Sustainability Predictions For 2009

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Landor Associates, a leading strategic brand consulting and design firm, has released their second annual trends outlook, which provides “predictions” for 2009 including sustainability.

Russ Meyer, the Chief Strategy Associate for Landor Associates tells us that brands will need to integrate their commitment to sustainability into a larger message of efficiency, effectiveness, and value.

What can we expect to see in 2009?

As consumers look to cut spending, buying “green” may be a low priority in 2009; however, achieving sustainability is a long-term trend that will continue through the next decade. According to Russ Meyer, this trend will continue and even gain momentum globally as a consequence of the economic downturn.

Concurrently, President-elect Barack Obama’s commitment to sustainable energy may finally ensure the support of the world’s largest economy—and biggest consumer of energy—in the global shift toward green.

What are the implications of these trends for brands?

Brands will need to integrate their commitment to sustainability into a larger message of efficiency, effectiveness, and value.

Brands that can afford to take the long view through the economic downturn could emerge on the other side as green leaders. Although it may be a lower priority for consumers in 2009, green is a long-term megatrend that will continue through the next decade.

In 2008, consumers began to perceive brands such as Walmart and GE as green because of their early commitment to selling green products and services and making demands of their supply chains. First-mover advantage can still be gained in many categories, but those opportunities won’t last long.

Which brands will stand out in 2009?

Consumer staples traditionally fare well in economic downturns, and green products in the categories of home health, cleanliness, and safety will likely do well next year. Brands such as Method, Seventh Generation, and Clorox’s Green Works could make big gains as consumers continue to care about the basics despite their thinner wallets.

Major corporate brands with a known commitment to sustainability should continue to gain perceptual advantage—particularly if this becomes a top priority of the United States in the next few years. Because of their existing strength, these brands may find themselves winning out over smaller brands that have occupied the sustainability space longer.

Among certain customer segments, we’ll see perceptual badge value or bragging rights for purchasing green products and services. In some parts of the world, the trendiest homes today are those achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Although greenness may not be the most important factor for consumers during the economic downturn, brands should consider how they can gain competitive advantage by being the best choice for trend-forward consumers.

Russ Meyer is chief strategy officer for Landor Associates. He has given many speeches on sustainability, and his article, “Brands in the Balance,” was published in the Hub in July 2007.

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