Creating Sustainable Brands
by Iberia Zafira. Iberia is a senior majoring in Earth Systems and interested in fashion, design, and sustainability.

August 8, 2011 9:48 am

One of the best classes I have taken at Stanford is called BEST—Branding, Experience, and Social Technology– taught by Jennifer Aaker and Chris Flink through the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Before I took BEST, I thought that branding mostly focused on a company’s visual identity whether through a compelling logo or a catchy slogan. BEST opened my eyes, helping me realize that what I though of as “branding is the tip of the iceberg” and that building a brand also includes designing the customer experience and managing customer relationships, especially on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

There are over 750 million active users on Facebook– imagine the possibilities for sustainability groups if they leveraged social media! It isn’t enough to simply have a Facebook or Twitter presence; companies and organizations must create a clear call-to-action and develop ways to engage with users online to make the users share the brand with their friends.

An example of a holistic branding effort on campus was the work that went into Vision eARTh, the Stanford Art and Sustainability festival, which took place earlier this spring. Formerly known as FutureFest, Vision eARTh was predicated on the idea that art and sustainability groups could collaborate to create solutions that involved, “creative thinking, beautiful aesthetics, unconventional combinations, and a sense of passion and risk”. The Vision eARTh team, guided by SiCa Communications Manager Megan Miller and the Design Kids student group, went through several brainstorming sessions to help determine Vision eARTh’s visual identity and user experience/interaction. Ultimately the Vision eARTh logo and visual identity was solidified and was publicized at key events like An Earth Affair.

Furthermore, the user experience was designed so that people could engage at any time whether stopping to talk to someone at a booth, listening to a band on the stage, or perusing artwork. The success of Vision eARTh points to an important realization within branding – branding is not exclusive to companies or organizations because aspects of branding can be applied to social movements. Vision eARTh was successful because it was 1) relevant by filling a need within the Stanford community to connect the art and sustainability communities, 2) consistent in its visual identity and for delivering on its promise, and 3) held in high esteem, building off of the success of Future Fest and the promotional events.

With events like Vision eARTh, procedures for sustainable dining, and more energy-efficient buildings, Stanford’s sustainability brand is growing. However, Stanford cannot be sustainable on its own – Stanford needs your help!  Branding is just the tip of the iceberg and the sustainable contributions from individuals, like yourself, make the most difference.

For more info on BEST, check out the course website and don’t forget to subscribe to the SUSS blog for more sustainability updates!


Iberia Zafira is a senior.  She is an Earth Systems major.  Last year she was a Sustainability Scholar working on sustainable fashion.  Iberia is particularly interested in what branding, community, and art have to offer sustainability.