PR Insider: Making a Profit and Doing Good are Not Mutually Exclusive

Anne Bahr Thompson
Anne Bahr Thompson

Leadership, loyalty and good citizenship unite under Brand Citizenship. It’s a holistic principle that enables marketing, communications, product development and corporate social responsibility (CSR) to fully deliver on a brand promise. Fully integrated, Brand Citizenship defines the brand experience more precisely than campaign-based initiatives delivered only through social media, mass communications, donation-with-purchase or big-ticket events.

Our proprietary research acknowledges that many brands mean more to consumers than the products they represent. People often choose one good or service over another because the brand that represents it mirrors their own values, reflects perceptions of who they are or helps them to create an image of the person they want to be. Brands connect us with people who share our beliefs, educate us and bring us together.

Brand Citizenship takes it one step further and creates a shared sense of responsibility among consumers, putting them in control of co-creating the future in areas that matter most to them.

People perceive that brands are more in tune with their day-to-day lives and values than government because:

  • Brands unite and inspire.
  • Brands always innovate to survive, therefore, they have the techniques needed to take society forward.
  • Brands reflect our human potential.
  • Brands have the ability to turn principles and ethics into results (products, services and social initiatives), thereby exemplifying good citizenship.

Despite heavy investment in CSR, many good purpose initiatives are not affecting consumers’ overall perceptions of brands. How many of us know that BP, for example, has invested US$7.6bn in alternative energy since 2005, or that The Walmart Foundation was the first partner of Feeding America to donate 1 billion meals?

The benefits of embracing Brand Citizenship for businesses are:

  1. Gain lasting credit for your 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 by centralizing operational efforts under one banner: the brand

Our analysis informed a 360 approach to embrace Brand Citizenship:

Brand Citizenship
Brand Citizenship

1: Organization: Create cross-functional teams that include marketing communications, product and CSR. Promote policies that advocate employees and suppliers, acknowledge the challenges they face and treat them ethically.

2: Product: Define new lifestyles that inspire daily living, enabling users to feel involved in creating a better future for themselves, society and the planet. Leverage every delivery to reinforce the good citizenship of your brand promise.

3: Experience: Invite consumers to a personal conversation, one that makes them feel part of something bigger. Encourage involvement in the co-creation of programs.

4: Service: Integrate your proposition into people’s daily routines and acknowledge their value both as consumer and producer. Communicate the mutual benefits services deliver to individuals, stakeholders and the company.

Brand Citizenship is a win-win proposition where consumers, businesses, society and the planet can mutually benefit. Brands that embrace this new model will build long-lasting loyalty and lead their market.

Anne Bahr Thompson is founder and managing partner of Onesixtyfourth. Follow Anne: @annebt