Havas Media just came out with an insightful new report entitled, “Meaningful Brands For A Sustainable Future.” One of the most telling aspects of the report was how it revealed the often-overlooked punitive side of the social business marketplace. Specifically, that means the growing awareness and capacity of consumers to punish brands for their duplicitous behavior or outright lack of social responsibility.
The report contains three key facts that contain profound warnings to marketers.
1. Only 28 percent of consumers worldwide think that companies today are working hard to solve the big social and environmental challenges people care about.
Two things stand out about this fact. Firstly, that less than 30% of consumers think that companies are either working hard or sincerely toward addressing social crises. But secondly, the final phrase “challenges people care about.” If there is one hallmark of the social business marketplace, it’s that there is now a real-time dialogue between brands and consumers, and if companies hope to inspire loyalty and goodwill from their customers, they have to act in a way that is meaningful to their customers’ lives. By ignoring the social and environmental challenges that their customers care about, brands are running the risk of a) being irrelevant and b) inviting consumer backlash (in the form of social media messaging or product purchases) in retribution for a lack of social responsibility.
2. Sixty-four percent of consumers believe most companies are only being responsible to improve their image.
One of the most persistent demands of consumers from brands that now use social media channels to promote their products and services is authenticity in their communications. If over half of consumers believe that brands are only being responsible to improve their image, rather than to genuinely address the issues that their customers care about, the majority of companies are setting themselves up for disaster.
Consumer demand for transparency and accountability follow quickly behind authenticity. We now live in a marketplace in which consumers not only have the information available to them through the internet, but the ability to share it in real-time thanks to social media. So as more companies seek to leverage their purpose in order to connect to their customers, we’re going to see the purpose-space become just as crowded as the green-space with many players feigning social responsibility as a cynical marketing tactic, rather than as an authentic commitment. Brands that do this may benefit over the short-term, but will suffer far more over the long term. These concurrent demands of authenticity, transparency, and accountability will be the traits that distinguish those brands that succeed moving forward based on their ability to inspire their customer community to amplify their messaging.
3. Most people would not care if 70% of brands disappeared in the future.
Deep consumer distrust is now translating to little regard or attachment for 70% of brands in the marketplace. So leadership cannot allow itself to be lulled into a false sense of security simply because they currently dominate the marketplace or their industry. Technology is already radically transforming the way business is done across all industries, and now consumers are more predisposed than ever to embrace new brands that are not only tech-savvy, but socially-responsible as well.
These three facts are just some of the invaluable insights available within the Havas Media “Meaningful Brands for Sustainable Future” report. This report concluded that the brands that systemically improve our personal and collective world being are rewarded with stronger brand equity and consumer attachment.
So mindful that this survey was based on research that included 50,000 people in 14 countries and 300 brands across 12 sectors, here is a list of the top 20 meaningful global brands.
5. Leroy Merlin
What do you think it will take for the majority of brands to embrace the fact that they must be meaningful to their customers’ lives? What do you think is the greatest obstacle in their way?
Despite the wonderful work and contributions made by corporate foundations through their cause marketing campaigns, there is a fundamental obstacle that cause marketers must overcome if they hope to truly have the impact our world at scale and build the bottom-lines. This obstacle is the integration of purpose into their for-profit business model. Much like sustainability, for too long cause-marketing has been viewed by many brands as an add-on, afterthought or PR exercise, independent of its profit-driven business strategies. Yet in the social business marketplace, in which brands must increasingly establish why they’re meaningful to the lives, cause marketing is now one of the most effective strategies for business-building and positive impact.
As such, companies now need to end this false separation between profit and purpose, and see cause marketing as a natural extension of the core values of the brand. When a company does that the benefits are two-fold.
First, they enjoy even greater PR benefits thanks to their authentic commitment to a cause, and this translates to customer goodwill, loyalty, and ultimately profits. Secondly, by defining the company’s purpose, and choosing to do cause marketing that’s in alignment with their core values, such cause marketing reinforces the for-profit brand narrative of the company. It also avoids a mistake often made by cause marketers who support an initiative that’s not in alignment with their brand, and so they create a disconnect in the mind of the consumer who then suspects them of cause-washing or duplicitous motives.
