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Sustainable Brand Design Amongst a Sea of Green


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With the climate crisis changing our world at a rapid rate, both companies and consumers are seeking to adopt more sustainable, environmentally-friendly habits.

But how does this translate into the world of branding and design?

“Green” connotations – how we see sustainability in branding

Sceptical shopping

There is a general conception amongst shoppers that eco-friendly products are usually not as good as their non-sustainable counterparts, and will almost always have a much larger strain on the wallet. Though this isn’t the case every time, unfortunately it’s not a completely unfounded concern.

In previous years (and still to some extent), eco-friendly products tend to be pricier at face value, paired with the fact it can be tricky to find sustainable products that work the same as their non-eco friendly alternatives. The idea is that most consumers do very much want to buy more sustainably, but very few actually do.

In the past, these products have often been marketed with the same generic buzzwords that play on a customer’s ‘sense of duty’ and guilt, perpetuating the scepticism around sustainable products. Seeing the same type of ‘guilt-tripping’ marketing over and over again makes shoppers immune to those messages. Clearly, brands need to change up their methods – but we’ll get onto how they can do that a little later.

Green = ineffective?

Strangely, ‘green’ products seem to have developed connotations of passivity and weakness. For instance, studies show that people are generally more open to ‘soft’ eco-products, such as beauty, skincare and so on, whereas ‘strong’ eco-products like cleaning supplies and medicines are disregarded and deemed ineffective.

After all, when it’s a product you use to clean your house top to toe, you want it to work, and work well. The general consensus is that when sustainability is prioritised, product quality is lost. Naturally, most people are always going to prioritise performance over sustainability.

So, how do you create a sustainable brand to stand out from the crowd and challenge these stereotypes?

Tackling the preconceptions

Though this might feel like we’re stating the obvious a little bit, the first thing to prioritise is creating a great product that just happens to be sustainable too – not the other way around!

This way, you’re giving people a positive and real-world incentive to choose an eco-friendly product over a harmful one, by going further than the classic “you’re doing your bit” type of messaging. Rather, you’re changing perspectives and brand loyalties. Remember, these are loyalties which people may have had for decades, so it’s hard to convince people to make the switch, unless your product is truly out of this world.

Once you’ve got your brilliant, environmentally-aware product to hand, it’s time to market it. And the first way to do this is to lighten the mood! The typical tactics aren’t working anymore, so use your branding to frame your eco message in a positive way. Get people to consider your green alternative with results – data is your greatest asset. Take surveys from your customers regarding the efficacy of your product and match this with your eco-friendly messaging to strike the balance between both a green product and a good product. Good results will do a lot of the talking for you.

“I personally won’t just buy a product for its eco-label, for me it has to also work as-good-as or better than other non-eco products. I don’t mind spending more in this case. That being said, most of my switches from non-eco to eco products have been primarily because they are MORE economical, and I save money in the long run. This simply makes sense to me, and the sustainable aspect of these products is a bonus that I can at the same time feel good about.”


Climate crisis nuances call for more imaginative design

Our world is evolving at a rapid rate, and nowadays, the way we understand the climate crisis is far more nuanced than, say, even 10 years ago. Even the way materials can be defined as ‘sustainable’ is not as simple as it once was.

Considerations such as the way materials have been cultivated, farmed and processed all the way to how these products make it onto our shelves are all thrown into the mix for manufacturers, designers and retailers alike.

Packaging design has arguably been the most affected by these changes, leading to interesting innovations within the world of product design and packaging. As always, design needs to be considered and conscientious. And now with all these extra sustainability agendas to factor in, defining and promoting a “green” brand takes more thought than ever before.

Designers and marketers can no longer get away with regurgitating the same old tired tropes and terminology that surround sustainability – this is lazy design, plain and simple. So, when creating a new eco-lead brand there is a need to understand the current concerns whilst redefining what a sustainable brand has to look like and who it can appeal to.

This hails back to our previous point about “strong” eco-products, as designers need to work out a way to strip back those preconceptions and change customer loyalties.

Green is green only… or is it?

Recently, ways of representing sustainability in design have developed and evolved. Everything is no longer a myriad of green. Eco-friendly design doesn’t always have to be green, green, green.

Emerging, environmentally-conscious brands are now looking at ways they can appeal to a wider range of people, steering away from the typical representation we see and the anxiety that climate-related messages can evoke.

Though soft tones and textures are still very much the go-to for designers, the rise of bold colour and abstract shapes paired with quirky and humorous messages are a growing trend for eco-centric design. Paired with a great product, this could very well be the way to winning in the world of sustainable branding.

A company who does this incredibly well is the recyclable toilet paper ‘Who Gives a Crap’. Playing on puns and humorous language (come on, look at their brand name!), combined with bold packaging, WGAC perfectly epitomises this ethos of going against the typical sustainable grain.

The branding is simple, but effective. They’ve got a clear message, simple goals and a limited product range, focusing on doing one thing, and doing it well. And of course, not taking themselves too seriously. After all, everyone loves a toilet joke, right?

Go green or go home

While it might be hard to stand out and stop yourself from sinking in the sea of green out there at the minute, it’s still possible to make a good product, create a good brand and do good for our planet – all at the same time.

It’s about shifting consumer perspectives, because green products can actually be good, sometimes even better than their non-green counterparts. Leverage your branding to use humour, fun or even just highlight the positive incentives of using your products. Oh, and don’t be afraid to think a little outside of the box, your colour palette doesn’t just stop at green! But if you’re unsure where to start, we’re always on hand to help with our first-class branding and graphic design services.

As a creative agency that prides themselves on being sustainable to the very core, we’re experts in helping brands go green. Get in touch today!

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