Brand Citizenship: 7 principles for integrating CSR initiatives into brand development

Insights from our Q1 CultureQ study led us to acknowledge that many people (aka consumers) believe brands have a responsibility to progress society. So, we recently posted this as a question (Do you think businesses or brands have a responsibility to help advance society?) across various social media sites to learn what people in the marketing communications and related industries think. Everywhere we posed the question, we got close to 100 highly animated responses. Clearly, the subject is one people feel incredibly passionate about. The following unedited snippets demonstrate the diversity of views and strength of opinion surrounding this new role for brands: “The responsibility of business is to advance itself. Every action since Roosevelt has exemplified this.” “A business is a reflection of the leadership behind the product or service being sold. And people have a responsibility to advance society.” “Any entity that exists by feeding off another is required to live within the ecosystem. Any entity that lives off another without contributing to the wellbeing of the ecosystem is a parasite and can live only as long as its host survives. Doing good is good for business.” “CSR motives are not necessarily altruistic - in fact seldom so. It’s just good business sense.” “Anybody who ignores society cannot build empire.” “Brands advance society in everything they do without ever having to take responsibility for all of it. Every business moves society forward in billions of tiny steps.” “At the very least they have the responsibility NOT to hurt it.” “Let’s not confuse “advancing society” (what Microsoft has done) with “doing nice stuff” (which is what the Gates...

The seven new rules for brand leadership

“The US tax system needs an overhaul.” “A policy rethink could control the sub Saharan population boom.” “The World Bank’s leadership selection process no longer reflects today’s sources of innovation and economic growth.” These are some of the sound bites from recent press.  Clearly there’s an underlying theme - a call for reform.  At Onesixtyfourth, we found this especially interesting given the results from one of our recent CultureQ studies. We conducted the study with 763 news-engaged and earlier technology adopter Millennials and Baby Boomers in the US and UK.  Our original intent was to understand how attitudes were shifting as the old year turned into a new one.  What emerged from participants’ responses, however, was a far more profound perspective on our evolving social climate and the new rules for brand leadership. It’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift The over-riding message from participants – it’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift.  Unlike in the past, however, Madison Avenue and marketers are not driving this change.  Consumers, in other words people themselves, are appealing to brands to acknowledge the social significance they have and take on the role governments and political leaders are no longer effectively fulfilling. They are asking brands to use their influence, know-how and power to help shape a better future. 7 New Rules for Brand Leadership So, what are the new rules for brand leadership? Rule 1. Be Visionary: engage people through a clear view on how you inspire every day life. Rule 2. Be Courageous: take considered risks that propel society forward and...

Good citizenship: the new essential for sustaining brand leadership

Transparency. Supplier relationships. Social responsibility. Privacy. These terms have all been bouncing about a lot lately whether it be in conjunction with Apple, BP, Google or just general conversation.  And because of that, few people have been surprised that we’ve become more focused on brands as social reformers and been speaking more about brands advocating on behalf of their customers over the past two months.  What has startled several of our clients, however, has been the fact that we didn’t purposefully set out to deliver this message when we fielded our quantitative research in conjunction with CultureQ this past December.  The intent of our study was to get a broad understanding of general sentiment for 2012 - of Baby Boomers’ and Millennials’ aspirations and dreams to see how far apart they were and how similar and different they were between the US and UK.  We had no idea when we began to synthesise the results with our on-going conversations with Millennials that the learning would take us to this exciting, new place.  With faith in government and political leadership low, people are looking for brands to recognise their broadening social significance and with that take on some of the responsibilities for the future of humanity. So, with this in mind, and in response to several requests, we’d like to share our Brand Citizenship Quotient from  our recently released CultureQ report with you here. Brand Citizenship Quotient Index (based on top brands named as leaders)                         **Smaller or very small sample sizes ***No mentions for good or bad citizenship...

Brands, step up to leadership in 2012

Leadership.  During this period of sustained economic uncertainty, when people are feeling a significant tension between security and risk, the absence of it is apparent.  Our interviews for CultureQ have indicated this to some degree and the Internet study we fielded over the holidays confirmed it.  With faith in government very low people are looking for brands to inspire progress in society. When asked to name companies that are bad corporate citizens and act irresponsibly with respect to society, people and the environment, Gen Yers and Boomers rank the government 5th in the US, behind BP, Walmart, Exxon-Mobil and Bank of America and ahead of McDonald’s.  In Britain, government is tied for 4th with BT (British Telecom), behind McDonald’s, BP and Shell.  Frustrated with “[government] not spending money wisely” “civil service jobs [not being] safe any more”, “[business’] wasteful spending habits” and “corporations and companies [being] profit, shareholder and bonus driven” people tell us they are disillusioned with large organisations, and they do not necessarily distinguish public sector ones from private sector ones. The concept of brand leadership is intangible Similar to what we learned in 2007, the concept of brand leadership is intangible for many – it’s relatively elusive.  And, as with many things in the past 25 years, size and visibility seem to be surrogates for influence and vision.  The brands named as good corporate citizens are nearly identical to those cited as leaders.  Although many marketers continue to have Apple-fatigue, people clearly do not.  Apple tops both lists.  Certainly, its marketing and visibility help, but it’s more than that. For many, Apple inspires daily life in...

Brands in 2012: practicality, alignment and sincerity

At this time of year, after the excesses of holiday festivities our thoughts often turn to New Year’s resolutions. Certainly, the media has been reporting resolutions, large and small, over the past week.  And, we’re not exempt from tracking them; we’re even exploring them a bit in a survey we’re fielding this week. As we know, the same resolutions generally emerge the world over: losing weight, drinking less alcohol, exercising more, managing debt, managing stress, saving money, recycling and getting a better education.  These commitments to goals are developed purposefully and intended to last; yet our individual resolve to keep them often breaks down.  Frequently, our intentions are difficult to practice in day to day life and represent aspirations which are valued by society and not necessarily personally meaningful enough to permanently change in our behavior. The most successful resolutions motivate change through practical action However well intentioned, resolutions that are superimposed by our rational minds seem to fall apart as we deal with the pressures and stresses of our lives. People tell us that their most successful resolutions are those that motivate them to change through practical action that readily flows into their day to day routine.  They also come from deeply held internal value sets rather than from rules and norms imposed upon them.  Not surprisingly, most people are more likely to adapt their behaviour to unexpected events when they sincerely desire something rather than when they’ve been told to want it. Like resolutions great brands set aspirations that motivate people At the same time we’ve been talking to people about resolutions, we’ve been reviewing our on-going...
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