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Editor's pick product sustainability

Sustainable packaging: The refill market opportunity everyone is missing

UK supermarket Waitrose recently announced a trial in one of its stores for refillable products. 46 items in total, including detergent, washing-up liquid, cereal, pasta and more, are being tested – inviting consumers to bring in their own containers for replenishment rather than buying yet more plastic packaging. 

According to Greenpeace, the top 10 UK supermarkets produce 810,000 tons of throwaway or single-use packaging every year. The initiative at Waitrose therefore also sees all produce involved offered at up to 15% cheaper, incentivizing shoppers to do this and buy more sustainably as a result. 

The first thing it brought to mind for me, is why doesn’t this already exist? 

As a consumer, it’s increasingly frustrating to run out of shampoo, detergent, cleaning products, even moisturizer, and have no option but to throw the bottles or containers away (or in some instances put them out in the recycling in the vain hope their second life becomes a reality). I, for one, would love to be able to take all of such items with me next time I pop in store and top them up again instead. And don’t get me started on miniature travel items. 

I’ve talked to dozens of other people about this subject however, and the responses have always hung somewhere between a concerted yes on wanting to do it and a feeling that it takes a lot of effort to actually carry it out. 

Consumers are lazy, we know that. 

Yet many of us now take our ‘Bags-for-Life’ with us every time we shop – popping them in the back of the car or in our handbags when we’re out and about so we don’t get caught without one and need to purchase a new plastic disposable carrier instead. 

The barrier for these refill uptakes should not be that much bigger. It’s an achievable consumer behavior shift. 

The scheme to reduce plastic bag usage in the UK is evidence. It has seen over 15 billion being saved from going into landfill since it was introduced nearly four years ago. That stat is particularly significant when you think about the fact these items can take around 500 years to breakdown. It’s the same for plastic bottles. 

What’s more, since then, we as consumers have been increasingly exposed to numbers like the 28,000 tons of single-use plastic disposed into our oceans every day. Or that by 2050, there’s expected to be more plastic in the sea than fish. Whether verified in their entirety or otherwise, such insights have spurred us into action beyond just reducing plastic bags – resulting in adopting various other habits including reusable drinks bottles, keep cups, paper rather than plastic straws and more.

The fact supermarkets like Waitrose – and others – are exploring the opportunity (or necessity) here to look at such shifts within food and household goods packaging more broadly, seems a natural one as a result. 

The other way to look at it is through the emerging brands and startups stepping into the space. 

Loop is a new initiative from waste management company, TerraCycle, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, for instance. It is being supported and trialled by major businesses including Unilever and Procter & Gamble. It enables shoppers to purchase regular goods in new durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. This is not about the consumer refilling it themselves, but the company doing it on their behalf.  

Eco-friendly household product brand, Ecover, by comparison, which is owned by SC Johnson, has introduced bottles that can be used more than 50 times directly by consumers. It has refill stations across the UK for products including washing up liquid, hand soap, laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaners. The company calls the initiative a “Refillution” and says it’s been experiencing higher demand than ever before over the past year. It is one of the companies trialling with Waitrose. 

Other examples are being experimented within the beauty and cosmetics market, which accounts for around 120 billion units of packaging each year, according to retailer Lush. 

Lush itself is constantly innovating so as to introduce products that come without any packaging at all, but also has things like a zero-waste lipstick that it announced at the end of 2018. These are refills that can be placed into any other lipstick container the consumer already has at home, or bought with a recycled case from Lush to be used over and over again. 

British health and beauty retailer Boots meanwhile, recently opened a new wellness concept store in London that includes refillable skincare products from eco brand Beauty Kitchen.

And skincare brand Olay has just announced it will trial a sale of refill pods for its Regenerist Whip moisturizer from October 2019. Those pods fit into existing jars, saving consumers from needing to get a new one each time they run out of the product. The team estimates one million lbs of plastic saved if five million jars worth are refilled instead. The pods themselves are also recyclable. 

The Olay test will run for three months with the aim of then evaluating learnings to inform future packaging. “It’s really important for us to get it right because only then can we bring this concept to market at scale,” said Anitra Marsh, associate director of sustainability and brand communications for skin and personal care at Olay’s parent company, P&G.

