brand is headed to.