Doing Well by Doing Good
By: Rick Crawford
I recently read an article on LinkedIn titled Brands Be Good, Do Good written by Ann Bahr Thompson, who is a Brand Citizenship® Pioneer. I had never heard the term “Brand Citizenship” before, but it makes a lot of sense. Brand Citizenship “is the strategic alignment of marketing, reputation management, corporate social responsibility, human resources, finance and social media community building efforts.” (Thompson, 2014). Because the world is now interconnected via the internet and social media, consumers can easily find information on a brand, and make decisions of whether or not to support that brand by voting with their dollars.
Consumers can review a company’s environmental and social performance through annual sustainability reports, or many companies have a section on their websites dedicated to sustainability. In addition to corporate sustainability, product transparency is quickly becoming the norm as consumers are demanding to know what a product is made of before making a purchasing decision. Consider the impact social media has recently had on non-GMO labeling, or the negative impact it had on Volkswagen’s faulty emission claims. The point is that social media can perpetuate negative impressions of a brand long after the nightly news segment has ended.
Brand Citizenship really resonates with me personally because I truly believe that in a world that is becoming increasingly connected by social media, a company’s brand and reputation can be enhanced because it does the right thing environmentally and socially. So, what is “doing the right thing” environmentally and socially actually mean?
It means finding an environmental or social problem and using your business to solve it, which gives a brand purpose beyond just making a profit. Purpose-driven brands not only help solve real problems, but also gain more customer and brand loyalty than brands that are solely focused on profit. Doing the right thing also means conducting business responsibly. It means leading an examined life for your business to ensure that you are operating responsibly. For example, a product that is made by a child or forced labor is not worth the cost, no matter how affordable the product is as a result. In short, a responsible brand is aware of its impact to the environment and society because it has taken the time to measure its impact. But don’t take my word for it…according to a recent study (2012):
“A majority of consumers globally agree or strongly agree that they would
‘purchase more products that are environmentally and socially responsible’ if
they ‘performed as well as, or better than, products they usually buy’ (75%), ‘it
didn’t cost more’ (70%), and ‘companies’ health and environmental claims were
more believable’ (64%).”
-BBMG, GlobeScan, and SustainAbility
Need more proof that purpose-driven brands will outperform those that choose a solely profit-driven mission? Havas Media Group reports that “Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by 133%, with the top 25 brands delivering an annual share return of nearly 12% (that’s almost seven times higher than the STOXX 1800 stock index)” (2009-2016). Brands that have a purpose and solve social and environmental problems earn consumer trust, which means consumers are more likely to buy their products. It turns out that “doing the right thing” also has a strong business case.
There are many organizations that have wisely chosen to conduct business in a manner that is environmentally, socially and economically responsible and have the enhanced brand equity, customer loyalty, and increased profitability to back it up. Some of these businesses on this path include: Mohawk Group, Patagonia and Nike just to name a few. For example, Mohawk Group has become a leader in the product transparency movement by providing Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations for its carpet; Patagonia has looked deep into its supply chain measure the environmental and social impact of its products; and Nike has used sustainability as a powerful innovation tool.
The successful businesses of the 21st Century will find their purpose and use their business as to help solve environmental and social problems, and embrace an increasingly interconnected world with open arms and leverage social media as a tool to affect positive change. Because consumers are now better informed than ever before, they are fiercely loyal to brands which align with their own values and the businesses that recognize this will build stronger brands and do very well, by doing good.
Thompson, A. B. (2014, September 15). Brands be good, do good. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from LinkedIn Web site: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140915150342-280830-brands-be-good-do-good?trk=prof-post
BBMG, GlobeScan, and SustainAbility. (2012). Re:Thinking Consumption – Consumers and the Future of Sustainability.
Retrieved from http://www.globescan.com/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=51&Itemid=0
Havas Media Group. (2009-2016). Home Page: Meaningful Brands. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from Havas Meaningful Brands Web site: http://www.meaningful-brands.com/