Finding a place for fairtrade pioneers

Fair global trade has to be something we can all believe in.

Fairtrade is a household name — but FLOCERT, the Fairtrade-owned company that had been auditing and certifying Fairtrade producers and traders for 10 years, had been almost invisible.

In that time, the business of certifying ethical practices in sourcing and production processes had been transformed. FLOCERT itself had pioneered ways to assess and assure. And more brands had begun to set their own agendas for transforming their supply chains for the better.

With all the experience gained from shaping the process for Fairtrade International, FLOCERT could see an opportunity to talk to audiences about its new social and environmental verification services — and help to further spread the message of fairness under its own identity. FLOCERT came to Neo for a refreshed brand and website that would help to shine a light on what it offers.

At the same time, it wanted to improve its communications with thousands of existing customers around the world — many of them small-scale farmers, who rely on the organisation to certify their products as Fairtrade.

The big tension was reflecting the huge importance of the relationship with Fairtrade while also enabling FLOCERT to innovate and move into new markets.

Canvassing worldwide views

We began with the biggest piece of stakeholder research we’d ever taken on. We found out everything we could about FLOCERT’s business strategy, culture and values, looking into its role in the Fairtrade system, and the lively debate about the future of labelling for ethical practices.

We spoke to as many people as we could across four continents, from frontline staff and customers to senior stakeholders, board members and partners. We asked every FLOCERT employee their opinion on the existing brand positioning.

That gave us enough to create a strategic foundation, which outlined priority issues and opportunities to explore around rebranding the organisation.

It’s not tick-boxes and spreadsheets that best represent FLOCERT’s role in the world: it’s their ability to deliver fair global trade that everyone can believe in.

The big tension was around reflecting the huge importance of the relationship with Fairtrade, while also enabling FLOCERT to innovate and move into new markets. 

At first, the opportunity seemed clear: ‘hold the line’ — neither move the new identity closer to the Fairtrade brand, nor move away from it.

But brand projects are always moving targets and six months in, FLOCERT’s business strategy shifted. We all had to respond to a new priority: reaffirming the close link with Fairtrade more strongly, and working with a more phased approach to the rollout of new services.

Having developed our thinking so far already, we needed to pull things apart again. It was painful, but it helped us to get the alignment we needed.

The launch of the new corporate design and website has been very successful so far. We got a lot of positive feedback, internally and externally.

– Ruediger Meyer, CEO

Reimagining the brand

It’s not tick-boxes and spreadsheets that best represent FLOCERT’s role in the world; it’s the organisation’s ability to deliver fair global trade that everyone can believe in. 

The heart of what FLOCERT does is, essentially, to ensure a trusted, fair exchange between people. Our conceptual development for the FLOCERT brand drew on that. We worked closely with the Fairtrade brand guidelines to ensure that the two organisations, so often presented together, worked well in the spaces they share.

The paired hands of the logo embody the human relationships built by FLOCERT’s work, as well as sympathetically echoing the yin-yang roundel of Fairtrade. The colour palette is shared with the Fairtrade brand, while still allowing the FLOCERT identity to stand alone.

Visually, the world of international development and farming is rife with clichéd and patronising images, and that was something we were determined to avoid. We gave high priority to developing photographic guidelines that encourage a feeling of equal exchange and human interaction, ensuring that international photoshoots brought back vivid images to help convey the new brand story. 

Rebuilding the website

We developed the approach to the digital project with more research. We looked at analytics to understand how visitors found and used the current website, explored the digital offer of peers and competitors, and audited FLOCERT’s existing content and communications.

Then working with the team at FLOCERT, we created a range of user personas, drawing out the needs and expectations of audience groups using the site.

All this led to a digital strategy designed to support existing Fairtrade contacts quickly with key day-to-day tasks, while also creating more space for FLOCERT to talk to prospective customers about its new services in social and environmental verification.

Meeting challenges head on

There were bumps along the way. The business found it difficult to settle on how to group its new services, so we worked with senior staff in Bonn to unlock the right categorisation to get the project moving again.

What’s more, the makeup of the FLOCERT project team changed during the 17-month process. Change like this often happens over longer projects, but it’s always a challenge. We had to adjust how we worked, and spend extra time ensuring that good decisions made earlier in the project timeline were properly explained and carried forward. 

The look, feel and usability of the website is vastly improved and simply cannot be compared to what we used to have.

– Ruediger Meyer, CEO

A purposeful presence

Together we persevered. The web planning was carried out collaboratively with the FLOCERT communications team in Brighton and Bonn over a number of sessions, with a strong emphasis on how the new site would be used  day-to-day by web editors and the IT team.

We agreed on WordPress as the content management system that would best meet the brief’s requirements. Then we worked with our excellent web development partners BrightMinded to build a practical, responsive site — one that makes FLOCERT’s services accessible while bringing to life its refreshed purpose-driven brand. 

Since launching the new site, we’ve been working closely with FLOCERT to develop more of the fresh communications that are so vital in helping to grow its brand awareness and establish itself in new markets.  

The partnership we’ve enjoyed with FLOCERT has taught us a lot. And, in the process, it has helped to pave the way for the organisation to form many more strong bonds in assuring fairness.