What you can learn from the 2021 Brand Battle for Good experience
Let’s be honest: in 2021, we’ve all spent plenty of time thinking about the future. Whether we’re counting down to bigger and better things or planning for the challenges ahead of us, it’s an important time to look forward.
Hosted by the Brands for Better Foundation, the Brand Battle is a virtual conference and strategy hack-a-thon that pits some of Vancouver’s most innovative, disruptive, and socially responsible brands against each other to spark positive change.
This year’s battle focused on a particularly urgent issue: climate change.
Specifically, how to support the City of Vancouver’s Zero Waste initiatives with the goal of achieving true zero waste by 2040. Over two days of workshops and brainstorming, the brands planned and pitched strategies to support those initiatives and make a measurable impact.
The event was beyond exciting; we knew we had to participate. Positive change has to start somewhere, and when one of our three Major Tom offices is based in Vancouver, supporting environmental change locally was the perfect chance to dive in.
What followed was a crash course in waste reduction strategy, adapting our process for the hack-a-thon crunch, and using the power of marketing for good.
Day 1: Information is power
Things kicked off with the Zero Conference.
This was a series of virtual education lectures and workshops, all designed to arm participants with everything they needed to know about the value of zero waste. Hosted by local industry pros, these workshops painted a picture of the current landscape of waste reduction. Just as importantly, they seeded ideas about where new innovations and initiatives might make a difference.
For the Major Tom team, it helped to clarify why zero waste mattered to them:
“When it comes to sustainability and the environmental crisis, it's overwhelming to think how much needs to be done to make an impact. Oftentimes our efforts feel too small. Brand Battle presents a wonderful opportunity to make a bigger difference in Vancouver and to inspire, and partake in the change I want to see in the world.” - Carolina Horna
“We can do much more for #ZeroWaste as a community. I'm excited to take part in this hack-a-thon. Go zero or go home!” - Ed Edygio
Day 2 - The battle is on
Day 2 was the main event. A brand vs. brand satellite strategy hack-a-thon for good, led by top design thinking facilitators and ending with the team’s big idea pitch.
It was a full-day sprint that put the team’s adaptable attitude to the test.
Without the guardrails of our agency structure or defined roles, everyone participating had to bring their A-game, relearning to collaborate with a mix of senior staff, junior team members and external partners.
Every good idea, whoever it came from, needed to be considered, and the team played to each others’ strengths and expertise, learning from each other as they went. A perfect example of why we believe in leading with a humble heart, and bringing a curious mind.
“I signed up because I love creative challenges and want to help Vancouver become a zero waste community. I'm excited to work with our team on a sustainability solution and see what other businesses create as well!” - Laura Tuturus
By the nature of a hack-a-thon, time was tight, resources were limited, and an idea had to come together quickly. To focus, the team kept one thing in mind: “a simple idea can create a big impact”.
Now they needed the right approach to put a plan together, fast.
Picking the right approach
With our deadline looming, the Major Tom team decided to use a design thinking approach, rather than our usual 4-phase process.
Typically used for creative projects, this approach helps to quickly refine open-ended briefs by finding the right problem to address, then designing the right solution to address it.
Finding the right problem is about getting specific — breaking down the different elements of an issue and asking which are most pressing, or what you’re capable of solving with the resources available.
In the digital marketing world, that would mean identifying where your project and resources can make the biggest difference for your brand. At the Brand Battle, it meant the team diverged to break down the elements of zero waste strategy.
Did we want to focus on fashion waste? Consumer education? Plastics? The first day of the conference had provided an overwhelming amount of information and resources, but the key to an effective solution would be focusing on the areas where we could have a high impact with little time.
The team converged to weigh their options. What problem was most suitable for the Brand Battle’s criteria? What sort of issue would let us leverage our expertise as a full service agency?
Using an exercise, the team weighed all their ideas based on the Brand Battle's criteria.
After deliberating, they decided to tackle a very relatable problem for Vancouverites — properly navigating the heaps of information about waste reduction.
ECOmmunity began to take shape.
The Zero Conference and the team’s research had revealed just how many resources were available to help people contribute to Zero Waste. The gap wasn’t in resources, but in proper education and ease of access for people looking to do their part.
The ECOmmunity proposal aimed to address this, acting as a central hub for easily accessible resources that enabled people to take action. To figure out how that would work, the team diverged again, working simultaneously on:
Research — exploring the resources that should be included in ECOmmunity
Design — prototyping a compelling interface with intuitive navigation
Strategy — deciding on the logistics of the app; its features and functionality
Answers from one of the survey questions during the research period.
You can probably guess what came next: the team converged to connect the dots.
ECOmmunity would meet users on their terms. For each first-time visitor, the hub would share a quiz focusing on their interest in and experience with sustainability. Using their responses, it would populate a custom page with the most relevant resources: videos and articles, local community initiatives, and participating businesses working towards zero waste in the person’s area of interest.
ECOmmunity would separate signal from the noise, and provide users with the most useful resources for their Zero Waste journey.
Seeing the solution in tangible terms had the team excited. The conference had them reflecting on the environmental issues they faced every day, but here was an opportunity to have an impact on them, to make a difference.
That showed through in the ECOmmunity mission statement:
“Connecting brands and customers with zero-waste resources and empowering them to take action in the fight against climate change and pollution.”
Spoiler alert: we didn’t win the Brand Battle for Good.
Day 2 concluded with the Brand Battle Award Night and prize, where the winners were announced and the participants celebrated everyone’s hard work.
While we didn’t take home the trophy, it gave the team a chance to reflect on a hard-fought Brand Battle.
Not only was it a great learning experience, but it was a chance for everyone to push their flexibility to the limit. With a full complement of Brand Battlers, it also showed just how motivating a good cause can be:
“If you live in Vancouver, it is at least partially due to our incredible environment - BC and Vancouver is one of the most unique and beautiful places on Earth. We also have an incredible culture of innovation and a diverse population - it is our responsibility to apply our skills to the greater good and help keep Vancouver healthy for generations to come.”
- Miles Sellyn, President
We’ll be back next year, and watch out — as always, we’ve learned from the experience.
Leann Tse, Sales & Marketing Coordinator
The comfort zone is the most dangerous place to be in.