Thoughts | Clare Cotton - Associate Director of Brand & Innovation Strategy

Iceland’s ad – is it a brilliant lesson in promoting their Sustainable Brand Purpose?


Iceland is saying that it’s been frozen from using their new Christmas ad on terrestrial TV having been ‘banned’ as not complying with rules on political advertising.  Now the world has got to see it on YouTube and 3.1M have watched it in just 4 days without a penny being spent on media to air it.  The results currently look great for them as it’s all over social media and the alleged ‘banning’ of it has driven us to watch it and form an opinion.  


Stepping back, the shift of Christmas ads being about purpose seems to now be set.  This ad takes it a step further with shampoo hardly being a Christmas gift and the message being much harder than the cuddly Orang-Utan cartoon first suggests. But regardless of whether getting the ad ‘banned’ was the planned strategy by Iceland or not, have Iceland got it right? 3.1M views, a storm in social media and the resultant awareness rise both on deforestation and Iceland’s palm oil free stance, says that it’s a huge success.  Iceland has long been the rather surprising pioneer in environmental retailing, leading the way on GM free and their early pledging to remove plastics but does this build a Sustainable Shared Purpose?

The 1HQ model says yes  


Its particularly strong on all the elements to the right of the model – what the brand cares about, what consumers care about and it does create a clear action for the public that helps endangered species habitats and the Sustainable Development Goal #15. On Brand Positioning, it may even help tighten a rather confused positioning for Iceland where its cheap, everyday frozen food offering is increasingly interwoven with a brand, that despite its array of freezers, has a warm heart and is in action to change what we consume.

Did their strategy ever intend for it to air on TV?  Maybe we’ll never know.  This ad could have created a different storm had a world of young children watched the cartoon expecting the feel-good factor and being faced with bulldozers crashing their dreams.  But shown only on YouTube, it’s a clever campaign, that helps connect Iceland’s audience with their beliefs, shift their brand’s positioning and help move consumers towards more sustainable products.  However, whether Iceland’s authentic voice should have stretched to paint Clearcast as the banners of their ad, is still to be played out. It’s just this sort of debate that often occurs in our Sustainable Brand Purpose Workshops and training sessions.

What are the learnings for other brands? Look at your own brand and what it really believes in and see how the model can help your consumers connect with you on a much more personal level. Don’t be corporate but ensure your brands’ have their own, individual Sustainable Brand Purpose that can be articulated, actioned and measured.

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