I'm just on my way back from London where I attended the D&AD branding and sutainability seminar. It's always nice to pay London a flying visit as it also gives me the chance to catch up with a few old friends, which I did.
Well, over-all the seminar was interesting if a little brief. Of course they could only ever hope to skim the surface of such a complex issue give the time that was allocated to each individual speaker, yet some rather interesting stuff came up. (I think each speaker was given five minutes, which none of them stuck to).
Russell Davies pointed out some interesting examples of work from the UK which I must confess I'd already seen on his blog, which left me wondering about my own personal carbon useage having flown there. I really liked the point he made about the general confusion surrounding sustainabilty related issues, especially in terms of branding. He saw complexity as one of the biggest challenges in this area. I agree. Once you start to think about consuming ethically you stummble across these tiny moral puzzlers all the time.
Carrots for instance. Do I buy organically grown carrots even though they're produced in Spain or do I buy local non-organic carrots? Which is the lesser of the two evils?
Russell also went on to make a nice observation, well prediction really, about air travel. He pointed out that in a few years we may see casual air travel will become as unacceptable as wearing fur now is. Actually, you know what, the whole event could have been posted online which would have been a lot more environmentally friendly.
Sorry, back to the point or the lack of it to be precise. The next speaker was Juan Carlos Fernandez Espinosa from Mexico, who basically showed a lot of charity advertising (nicely executed it has to be said) but failed to make any sort of point about branding and sustainablity other than there are certain environmental groups who are getting rather good at communicating their cause in South America. I'm guessing most of the people in the room kind of knew that already, so no big insight there.
Then it was Dave Heatt of Howies turn to speak. Now this is where I must confess to being something of a Howies groupie. I love the way they effortlessly seem to be able to communicate what they beleive in and somehow make it digestable, entertaining and relevant without feeling worthy. So when Dave stood up and did his fifteen slides at 100 mph, I'd kind of heard most of it before, although to be fair, I'd imagine a lot of attendeees hadn't. One thing he did which I thought was commendble was, in his summing up encourage others to make a diffferance by quoting Dick Dasterdly. 'don't just stand there, do something'. Great. It struck me that Dave is a very charismatic and creative guy and when you see him speak, you really do get the sense that he is the living personification of the Howies brand. Anyway, I embarrassed myself afterwards and introduced myself in the hope that one day he'll come over to Denmark and do a similar session for us.
Piyush Pandey, Chairman, Ogilvy India gave us an interestng perspective from the develoing world. He made the point simply that in a market like India, the probelms are much more immidiate and personal. 'Ask a homeless man in the street whether he cares about global warming and he'll tell you he's more concernned about personal warming'.
Steve Colling of the On Earth research agency was next. His more analyitcal and factual angle on the subject was very interesting and put some meat on the bones for me. One very interesting comment he made was that as the neccessity for organisations to be have in a responsible way grows we'll see more and more 'green' brands making it less of a differentator as the market develops. I tend to share this view although I have to say we're a long way of that point yet. What I see happening at this point is it will become not so much about 'what' the brand is doing and much more about 'how' they are communicating it.
The next person up was John Grant of brandtarot. He really had a lot of interesting stuff to say. His call for a re-design of life was the most radical, relevant and inspiring part of the seminar. I agree with his sentiment that it's not a case of everyone trading in their Land Rovers for Toyota Prius'. It's about finding ways of removing the journey all together. It's not about everybody buying greener powertools, it's about removing the need to buy the tools in the first place. We can't just keep pushing the green thing on people with out delivering real substance. It is value through innovation that will drive this market long term.
So, summing up probably the world's longest blog post.
Complexity but lot's of opportunity for positive change if we're really creative.