Business Advice / Marketing Strategy / Opinion

What’s your claim?

If you’re going to make a claim, make the right one…

I will freely admit that the practice of greenwashing – i.e. making claims about the environmental policies of your company which don’t add up to any major changes – is one of my pet bug-bears. If you can’t make any real claims for your business, you’re probably better off making none at all; at least you won’t seem like you’re jumping a a bandwagon and trying to look cool.

So, imagine my surprise today when we started following a Sainsbury’s delivery van. On the back, a sticker claimed that:

“This van is limited to 60mph to control our carbon emissions.”

All very well and good, one might think.

However, bear in mind that this was deepest, darkest Sussex and nowhere near a motorway. The particular class of vehicle which we were following is limited to 60mph by law unless on a motorway. And to be able to read the typeface on the sticker, you’d have to be very close behind it.

As we were, in fact, sitting in a traffic jam. Which rather defeated the object of having the speed limit restriction displayed anyway…

And, because I am a petrol-head, I also know that fuel efficiency is linked to the gear you’re in and the part of the torque curve you’re currently on. So having the sticker there makes no difference as 60mph in 2nd or 3rd gear really isn’t going to help lower fuel emissions at all.

OK, this isn’t a very positive post thus far. But it does help me to underline one key issue that I believe all businesses, brands and people should adhere to.

Pick your claims carefully and think them through. That sticker on the back of the van is as much a part of the Sainsbury’s brand promise to me as their main slogan should be (it’s so memorable it’s completely slipped my mind – and as it isn’t on the homepage of their website, I’m currently none the wiser). But I know that the 60mph limitation, when the van is in deepest, darkest, non-motorway Sussex, is the law and nothing to do with carbon emissions. If they weren’t worried about carbon emissions, would they worry about the law?

Any claim of this nature, whether to do with vehicle speeds, turning off the lights or donating money to local good causes, needs to be made from the heart of brand strategy, and supported by the organism that is the Brand. It needs to be lived because it’s believed. Not just because it sounds like a good thing to be doing or saying.

Otherwise, there’s a risk it will simply ring hollow…


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