By Anne Bahr Thompson, founding partner of Onesixtyfourth
Today brands spare a donation with our purchase, but with a holistic approach, doing good doesn’t mean sacrifice in a consumerist world. As brands take a more sincere approach to development – one that ensures their passion and purpose is delivered across all touchpoints – doing good need no longer be an either/or decision.
Brand Citizenship helps a brand deliver fully on its promise - its mission, its vision. Leadership, loyalty and good citizenship unite under this organising principle for marketing, communications, product development and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Fully integrated, Brand Citizenship defines the brand experience rather than being a practice delivered only through social media, mass communications and/or big-ticket events. More than simple do-goodery, it centers on delivering a brand across all interactions, forming a trust that fuels a richer ongoing dialogue between brand and consumers.
Our research acknowledges that many brands mean more to consumers than the products they represent. People often choose one good product or service over another because the brand mirrors their own values, reflects perceptions of who they are or helps them to create an image of the person they want to be. Associations or relationships with brands do not replace religion, altruism or civic duty; although brands do connect us with people who share our values, educate us and align us with causes that matter to us.
Brand Citizenship creates a shared sense of responsibility, putting consumers in control: co-creating the future by choosing to purchase products and services that deliver sustainability and social responsibility initiatives that matter to them personally.
Despite heavy investment in CSR, many good purpose initiatives are not affecting consumers’ overall perceptions of their brand. This is because CSR is disconnected from marketing initiatives and not part of a unifying brand promise. For example, how many of us know that BP has invested US$7.6bn in alternative energy since 2005, or that ASDA teamed up with charity FoodShare to help cut food waste and support people in need of food this past summer? (Note: ASDA’s donation represents 1,500 tonnes of food or the equivalent of 3.6 million meals for UK charities every year, saving them £4.5m/yr.)
The benefits of embracing Brand Citizenship are:
1. Gain lasting credit for your significant environmental and social programs
2. Give more control over the future to consumers as they ally with you because you are transparent
3. Strengthen brand equity and centralize efforts under one banner: the brand
People are specific as to what functional, emotional or inspirational benefits brands bring to their daily life. This lights the way for brands to form their unique Brand Citizenship.
People perceive that brands are more in tune with their day-to-day lives and values than government because:
• Brands unite and inspire.
• When a clear sense of purpose is embedded in a brand vision and mission, it inspires people to join what they collectively feel passionate about, together.
• Brands always innovate to survive, therefore, they have the tools and techniques needed to take society forward.
• Political reform comes at the expense of an opposing ideal — e.g., universal healthcare is opposed by an equally strong privatising healthcare force. Brands advocate for human improvement and social progress, including both parties in the discussion.
• Brands reflect our human potential.
• Brands have the ability to turn principles and ethics into results (products, services and social initiatives) and thereby exemplify good citizenship.
From our analysis, we synthesized a 360-degree approach to embrace Brand Citizenship, shown in the image;
Direction 1: Organization: Create cross-functional teams that include marketing communications, product and CSR. Develop measurable performance goals that motivate them to work together to deliver an integrated brand experience. Promote policies that advocate employees and suppliers, acknowledge the challenges they face and treat them ethically.
Direction 2: Product: Offer fair-for-quality priced products that simplify people’s routines. Define new lifestyles that inspire daily living, enabling users to feel involved in creating a better future for themselves, society and the planet. See every delivery channel as a unique opportunity to reinforce the good citizenship element of your brand promise.
Direction 3: Experience: Use the brand experience to invite consumers to a personal conversation, one that makes them feel part of something bigger. Adopt a human tone-of-voice that sincerely reflects the brand's personality and encourages involvement in the co-creation of programs.
Direction 4: Service: Deliver honest, reliable and easily accessible customer service. Find new ways to integrate your proposition into people’s daily routines, acknowledge their value both as consumer and producer.
Communicate the mutual benefits services deliver to individual users, other stakeholders and the company.
Brand Citizenship is a win-win proposition where consumers, stakeholders, society and the planet can all mutually benefit. And, it’s a winning formula for leadership
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