As the business marketplace moves closer towards being a comprehensive social experience, the onus falls upon brands to be more defined in terms of what they stand for, their core values and how they communicate them to their community of customers. While that may sound simple it’s very complicated to execute. Here’s why:
In a competitive landscape in which more and more brands are purposefully engaged either through corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR) or cause marketing, the danger arises that the concept of purpose will become as ubiquitous as green marketing with all the attending dangers of the equivalent of green-washing. So at one end of the authenticity spectrum, companies may apply the label of purpose to any effort that serves as window dressing for their persistent irresponsible behavior. While, at the other end, brand will demonstrate authentic engagement directed towards substantive positive change.
In order to cut through the noise and clutter, brands must be much more specific in how they define their purposeful engagement. What that looks like is the following five steps:
1. Brands must define who they are, what they stand for and make outreach on that basis.
2. Brands must have a point of view on that purposeful engagement, whether it’s directed towards the environment, poverty, water as a resource or causes such as breast cancer or education. Merely declaring your commitment to a category or cause will not be enough the distinguish your brand sufficiently to see a return on these well-intended efforts.
3. Brands must be very specific in their choice of social media platforms through which to communicate their CSR or cause messaging.
5. Brands must commit to deep engagement with the community using those platforms whose values are aligned with the brand’s.
Only when a brand does this can it hope to not only make an authentic contribution to social change, but in so doing build a community of brand advocates with similar concerns. That way they can differentiate themselves from the pretenders that will attempt to use purpose as yet another marketing strategy to merely serve their bottom line with no authenticate commitment to change themselves or our world.
Do you believe most brands will authentically engage with social change? If not, what do you think is the best way to hold them accountable?
7 responses to “How brands ensure purpose doesn’t end up as greenwashing”
Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.