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The value of branding: Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 of our journey into your subconscious delved into where branding started and what that process has enabled the world’s best brands to become. But what are those big names doing with their power?

Purpose-driven marketing is not a new trend. What used to be described as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now threaded through all marketing communications, brand activations and identity. Businesses are trying to tackle issues like gender equality, animal cruelty, global warming, poverty… Attaching your brand to a societal cause has become the new norm. Why? Put simply, consumers buy with their own beliefs in mind. Smart brands know that aligning with these is often a fast track to building brand loyalty in your customer base.

Whereas companies traditionally gave back to society through CSR activities like volunteering and philanthropy, that is no longer enough in the eyes of today’s consumer. Take TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair bought. From its inception, it was always TOMS’ mission to make a difference and to help and support communities in need. Their One for One® model has improved the lives of over 86 million children since 2006.

More recently, there has been an outcry for companies to become more environmentally conscious, especially in relation to single-use plastic. As a result, many are taking a stand and responding to the continued pressures from activists. Companies like McDonald’s and the Hilton hotel group have vowed to eliminate single-use plastic from their businesses over the coming years. Similarly, supermarket chain Iceland is taking a stand against the use of palm oil: by the end of 2018, all of their own-brand food will be palm oil free.

In the world of tech, companies like Google and Facebook are focusing their efforts on digital wellbeing. Android’s most recent update includes a dashboard that records just how much time they are spending scrolling. In a bid to reduce mindless screen time, Google is trying to promote “meaningful engagement” by fixing a problem they ultimately contribute to. Regardless of irony, this is just another move by a brand to drive a more purpose-led strategy.

These are just some of the brands leading the charge on making changes that could solve some of society’s most prominent issues. We’re at a pivotal moment in the history of consumerism; but is it all because our collective conscience has been pricked? Or is the profit to be gained from purpose simply that great?

What’s causing this change?

People are at the heart of all change and in this instance, companies are responding to demand from their customers to make a difference. Our relationships with brands have developed over time and we now see them as having a responsibility to drive change. When it comes down to it, consumers are controlling this movement with their purchases; a staggering 91% of millennials would switch to a brand that is associated with a cause.

People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it

Simon Sinek

The role of business in society has changed dramatically over the past fifty years. Businesses are responding to cultural changes and trends in a bid to win their audiences over. As a species, we are actively aware of our impact on the world and we now expect businesses to help reduce the damage that capitalism causes. The current cultural shift towards sustainability is inevitable. It has already begun. But it does beg the question: is it ethical for a business to exploit purpose for commercial gain?

Have your say – @mccanndublin

Jessica Mahon is a Social Media Specialist at McCann Dublin.