And test and learn is clearly the stage we are at here. There are inevitably many barriers for adoption in a broader sense beyond assumed consumer apathy. The logistics of pulling many of these initiatives off are notable, but so too are concerns around things like hygiene, which is particularly pertinent when it comes to skincare or beauty – hence the pods from Olay rather than a mass refill station that is more possible with the cleaning products of Ecover. 

Much of this was noted in a report by WRAP over 10 years ago – highlighting other things like contamination of product, no easy mechanism of transferring the ‘use by’ date on the packs, the stackability of bulk refills in store or at home, and more. Arguably, all of that still stands, which is why there hasn’t been huge uptake in this space, and is what makes this such an interesting discussion. 

All roads point to huge opportunity and need for evolution, and yet so little has actually yet happened. Frankly, disruption here is needed, and as with successful movements linked to sustainability and the circular economy in other sectors (the resell market, the sharing economy and more), there is a growing business case to do so as a result. 

Right now, brands are largely jumping on a marketing opportunity and benefitting from the halo effect that surrounds reducing single-use plastic consumption. In doing so, there’s a dodge of responsibility occuring. 

Which brings us to a need for regulation in this space to force companies to adhere (something that is being looked at more broadly in the UK for single-use plastic, as this legislation dates back to 1997). It wasn’t until this came in for plastic bags that it actually made a difference to the landscape. The ability for change to really happen often needs a good shove in the right direction. 

That coupled with innovation is what will move this space forward. Our company, Current Global, is one built on solving challenges, and strictly speaking there’s very little here that doesn’t have a solution in front of it waiting to happen. 

The question then is who is going to be the first to truly do it, and at scale, in terms of grabbing the enormous market opportunity it presents. Now is the time.

How are you thinking about new packaging solutions? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

In-depth: The big takeaways from Cannes Lions 2018

Cannes Lions 2018
Cannes Lions 2018

Pivotal societal movements from gender equality and diversity to environmental sustainability, have been a part of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for many years, but there was a greater sense of urgency and action tied to their delivery for 2018.

Beyond the talk

It’s all too easy to step on stage – onto the influential platform that Cannes Lions represents – and talk about a need for change. A need for the industry to be more inclusive, to represent women in positive roles or to bring about a sense of brand purpose that will shift mindsets across consumer groups at large. But it’s another thing altogether to really put that into action.

In a panel focused on female empowerment, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, said the reason we’re still talking about the same old things is because of the fact progress is frustratingly slow. In a recent review of 40,000 ads, for instance, 29% negatively or inaccurately portrayed women in some way due to objectification, stereotyping or some kind of diminished role.

The landscape is changing, he said, but not fast enough. “There are some good examples, and we should feel good about that, but we know it’s not enough. I am optimistic however. We are getting close to that tipping point. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements changed the narrative forever. So let’s double down, and come together to be agents of change to achieve gender equality in the creative world.”

What’s key to driving this, he said, is seeing equality behind the camera, and throughout the entire creative pipeline. We can’t expect equality in the creative output until we have equality in the creative input, he explained.

Pritchard further highlighted that getting this right is also impactful on business results. Gender equal ads perform 10% better in trust and equity ratings, and 26% higher in terms of sales growth, he noted.

Beyond the trend

Driving change or action was also applied to the diversity conversation this year. Much like with gender equality, the focus here was on getting to the point of not needing to discuss it as a key subject at such an event anymore.

Said Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief: “For the future, I want to see the marginalized, normalized… I don’t think we’re doing enough, but we’re all here doing our best. It will never be done until we’re not having this conversation anymore, until we’re not talking about diversity.”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell suggested that we’re currently at crunch time as to whether this diversity “trend” has sticking power. It’s got to be more than just a hot topic, she noted.

In an interview that dove into how she spent her early career being paid significantly less than her white counterparts, she explained: “I’m giving diversity another six months to see if it’s a trend, or something that’s here to stay and really change.”

Beyond purpose

Indeed, when something is deemed merely a trend, there’s also risk for brands of being perceived as jumping on the bandwagon should there not be authenticity in their approach. Having “brand purpose” or brands that “stand for something” are fellow trendy phrases, but it’s only through longstanding values that any such focus can ever ring true, speakers agreed.

The current era is a battle for truth, which is what’s placing trust at an all-time low for consumers, explained Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, which publishes the annual Trust Barometer. “The idea for big brands has to be how do we become part of this ecosystem pushing change? Beyond the idea of purpose is the notion that somehow we’re relevant, and pushing for better,” he commented.

