Observations by Anne Bahr Thompson
The playing field for marketing has changed. Business as usual—with marketers and ad agencies running the show and consumers coming along for the ride—no longer speaks to the needs, longings, and practical realities of our modern society. The global economy, technology, climate change, and generational shifts have all dramatically impacted the ways in which we all consume, engage, and even abandon the brands in our lives.
The unprecedented level of transparency social media has generated places great power in the hands of consumers. People want more from companies than ever before: better value, better service, better ethics, and a better focus on sustainability. Brands, especially the ones we’re most loyal to, represent more than things and services. They signify an ethos—one that mirrors our values or that we aspire to. As consumers grow more concerned with fairness and sustainability, they – in other words we – naturally seek “relationships” with brands that link us to a larger purpose, simultaneously enriching our modern lives and sustaining the planet. So it’s no surprise that more consumers are calling for, yearning for—and paying for—brands to do good for their customers, their employees, other stakeholders, and the world.
A 5-Step Model to Do Good
Our 5-step model of Brand Citizenship® is not about sacrificing to better the world. Nor is it boasting about sustainability or social responsibility efforts. It is about integrating do good activities such as fair employee policies, CSR, sustainability programs, ethical sourcing, charitable giving, etc., with brand development to strengthen a brand’s reputation, foster greater loyalty, and enhance value creation.
The 5 Steps:
Step 1: TRUST: Don’t let me down. First and foremost, a brand must deliver on its promises. Consumers loudly and clearly want fair value for quality. Brands that offer reliable or durable products and services and follow this up with excellent (meaning responsive and individualized) customer service are trusted more.
Step 2: ENRICHMENT: Enhance daily life. All brands are expected keep up. To be relevant, newness must be purposeful and meaningful. We all identify more with – and are less price sensitive toward – brands that understand the things that are important to us individually and help us to simplify our routines, make mundane tasks less dull, and enrich our daily lives.
Step 3: RESPONSIBILITY: Behave fairly. Consumers expect brands to treat people fairly, behave ethically, and be proactive in their business practices. This doesn’t mean a brand has to be perfect. Indeed, people respect and become fans of brands that exhibit human traits, behave sincerely, are honest about their shortcomings and strive to be better.
Step 4: COMMUNITY: Connect me. The brands we choose are extensions of who we are and act as badges for what we are about to other people. Fans want brands to start conversations that connect them to other people who share their interests and true passions. Brands have the power to rally communities and change our behavior for the better and fix social problems, provided that they are not overtly political.
Step 5: CONTRIBUTION: Make me bigger than I am. People insist that brands play an active role in creating a more positive and life- enhancing future. They want to buy from and deal with companies who are making a difference and contributing to our communities and world. By improving life on the planet, a brand ultimately enriches its fans’ lives.
A Win-Win-Win Solution
All companies regardless of industry can reap the benefits of Brand Citizenship — more loyal consumers, more engaged employees, more raving fans, more positive reputation, more engaged stakeholders, and more value for shareholders. Brand Citizenship helps any business connect the dots to earn a profit and get lasting credit for fair employee policies, ethical sourcing, sustainability initiatives, corporate social responsibility efforts and charitable giving. It’s a win-win-win solution that mutually benefits consumers, stakeholders, and society.