In terms of how a brand integrates purpose and profit, and establishes a cause marketing strategy on that basis, there are several choices open to every company.
1. LEADERSHIP: Leadership can determine independently what the brand stands for, its core values, and choose non-profits whose work is in alignment with the objectives of the brand.
2. EMPLOYEES: Leadership can collaborate with employees, engaging them in the process of brand definition and cause-marketing outreach, so that they’re already invested in the social benefits.
3. COMMUNITY: A company can reach out to its customer community, sharing its best articulation of the brand purpose and the causes it would like to support, and ask for the input of its customers as to which one nonprofit or charity they’d like to support. Or perhaps there is a mix of several nonprofits, all of which are in alignment with the purpose of the brand.
The benefits of such an approach are multifaceted. Not only will leadership enjoy a sense of fulfillment through the contribution that they make, but there are many bottom-line benefits.
1. EMPLOYEES: When you create an employee force that knows what a company stands for they feel better about working there because they are making a contribution to that larger purpose. It is far more cost effective to keep an employee than find a new one. Plus companies are far more capable of attracting top talent.
2. COMMUNITY: By engaging employees and consumers in the process of cause marketing, you also create a tight-knit community aligned around shared values, ensuring that they all work towards the success of the brand from the point of view of profit and in terms of their positive impact on the world.
3. SOCIETY: By contributing to a cause that’s meaningful to leadership, employees, and consumers, brands can improve the well-being of society at large, ensuring that there is a thriving economy in which to operate, and a prosperous middle class that can afford to buy their products.
In the context of a persistently dire economy, and record consumer distrust of brands, cause marketing is an absolutely critical element in the mix of business strategies today. A brand must finally integrate purpose into its for-profit business model so that it can satisfy the new demands of consumers which include authenticity, transparency, and accountability for their impact on their employees, consumers, and our world. Those that do this will be the ones that inspire a community to build their business with them, and they will be the ones who will most effectively leverage social media to amplify their message and be the business success stories of the future.
Here’s a list of some effective cause marketing campaigns that effectively align purpose and profit:
• LARGE BRAND: Nike LIVESTRONG Campaign
• PRODUCT BRAND: Pampers UNICEF Campaign
• SMALL BRAND: Invincibelle Hydrangea Campaign
What other benefits do you see to the integration of cause marketing into the for-profit business strategies of a brand? What do you think are the greatest obstacles to more brands committing to this?
Making the business case for doing good is absolutely critical to meaningful shift in corporate behavior to address our current economic crises and build a better world. fortunately that is easier than ever thanks to great new research and resources being made available by like-minded institutions.
1. The first resource I want to share is the infographic above put together by the great folks at Made For Good, that describes itself as a catalyst for collaboration committed to paying it forward. made for Good partners with non-profit to enable substantive change and this infographic is a great snapshot of how brands must embrace social responsibility of they hope to be meaningful to their customers lives.
2. As the largest PR firm in the world, you won’t find greater research credibility than from Edelman PR. What’s more their GoodPurpose report is a treasure trove of insights into today’s consumer and his or here expectations from brands. You can download the report here and it is an invaluable annual global study exploring attitudes around social purpose. Plus here is an interview with Carol Cone and Mitch Markson discussing the conclusions of the report.
3. Thirdly, here is a new global report from Havas Media on Meaningful Brands across 14 markets that lists the Top 20 global brands according to their index. This includes fascinating statistics about consumer sentiment that bolster the case for the other two sources above. Plus it includes some really useful infographics like this one below.
4. Finally here is a fantastic new report from longtime leader in the Cause Marketing space, Cone Inc. Their 2011 Cause evolution study include fantastic insights such as 83% of Americans wish more products, services and retailers would support a cause. You can get a download of the full report here.
By leveraging the research and data in these reports it is far easier to make the business case for social change in a way that can engage the attention of leadership, employees and customers. By embracing the current economic challenges and assuming some part of our shared responsibility for providing a solution, we can definitely remake our world.
Are there any other reports you would want to share? What do you think is the greatest obstacle to business acting on such research?
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