Patagonia hit the stage with an exploration of its ongoing focus on the environment and active support of a better planet, on that note. That wasn’t something that happened overnight however, but a program of belief in the company established over a 20-year period, the brand’s European marketing director, Alex Weller, explained.

What’s key right now, he said however, is that consumers want to take action themselves. “In what increasingly feels like a stormy world, people are looking for hope. They’re looking for it in grassroots organizations, and increasingly in brands…. People are asking what can I do, how can I help, how can I take action.”

What the team realized was that if it really wanted to scale the movement, it needed to get out of the way a bit. “That bottleneck was us,” Weller said. The Patagonia Action Works platform, a microsite intended to facilitate interactions between like-minded activists, was the resulting initiative. “The end goal is that we and our community get to participate in things we care about to actually take action. To go from giving a shit to actually doing something,” he explained.

Once again, proof lies in the pudding. Weller explained that Patagonia has been growing at between 15-20% year-on-year. “We believe there is correlation between our movement building and our commercial performance. And the more direct correlation is, that the more we grow, the more we can do,” he noted.

Categories
Campaigns data digital snippets Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: Plastic waste becomes Adidas tees, how Bitcoin went luxury, data to reduce returns

Adidas for Earth Day
Adidas for Earth Day

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past fortnight.

TOP STORIES
  • Adidas created Earth Day soccer jerseys made from ‘upcycled’ plastic ocean waste [AdWeek]
  • How Bitcoin went luxury [Vogue]
  • How retailers are crunching data to cut losses from returns [Glossy]
  • The fashion world after Anna Wintour [NY Times]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Alibaba is becoming a major investor in facial-recognition technology [Quartz]
  • Retail’s adapt-or-die moment: how artificial intelligence is reshaping commerce [CB Insights]
  • Leap Motion’s “virtual wearables” may be the future of computing [Co.Design]
  • Why beauty giants are snapping up technology startups [BoF]
  • Farfetch launches startup accelerator [BoF]
  • LVMH’s Ian Rogers on Station F [WWD]
SUSTAINABILITY
  • The beginner’s guide to how blockchain could change the ethical fashion game [Fashionista]
  • Why brands are under increasing pressure to be transparent about what they believe in [AdWeek]
  • Stella McCartney: ‘Only 1% of clothing is recycled. What are we doing?’ [TheGuardian]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Brandless, the ‘Procter & Gamble for millennials’ startup that sells everything for $3, is launching a pop-up, but you can’t buy anything [Business Insider]
  • Glossier opening permanent retail space in LA [WWD]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Two computer-generated influencers are at war right now, and nothing is real anymore [W Magazine]
  • With privacy updates, Instagram upsets influencer economy [BoF]
  • How Vans is shaking up its experiential marketing to get more personal [BrandChannel]
  • Snapchat has launched in-app AR shopping, with Adidas and Coty among the first sellers [TheDrum]
BUSINESS
  • Adidas partners with Lean In to promote equal pay for women [WWD]
  • Gap CEO Art Peck: Big data gives us major advantages over competitors [CNBC]
Categories
digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media

Digital snippets: Burberry, Levi’s, Nordstrom, adidas, Gap, Apple, CFDA, Bonobos

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

burberry

  • Burberry credits 9% revenue hike on strong online sales and ‘more targeted marketing’ [Marketing]
  • Levi’s launches $96m global campaign centred on user-generated content [The Drum]
  • Nordstrom is bringing Wanelo into 100+ of its stores [Glamour]
  • Inside adidas’ social media team at the World Cup in Rio [AdAge]
  • Gap’s former social chief: retail has shiny-new-object syndrome [DigiDay]
  • Might Apple have a future as a fashion conglomerate? [CNET]
  • CDFA embraces shoppable video technology to boost engagement [Luxury Daily]
  • Bonobos raises $55 million to expand its bricks-and-mortar locations [Internet Retailer]
  • In a sea of go-girl advertising, P&G’s ‘Like a Girl’ hits hardest [AdAge]
  • The science of shopping: digital innovations shaping the future of retail [The Guardian]
  • “Buy Now” buttons start appearing in tweets. Is Twitter shopping finally here? [Re/code]
  • Stores still critical to wooing men, but leaders re-wiring for digital age [BoF]
  • How top style bloggers are earning $1 million a year [Co.Design]
  • Is Instagram killing personal style blogs? [Fashionista]
  • Here’s the first-ever Google Glass hair tutorial [The Cut]
  • In Japan, Urban Research experiments with virtual changing booths [BoF]
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Uncategorized

Digital snippets: London 2012 #Olympics special!

