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23red looks to corporate philanthropy

23red looks to corporate philanthropy

Ninety-one per cent of consumers say how a brand behaves towards customers and communities is an influential factor when making a purchase.

A new research survey has revealed that consumers increasingly rate brand values as a priority when making buying decisions.

• Marks & Spencer and Pepsico, Britvic and Unilever are brands perceived to be good*

• Brands behaving badly: Nike, Coca Cola, Sony and American Apparel

23red are experts at taking the good to market, as evidenced in their recent groundbreaking campaigns for Bacardi and Change4Life. The marketing agency has now commissioned a study which quizzes 1,000 people about their attitude to brand ethics and how it affects their buying behaviour. The research ties in with the launch of the agency’s integrated marketing proposition.

Dubbed “Great Good”, the new offering educates brands and businesses on how best to align their commercial interests with their core values. Of those polled in the survey, 91% of people say the way a company behaves towards its customers and communities is influential when making a purchase; 74% want to know more about the behaviour of a company before buying; 60% say that awareness of “a company’s ethics – environmental record, sourcing, sustainable employment policies, etc, affects their decision making”; 53% say knowing that “the company donates a percentage of profits to charity and good causes” is influential when considering a purchase; while 64% agree that companies should adopt a role in the well-being of communities and wider society.

The survey also exposes an age and gender split, with a majority of under-30s ranking “ethical brand values” as a priority when spending on the high street, with a greater percentage of women than men demanding social responsibility from their brands.

Consumers are justifiably concerned about the impact of a company’s operations on the environment, its employees and wider society, and the indication is that brands are reacting to public opinion. Clothing giant Levi's recently renegotiated its terms with its contract factories in a drive to improve working conditions, with independent verifiers now paying spot checks on factories to ensure compliance.

Other manufacturers including GAP, Timberland and Burberry have announced similar top-down initiatives. “The real challenge for brands is how best to harness the values at the heart of their business as marketing tools, without appearing cynical,” said 23red managing partner and founder, Jane Asscher.

“This isn’t about sound bites and tokenistic gestures; it’s a paradigm shift. It’s about making specific and quantifiable changes, such as the recent initiative from PepsiCo with its drive to improve water consumption efficiency, thereby significantly reducing its impact on the environment.

"Similarly, Marks & Spencer has so far saved £50m with its ‘Plan A’ initiative, which sets out 180 green commitments to achieve by 2015. These are all concrete examples of real progress. But it isn’t about immediate returns; it’s a long term initiative and represents a sea-change in how businesses interact with society. We have found that these views are reflected within our client base and the market as a whole.”

Success also involves striking the right balance when managing communications. If an ethical initiative is to be perceived by consumers as authentic, PR announcements, advertising and marketing initiatives need to be weighted towards measurable outcomes, as opposed to merely reporting on the launch or the capital investment involved.

“While there’s a consensus that news of ethical activities needs to be shared with the public,” continued Jane Asscher, “an emphasis on initiatives over results can diminish the value of what is being achieved and arouses suspicions that it is masking something. To influence consumer behaviour, an ethical initiative must not only work, it must also be seen to work.”

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