Building a Sustainable Brand with Emotional Impact
Leveraging the power of emotion to elevate sustainable branding
Once, “environmentally conscious” could be tossed off as a corporate buzzword. And companies could claim that the cost of sustainability was just too high. But, driven by technological advancement, the price of sustainable technologies and practices has plummeted, and the potential for savings is impressive. A 2018 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that “transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable growth path could deliver a direct economic gain of $26 trillion through to 2030 compared to business-as-usual practices.” And even with the upfront investment costs, smarter urban development would be able to generate $17 trillion in economic savings by 2050. In short, market competitiveness and environmental sustainability are no longer at odds with each another.
The question asked by business leaders and government officials used to be, “How much will it cost?” Now, it’s “What’s my ROI?”
Improved economics are driving sustainability efforts, and stakeholders worldwide — citizens, investors, regulators, employees, and customers — are holding corporations, cities, and organizations accountable. What was once a “nice-to-have” has become an organizational imperative.
However, the road to sustainability is riddled with complexity. Where do businesses start? How do they justify short-term investment costs? And how do they develop a robust, long-term strategy to ensure success?
ENGIE, a multinational utility company with roots going back to the construction of the Suez Canal, set out to launch a new practice group positioned to lead sustainability transformation for businesses and municipalities. This new sustainability-focused brand would be a merger of strategic assets across the ENGIE portfolio, including Tractebel’s advisory and analytics division and ENGIE Insight — the sustainability management and implementation arm of ENGIE.
ENGIE came to us at a significant moment of inflection, and, with limited time until launch, we set out to build an emotionally powerful brand, one that could cut across organizational and geographic boundaries to unify and rally diverse stakeholders. And with a well-established competitive set — the company’s peers are some of the largest consulting companies in the world — we knew the brand needed to stand out with a meaningful and compelling message.
Uniting people’s passions
As with any merger, a successful outcome is often dependent on the input and buy-in of employees across the legacy organizations. As such, it was critical that employees had a voice in the process — so we put them at the center of our thinking right from the start. Much of our discovery phase focused on bringing people together to uncover internal perspectives and build consensus.
Gathering employees from across the globe, we hosted an intensive, all-day workshop that was dedicated to identifying the distinctive strengths and unifying elements of the two groups. Through interactive exercises and dynamic discussion, it became clear that a fervent commitment to sustainability was a value shared by everyone in the new organization. This passion and dedication would ultimately help define the brand.
A differentiated brand purpose
The enthusiasm we observed in the workshop became a potential differentiator when we looked at the company’s competitive set. With so many others messaging around practical business benefits, like productivity or cost savings, ENGIE’S passionate dedication to better environmental practices — “When it comes to sustainability, we unapologetically believe that businesses and cites need to evolve” — was unique. Through in-depth interviews with leadership, we dug further into the company’s core mission and vision, helping to tease out a compelling and distinct brand purpose: to accelerate the sustainability revolution.
A name with impact
Moving toward the emotional and focusing on the “why” enabled the organization to think bigger and rally employees and clients around a clear brand purpose. With such a powerful mission, the organization needed a name that conveyed this resolve and force. Through creative brainstorming activities and global linguistics testing, we landed on ENGIE Impact, an evocative name that suggests transformation and tangible results.
Getting to the heart of it
ENGIE Impact was poised to embrace a disruptive brand message. In a marketplace full of cold facts and figures, we worked with the client to get to the heart of the issue — that their cause is too important to be brushed aside or put on the back burner. The future can’t wait. With this sense of urgency, we developed the essence line: “Right Now. For Tomorrow.”
An evocative identity
Building on the brand strategy, we designed a launch page, leveraging bold imagery and an engaging graphic treatment to enable ENGIE Impact to tell its new story in a more emotive fashion. Vast scenic landscapes represent the sweeping work the company does to protect generations to come, and the iconography and graphic styles reflect the brand’s drive to transform the future.
B2B buying decisions are heavily researched, but they will never be entirely rational — emotions play a significant role in the decision-making process. And unlike consumer purchases, which are often low-stakes, B2B decisions carry much more risk. Because of this, creating an emotional connection is all the more powerful. Working with ENGIE, we leveraged the power of emotion to help the company stand out and connect with its audiences right from the start.
About the author Madeleine is a Strategy Director at DeSantis Breindel. As a strategist, she helps brands become the best versions of themselves. In her spare time, she enjoys pizza, team sports, and learning new vocabulary words.
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