London 2012 has been dubbed the “social media Olympics”, and rightly so given the overwhelming growth seen all things digital even since Beijing in 2008.

All the usual platforms are proving relevant, from YouTube to Instagram, and of course Twitter for real-time updates. Facebook launched a special page featuring links to athletes, teams and sports, while so too is there an official Olympic Hub from the IOC, and a partnership between LOCOG and Foursquare. There was even a dedicated hashtag to keep what happens during the opening ceremony a secret: #savethesurprise.

And then of course there are the brands. Official sponsor or not, the online space is awash with those tapping in as closely as they can to sporting fever.

It all kicks off officially from tonight, but until then here are a couple of the best campaigns we’ve seen across the digital space so far:

  • adidas and David Beckham surprise fans: This one might be a real-world activation, but there’s nothing quite like a viral video to get everyone talking about it: 2.3m views and counting of adidas surprising shoppers having their pictures taken in its #takethestage photo booth with a guest appearance by David Beckham (as below) [YouTube]
  • Coca Cola’s Move to the Beat campaign: In the aim of connecting younger people to the action, Coca Cola teamed up with Mark Ronson and turned to music. The Grammy Award-winning producer recorded the sounds of five different Olympic sports and used the resulting beats to create a track, as shown below. The brand is also inviting fans to have a go at remixing themselves via a dedicated app [Coca Cola]
  • EDF uses Twitter to dictate colour of London Eye: London’s infamous Ferris wheel is set to become a giant mood ring as EDF Energy teams up with Sosolimited to display different colours based on the sentiment of tweets around the Games [Mashable]
  • Nike’s Find Your Greatness spot pushes Olympic advertising rules: The first non-sponsor to mention is of course Nike. An expert at ambush marketing (Write the Future a case in point), the brand has launched an ad that references other places around the world also called London (as below). “Greatness is not in one special place, it is not in one special person; greatness is wherever somebody is trying to find it,” says the narrator. It is also backed by a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #findgreatness [Fast Co]
  • Visa invites consumers to send in cheers: Part of Visa’s Go World campaign for the Olympics invites fans to submit a cheer to the participating athletes in the form of a click, post or video via Facebook. A lucky few will go on to feature in special-edition spots celebrating the achievements of Team Visa athletes in real-time [TheInspirationRoom]
  • Nastia Liukin pushes Fantastic Gymnastics Dora doll and app: The latest doll from Dora the Explorer is a London 2012 gymnast special being promoted by Team USA five-time Olympic medallist Nastia Liukin. It also comes with an augmented reality app for kid’s to watch her come to life [BrandChannel]
  • Harrods welcomes everyone to London: A very simple one here, but nonetheless noteworthy. Harrods posted a collaged picture featuring multiple icons of London associated with its own store as well as the Olympics on Facebook. The accompanying text read: “Over the coming weeks, London will play host to many visitors. We would simply like to say… Welcome to our wonderful city. #LoveLondon” [Harrods]

In case you haven’t seen them, there’s also the incredible Best Job spot from P&G (almost 5.5m views), Specsavers’ response to the Korean flag blunder, and the giant Jessica Ennis #homeadvantage image from British Airways on the Heathrow flight path (as pictured top).

Spot any more? Do add them to the comments…

 

 

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digital snippets Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Tom Ford, Net-a-Porter, Apple, Gilt Groupe, Anna Wintour

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital this week:

 

  • Tom Ford releases video lookbook of his autumn/winter 2011/12 collection (as above) [YouTube]
  • Net-a-Porter launches “live” app, lets you see what others are buying around the world [Daily Telegraph]
  • Gilt Groupe to launch upscale, full-price men’s fashion website called Park & Bond [JustLuxe]
  • P& G opens Facebook stores for Tide, Gillette, Olay, Gain, CoverGirl, Luvs and Febreze [Social Commerce Today]
  • LA boutique American Rag installs rearview cameras in fitting rooms [The Cut]
  • And in case you missed it (how could you), Anna Wintour’s five word acceptance speech at the Webbys: “Sometimes… geeks can be chic” [Fashionista]

In other news – this blog will be on a bit of a mini hiatus while I hit up Cannes Lions next week. Hopefully lots of exciting things to report back thereafter…