Building Authentic Brand Credibility: It Takes a Community

The Clean Currents Energize Responsibly Campaign Reached New Consumers

The Clean Currents Energize Responsibly Campaign Reached New Consumers

Much has been written and said about the loss of trust in brands and institutions. Not surprisingly, when consumers are asked about how they make their buying decisions, far more say they rely on the opinion of people they know then a branded message/ad. If your brand is competing in a relevant category, chances are high there are many competitors there as well. Fortunately, getting through the white noise of the digital era, the holy grail of marketing, is simply a matter of building the right community for your brand, or as I call it, “Community Level Marketing” (CLM).

How do you do CLM? The first thing you have to do is identify your community. This may not be the consumers who buy your products. At Clean Currents, for example, we sold green energy, yet we identified people who love outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, etc. as the target community for our “Energize Responsibly” campaign. We enlisted our commercial customers, as well as local relevant organizations, in the campaign. So we tabled at Charm City Run, a Baltimore area chain that serves the running community and we partnered with a local parks organization. To find the right community, think of the places, ideas, hobbies or interests that unite a segment of your core consumer group. It could be their faith institutions, schools, neighborhoods, or just love of the outdoors that unites them.

Once you have your target community identified, the next step is to build a campaign. There are four components to a good CLM campaign:

  • Education
  • Credibility
  • Action
  • Reward

Before we get started, be sure you’re in the right frame of mind. As Polina Pinchevsky (@PolinaPeg) from socially-conscious marketing firm, RoundPeg Communications recently pointed out in a presentation on CLM, it’s not for the short-sighted or for those seeking immediate rewards for their brand. It requires a long-term commitment from all levels of your organization and the understanding that CLM is not just about selling a product or service. It’s about building a strong, credible, well-known brand whose messages will be trusted by the consumers it seeks. Ready to try it out? See Part 2 of this series as we delve into the four components of CLM.

Time to Focus on Food

Turns out we should be focusing more on clean eating than clean energy. That’s the finding of a new documentary based on stats about greenhouse gas emissions. “Cowspiracy” shows convincingly that our industrial food system, especially the part that involves livestock, does more harm to the planet than possibly anything else. As far as greenhouse gases go, this sector produces more of them than the entire transportation sector. Maybe when we spent so much time lobbying for CAFÉ standards in DC, we should have focused on café food sourcing standards. Hopefully it’s not too late to turn our focus to food.

Despite inaction in Washington, we’ve made amazing strides in growing clean energy across the nation. The solar industry is growing by leaps and bounds while energy efficiency is becoming mainstream. In DC, we even got an increase in CAFÉ (fuel economy) standards under President Obama. Meanwhile, we appear to be floundering as a nation when it comes to deciding what we do about food. By food I mean the broad category that includes farming, livestock, delivery, sourcing, nutrition, advertising, and government subsidies. Because of this disarray, we have an increase in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, the fish are disappearing, the Amazon is being chopped down, our water and air are being polluted, and yes, the ice caps are melting.

We need to elevate the dialogue on food policy just as we did for clean energy. There are so many amazing non-profits and food businesses that are already creating a buzz, as well as effecting real change. But to me, it seems that there is no unifying frame to convey the various food related messages – organic, local, plant-based, grass-fed, non-GMO, fair trade, etc. As authors Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier Schutter point out in their article, “How a National Food Policy Could Save Millions of American Lives,” the Federal government has a role to play in shaping the agenda. The business community, local and state governments, farmers and other stakeholders all have a large role to play. The first step is to start the conversation – there’s no time to waste.