The above phrase is difficult to say fast and repeat often, but it isn’t a tongue twister. It’s the question I ask myself when I see so much noise, so much investment, and yet so little strategy around sustainability.

I would love to know what share of voice sustainability messages have in current brand and corporate advertising. To know exactly what proportion of all brand messages being communicated nowadays are related to sustainability.

Even without knowing the amount precisely, I would venture to say that the current rhythm of and the pressure exerted on such messages simply aren’t sustainable (what a paradox).

What’s more, it should be possible to review the efficacy of such messages using data: to know their actual effects and what consequences they’re having, and see how these deviate from the planned objective (if there even is an objective). Certain reactions and effects may be surprising: disconnection, boredom, confusion, lack of credibility, lack of engagement, saturation… Perhaps I should look for information about the “share of noise”. Has anybody got it?

I’m going to say something that should be obvious: it’s not the same to communicate within one category than in another, it’s not the same to communicate as a brand than as a corporation, it’s not the same to communicate from and for one position than for another. Each of these concepts need very different strategies, tones, forms, resources. Not everything is valid.

I don’t think that all brands and companies have to position themselves in the same way as “responsible”, “environmentally friendly”, “committed” and “passionate”. It’s just not credible. But now it seems that anybody who makes an ad is, and always has been, the best of the best. Really? Not only is this boring, it creates a disconnect.

We should also remember that many of these brands and products are, both essentially and profoundly, superfluous and transactional. This is a truth and it has to be said.

Citizens, society, ethics and the planet all demand good corporate behavior (responsible, committed, real). But beware: consumers don’t always want these deep messages, and can be very critical about them. It’s a question of understanding this contradiction and knowing how to properly manage it.

A famous ad man is claimed to have once said: “if you don’t know what to say, sing it”. And that works (at least for a while). But I don’t believe that when it comes to sustainability, it’s that easy to sing. If sustainability really matters, there’s a formula that doesn’t fail: more hard facts and tangible commitments, and fewer empty promises. The UN has set out 17 objectives that make it possible for both brands and companies to draw up really interesting action plans (if it really matters).

  • By Gerardo Fuksman
    Founder & General Manager
  • April 30, 2021

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