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Playing to Win at Sustainable Brands London – Julian Borra’s 6 Quiet Rules


When we were young life was carefree. We needn’t be reminded to have fun or to play and we weren’t caught up in taking things too seriously. Most of us probably were unaware of the environmental and social ills facing society, which were different and less grave back then as well. But times have changed. We’ve grown up and now we’re working hard to make a difference in the world, whether by stemming the effects of climate change or by increasing the reach of social justice initiatives. As important and serious as this work is, we sometimes need to be reminded to chill out.

Julian Borra, Global Creative Strategic Partner at Saatchi & Saatchi S and avowed Populist, did just that, encouraging those of us fortunate enough to attend Sustainable Brands London to be more playful & relaxed as a means of expanding our impact and growing the global sustainability movement. Julian’s presentation From Babel to Nirvana: Six Quiet Rules for Shaping Life-Sized Messages and People Powered Movements provided Sustainable Brands attendees with 6 rules for making the complexities of sustainability attractive and approachable.

Julian suggests that for sustainability to be irresistible — compelling and inspiring — it must be written up consistently through the brand story. Sustainability language doesn’t resonate with the average person on the street and more than 80% of people don’t really want to put effort into sustainability. We can see this as a doomsday perspective or as a motivating factor for brand people to help push our agenda forward and bring sustainability to the masses.

If we are to inspire people and compel them to action, we have to meet them where they are — in their language, in their world. We have to speak not only to the C Suite but also to the average person and in doing so we have to stop sounding so worthy because worthiness can be alienating. Julian believes if we don’t do this, we won’t move forward. Fortunately, he sees this as an opportunity for us to make the leap from the incremental steps that our movement has been taking to true transformation with speed and scale to change the minds of the 80% who presently are not motivated to embrace sustainable practices.

Here are Julian’s 6 Quiet Rules:

  1. Change the language – build a bridge, make new friends
  2. Stories not statements – people can identify with stories
  3. Planet Me beats Planet We — make it real for people
  4. Lighten up — brevity is a powerful tool
  5. Simplify – jargon isn’t sexy
  6. Playgrounds not train-sets – build it for everyone to play not to make you look cool

Sustainability folks and branding folks don’t always (often?) speak the same language or see things similarly. Only a few folks, like me, are deeply involved in both sustainability and branding, but at the end of the day, these players absolutely must play nice together and collaborate or we are not going to get anywhere. Julian suggests that by defining shared interests and collaborating on both sustainability agendas and the subsequent messaging, we will change the game.

As someone who wears a sustainability scarf underneath my branding beanie, my experience has been that professionals in both fields are amazing folks and when we join forces it’s incredibly fun and productive. Better still, that results in a win for everyone! Now what could be better than that, except maybe a Hot-n-Susty organic, fair trade Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor?


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