News Exchange: Big brands making big changes
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News Exchange: Big brands making big changes

A weekly update on the latest headlines and highlights from the marketing sector

BBC tries to spark a revolution

The BBC has announced a bold plan to change the way we consume fashion and make the industry more sustainable. As well as a social media campaign, the broadcaster is launching its own fashion line. The timing has turned a few heads, but it’s the scale of the task ahead that’s caught our eye.

Right now, the BBC has reputational and financial issues of its own: just recently, it has been grappling with a gender pay gap and the threat of having to fund free TV licences for over-75s itself, rather than relying on taxpayers. In this context, the Guardian’s description of the BBC Planet capsule collection as an attempt to “capitalise on viewers inspired by the shows” is perhaps deliberately ambiguous.

Whether or not the motive is profit, its publicly stated aim is ambitious. “The BBC is seeking to partner with trailblazers who are providing solutions to how we consume so that we as individuals can become a part of the solution and work towards a sustainable future,” said a spokesperson.

“The fashion industry has a massive sustainability problem,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler, “and it’s not widely recognised by consumers.” With its #SustainableMe social media campaign, the BBC is trying to close that gap between industrial reality (the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters) and customer awareness (does anyone really know what a sustainably produced piece of clothing looks like?).

“Not many people even make the link between fashion and the environment,” says Butler. “This feels like the start of a conversation that should’ve happened years ago – and might now have years and years still to run. It’s a very big job for one organisation to take on.”

The BBC might just be the right organisation for the job. Its own figures suggest Planet Earth, Blue Planet and their sequels – which drastically raised awareness of plastic pollution – have been watched by more than 1 billion people, so it clearly has an audience.

Backing up its social media effort, the BBC has initially partnered with Mother of Pearl, an east London luxury womenswear brand that shares the goal of making sustainable fashion “the norm, not the exception”. The pair’s debut collection was shown at London Fashion Week. Targeting what Butler calls consumers’ “wilful ignorance”, a series of live events and education programmes about making better consumption choices are also planned. This too appears to make sense – everyone knows, of course, that consumer behaviour is key to changing supplier behaviour.

But what if consumer behaviour isn’t changing all that much? A recent survey for Marketing Week showed that more than 90% of consumers are ‘glad’ that brands now offer ‘naked’ products (i.e. without unnecessary plastic packaging) but 60% will only buy them if they’re just as easy and cheap to buy as unsustainable alternatives. In this case, raising awareness is probably not enough. “Consumers not putting their money where their mouths are is why the majority of fashion brands perhaps only offer a single eco-line to show that they care, and few are really ready to embed sustainability into everything they do,” Butler continues.

Perhaps, then, the BBC’s purported profit motive is actually a good thing. If consumers aren’t going to budge much, then it’s the suppliers that will need to change for the BBC to deliver on its aim. However, in the same way that consumers are reluctant to change if sustainability comes with any sort of personal cost, suppliers are of course reluctant to change when that change can be expensive and involve new costs. “But there’s no better way to change a business than by showing it an alternative route to profit,” reckons Butler.

This, then, is probably what the success of the BBC’s campaign will turn on. As Butler says, “If the BBC and its partners can turn a profit on a sustainable fashion line, while showing consumers why this is such an important issue, what excuse will there be for the fashion specialists not to follow suit?”

Pernod Ricard toasts a bright future

The world’s second-biggest distiller posted a 5% jump in sales last week. Now it’s looking to maintain that improvement with a canny bit of employer marketing.

Pernod Ricard, owner of brands including Jameson whiskey, Beefeater gin and Absolut vodka, refreshed its C-suite a while back and the new management team is starting to deliver. Emphasising collaboration and quick decision-making, bosses launched a three-year ‘Transform & Accelerate’ plan that has already sparked an upturn in sales.

For CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone, the interesting point here is that particular emphasis on collaboration and decision-making. “They offer clear operational benefits, but they also speak to a company with an attractive, modern corporate culture.” At a time when vast multinationals can often still be found working in old-fashioned, regimented siloes, “Pernod Ricard is now saying, ‘Look, we’re agile. We’re cross-functional.’ At the same time as it’s boosting its appeal to new types of consumer, it’s also trying to catch the eye of younger talent.”

Earlier this month, the firm launched its ‘Be a Convivialist!’ corporate campaign. In a 10-minute documentary that does not feature the company logo or mention any of its brands, people from around the world discuss what conviviality means to them. The campaign is Pernod Ricard’s response to a survey that showed 60% of people consider their country to be less friendly than five years ago, and 77% admitted to refusing to go out with friends because they wanted to stream a series or film at home. The film narrows in on smartphones as a cause of the decline and aims to build a real-world community of like-minded folk. “Part of that community is, of course, Pernod Ricard itself,” says Lee-Boone. “This is an interesting way for a business to build for the future by attracting the best young talent now.”

If you’re looking to make a big change in your own career, the CIM Marketing Jobs board is a good place to start.

Tobias Gourlay Journalist
Gemma Butler Director of Marketing CIM
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