How to build a responsible brand

How to build a responsible brand
Tim Elliott
Tim ElliottThe Spill Teem®

Posted: Wed 22nd Dec 2021

Climate reality leader Tim Elliott is a man who lives and breathes responsibility, sustainability and brand purpose.

In this blog, Tim explores the why, who, how and what of building a responsible brand.

Connect with Tim today and request a free discovery call.

Trying to do good

In my recent blog, I drove home the fact that, as business owners, we should be trying to do good in the world. But doing actual good means going further than intent – it means taking action.

But how? What action? It’s hard to know sometimes, isn’t it? It takes time and thought to work out how to build a responsible brand.

It’s a big, meaty challenge, and maybe even a daunting addition to all the challenges we face as founders and entrepreneurs, but the good news is that it’s very achievable. In fact, a responsible brand strategy is only four questions away:

  • Why?

  • Who?

  • How?

  • What?

Let’s investigate each one of those questions in turn.

Why do you exist beyond making money?

Some of you may call the answer to this question brand purpose, some may call it vision, some brand manifesto. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which. What matters is that you take the time to answer this – the first and most foundational question of responsible brand strategy.

This will be your compass, your true north. It will always guide you when you’re making the daily decisions any entrepreneurs face.

This isn’t about the mechanism of your business, the products, services or experiences you sell to make money. It tells your target audience what your brand believes in and what it’s going to do about it.

It’s what you stand for and the meaning people attach to you, your offer, and your brand. For example, you may want to help tackle poverty, racial injustice or climate change in your locality.

 Your answer to ‘why’ isn’t passive. It should be strong and at the heart of your brand. Think of the answer to this question as a magnet that will attract the right people, whether that be customers, employees or investors. And, importantly, it’ll repel those who don’t care about your ‘why’.

Who cares?

By this point in your business journey, you should know:

  • who wants to buy your product or service

  • who has a problem that your product or service holds the solution to

But this is not the answer to ‘who cares?’.

This requires an extra layer of strategic empathy. You need to truly understand what drives your chosen target audience – their activities, interests, opinions, hopes and fears. It’s not simply about demographics. What do I mean here? Take a look at this…

Prince Charles

  • Male

  • Born in 1948

  • Raised in the UK

  • Married twice

  • Lives in a castle

  • Wealthy and famous

Ozzy Osbourne

  • Male

  • Born in 1948

  • Raised in the UK

  • Married twice

  • Lives in a castle

  • Wealthy and famous

Here we have two men with exactly the same profile… on paper. But there’s a pretty high chance that they don’t have the same drive behind their choices of products and services!

So, when considering who cares why you exist (beyond making money), don’t be too general. Segment your audience until you find the people who’ll resonate with the good work you do – the people who care enough to want to join your journey.

Don’t forget to put your employer hat on to answer this question too, because you want people on your team who genuinely care and want to help fight for your ‘why’.

Our next question is ‘how?’.

How does your company show up in the world?

This is the lumpiest question, which leads to the lumpiest pieces of work when I help clients build responsible brands. It involves the experiential trio – brand experience, employee experience and customer experience. That’s the entire end-to-end journey of how, and why, you make your money.

It involves your ‘why’ and makes you think about ‘how’ you turn it into doing good for the world. It should raise topics such as ethics, trust, carbon footprint, diversity, inclusion, equity and equality.

I’m not affiliated in any way but I want to give a shout out to BCorp certification here – a brilliant framework to help you answer this question and make the changes in your processes to become a responsible brand.

Your answer to ‘how’ is multifaceted but can be brought together and communicated effectively in the form of the final question…‘what?’.

What promises do you make to the people you serve?

The beauty of ending with this question is that, no matter our background or experience, we all understand what the words ‘I promise’ mean… and what it means to break a promise.

The prior three questions are rounded up and packaged concisely and clearly into an overarching promise of what you want to be responsible for – what good you want your brand to do.

But fulfilling this promise entails a series of promises you make as a responsible brand. So, what promises do you make to:

  • your customers?

  • your employees?

  • your colleagues and associates?

  • your partners, suppliers, investors?

But it’s not a one-way street. You should be asking what promises all of these people make to you. After all, it’s only a combined team effort that will truly make you the responsible brand you want to be.

Once you’ve answered these four questions, you’ll have done some amazing work. You’ll be the driver behind a responsible and remarkable brand. But there’s no rest for the wicked, my fellow business owners. Your responsibility doesn’t stop here.

Now you need to think about how you communicate and connect your responsible brand with all those people who care. It’s time to marry up your responsible brand strategy with your marketing and communications strategy.

The power of storytelling is indisputable here: what stories can you tell that prove you’ve built a responsible brand that brings good to the world we live in?

And how can you tell your story to inspire others to learn from you and become more responsible themselves? Because if we all take this seriously, one thing is for sure – we’ll find ourselves changing the narrative and living in a much better world.

Next steps

Are you a small business owner looking for more advice on building a responsible brand? Connect with Tim now.

Tim Elliott
Tim ElliottThe Spill Teem®
Can the stories we tell change the world? Answering this question is what drives me.  I spend my days working with leaders & their teams helping them understand, design, and tell their brand stories about the good work they do so they can move forward and build brilliant, purpose-driven, responsible brands  I also regularly enjoy public speaking, delivering keynote talks at conferences and more focussed talks internally in organisations or communities groups as well as facilitating deeper strategic or discovery workshop-style sessions.  The topics I regually speak about are being a responsible business, brand, and commercial storytelling, effective communication, and purpose-driven brand strategy. I'm also passionate about helping solve the climate crisis and through my role as climate reality leader, I'm part of a global team created to deliver keynote talks to businesses, community groups, and organisations about how we can meet the climate challenge crisis. Outside of 'the day job' you'll more than likely find me having brilliant conversations with remarkable people through my podcast REMarkable! or more than likely I'll be out running around in the hills and trails of the UK's beautiful countryside. If you want to speak to me about speaking at an event, facilitating a workshop, or just to say hello please feel free to drop me a message. Thank you for visiting my profile, Tim

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