There is a lot of talk in the marketing world about brand purpose: the reason for being that goes beyond just selling a product or service.
There is no doubt that a lot of people prefer brands that behave as good corporate citizens. In a recent study, we found that 3 out of 4 Australians prefer to buy brands that have good environmental practices, and 54% want to buy from brands that support social causes. This preference is even stronger amongst younger people, which means it’s not going to fade away.
Understanding the “goodness” of a brand is more important than ever.
What is brand goodness?Brand goodness is the extent to which brands behave in a responsible, ethical, and sustainable way. We have uncovered three dimensions to this:
The brand’s business practices
While many brands are involved in environmental and social initiatives, at the heart of a brand’s “goodness” is its business practices. People can usually see through the spin and spot inauthenticity and hypocrisy. This extends from sourcing materials, manufacturing, even through to the way a brand treats its employees.
The brand’s contribution to society
Brands that are considered good are those that aim to make the world a better place, beyond just their products and services. We would expect cigarette manufacturers and some mining companies to perform poorly here.
The brand reflects the values of its customers
For brand goodness to be effective, the values of the brand should align with those of its customers. Some brands (Patagonia for example) can reach a point where buying or using their products can reinforce and project the values of their customers.
Measuring brand goodnessEdentify has developed an approach to measuring brand goodness that allows us to identify the strength and authenticity of a brand’s corporate citizenship, from a consumer’s point of view. We can use this to grade the “goodness” of brands.
In a recent study of banks in Australia, we saw two major banks that spend significant amounts on social initiatives – Commonwealth Bank and Westpac – both perform relatively poorly on brand goodness. For both of these banks, and Westpac in particular, there is a strong disconnect between the values that they are seen to hold, and those of the broader population.
This is particularly significant given Westpac’s stated commitment to sustainability, as well as its partnership with the Westpac Lifesaver rescue Helicopter Service. Many people still feel that despite this, at their core these banks are primarily driven by profit, which over-rides their interest in social and environmental causes.
However there are examples of smaller banks, with Bendigo Bank the most notable, which have built their business around genuine commitment to community and customers, and have created a genuine and distinctive positioning that reflects the “goodness” of the brand.
Brand goodness is a must-haveFor brands across many categories, being responsible and ethical is an expectation, and is only likely to become more important. However it needs to be more than just a marketing message. People have seen this before and are too smart to fall for it. To be authentic, goodness needs to resonate throughout the business, from the supply chain to the products and front line services. This is why measuring and understanding the strength of brand goodness is a critical step in ensuring that your organisation is doing more than just talking about being good.
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