A study by Mckinsey and the CECP, Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems through Business Strategy, lays out four alternatives for our future:
1. Corporations respond to expectations for greater social responsibility and government allows corporations to voluntarily meet these expectations.
2. Corporations try to adopt socially responsible practices but customers don’t trust them, so government and NGO’s stop partnering with them creating bifurcated capitalism.
3. Companies refuse to work for global change, forcing government regulations and adding to expenses and fuelling customer distrust.
4. Society and corporations cannot match expectations, creating a downward spiral of social responsibility plus economic, environmental and social decline.
In the video above, We First Founder and CCO, Simon Mainwaring, discusses how these four versions of the future presume that we want a better world and that we want the private sector to play a role- but positive outcomes will not come unless business makes authentic commitments and embraces collaboration with both consumers and other industry partners.
Brands cannot survive in societies that fail
Caring about the future of society and the planet is key to the future of business. After all, if there is no middle class to buy your products you won’t have a business. If the infrastructure of society collapses, you won’t even be able to conduct business for long. Based on this realization, what does this mean for marketers?
1. Remember that old adage, If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem? Well, if your company is not responding to the crises of the world we actually live in, your brand will be viewed as a destructive force.
2. As the data continues to show, consumers expect brands to be more responsible and are extremely aware of the power they have with brands because of consumer activism.
We can build a better world and build our business
We live in a mutually dependent global marketplace and the best brands are rising up to lead cultural conversations and even partner with other brands. In return, these smart companies reap the benefits of purposeful marketing and engagement including:
1. Clarity of business strategy
2. Employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity
3. Consumer goodwill, loyalty, and profits
4. Brand awareness, PR, and community engagement
For example, according to the Stengel 50, a study done with over 50,000 brands over ten years, establishes a cause and effect relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and its financial performance. Notably, investment in these 50 companies over the past decade would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.
Smart brands embrace purpose
Some examples of brands that have listened include Yoplait, with its Save Lids to Save Lives initiative to raise donations for breast cancer; Starbucks’ Shared Planet proposition, a commitment to only give consumers ethically and responsible grown coffee; and Pampers’ partnership with UNICEF for 1 pack = 1 vaccine to help eliminate maternal and newborn tetanus, a preventable disease that has taken many lives of newborns and many others.
Sustainability now is no longer dismissed as merely good intentions, but is now properly recognized as key business driver that has mass impact. And with fast moving social technology on our side, the cultural conversation around holistic sustainability and what citizens expect from business will only intensify.
For two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame, and share a purposeful brand story and build out your own 2015 Social Branding Blueprint™ based on the latest marketing research and case studies, join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit.
Coca-Cola is currently rolling out an innovative and environmentally responsible initiative called Coca-Cola 2nd Lives, starting in Vietnam and then expanding across Asia. At the heart of this effort is the intent to give their disposable bottles a second life that is meaningful, adds value to the lives of customers, and also avoids those bottles becoming yet another addition to landfills.
As you see from the video, the idea is to sell kits that allow people to use the bottle in a variety of ways once they have finished drinking the product. Not only is this an incredible opportunity for creativity in terms of all the different ways someone could use a Coke bottle once it’s empty, but it also breathes new life into the core proposition of the brand, Open Happiness. Whether it’s using the bottles to create make-shift squirt guns, crayons, or toys, each repurposing of the bottles is yet another way to increase happiness in peoples’ lives.
This is not just a smart strategy by creative marketers- it’s a very big idea. More and more throughout the world, waste is being seen not so much as a function of consumption that needs to be dumped in landfills, but rather as assets that can be diverted back into the supply chain to add value to peoples’ lives and avoid greater damage to our planet. If all manufacturers took this approach in which they looked at the supply chain and life cycle of their product from the very inception of design and planned for ways to either minimize waste or repurpose that waste in meaningful ways, we could quickly stem the growing tide of waste that is compromising the well-being of the environment and by extension, our lives.
In order to take a similar approach for your brand, there are three key steps to follow:
Design with the end in mind: That means design the product with alternative uses in mind so that they are factored into the manufacture, distribution, and user experience of the product.
Align repurposing with purpose: In order to ensure true bottom-line value for such an effort, apply your creativity to find ways that repurpose your products and align with the core mission of your brand. That way, you will not only be minimizing waste and protecting the planet, but also building your brand equity at the same time.
Add value to the experience of life: Each day, more brands are waking up to the reality that they can’t just provide products and services but need to create experiences that position their company as meaningful to customers’ lives. By allowing customers to experience a Coke bottle in a variety of ways shows that there are many different expressions of happiness and displays how Coca-Cola brought fresh dimension to their core proposition of ‘Opening Happiness’ in others’ lives.
Do you know of any other good examples of brands repurposing their products in alignment with their purpose? If so, we would love to hear them.
Much has been written about the impact of social media on marketing and the demand for greater transparency and accountability from brands. The business landscape is now littered with examples of its impact from the ousting of high profile CEO’s at companies like Abercrombie and Fitch, American Apparel and the LA Clippers, to brands mitigating the risk of consumer activism by changing their products including CVS, Chick-fil-A, and Subway.
The level of accountability now demanded of brands is only getting higher. Brands are now under siege from watchdogs that will not only hold you accountable for your company’s behavior, but also scrutinize the partnerships you keep in terms of your stated company values.
A very powerful example is playing out right now as Green Peace reacts to the partnership deal struck between Lego and Shell Oil. Green Peace states the oil company is using Lego’s high profile and positive image to try and improve the perception of its arctic drilling in the form of 16 million Shell-branded Lego toys being sold or given away at gas stations in 26 countries.
Green Peace has asserted that this licensing deal effectively uses children’s playrooms for Shell’s public image management as it tries to “buy friends who can make its controversial arctic drilling plans acceptable and misleadingly associate it with positive values.” Greenpeace went so far as create a compelling film that takes the very brand recognition that Lego established through its charming commercials and hit movie and turns it against the brand.
This is a costly PR crisis for Lego and not surprisingly, they were quick to react sharing tweets stating, “We are determined to leave a positive impact on our society and children. We’re sad when the Lego brand is used as a tool in any dispute.” While this is an understandable attempt to separate itself from the environmental impact of Shell’s arctic drilling, it is hard for Lego to avoid guilt by association which can be extraordinarily costly to the brand’s reputation in the short and long term.
1. What do they stand for?
2. How do they tell that story?
3. How do they show meaningful and measurable impact?
If the leadership, marketing, and employee base within a company does not have an answer to these three questions, the brand runs the risk of being miscast as part of the problem rather than part of the solution in the minds of consumers. Too often, however, leadership, marketing or PR firms point the finger of blame at other parties when it comes to who is responsible for damage to the brand’s reputation.
Yet as the adage states, “when you point your finger at someone else there are four fingers pointing at yourself.” If your company fails to recognize the reality of the world in which they live, to authentically put their shoulder behind the core values of their brand, and to demonstrate their authentic commitment to social change through all their efforts including partnerships, they only have themselves to blame for an inevitable PR crisis.
Join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit for two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame and share a brand story that empowers your company to lead business, shape culture, mitigate risk, and position itself at the heart of what the transparency-driven marketplace will reward.
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