Beyond the transaction/marketing driven model of brand building, enlightened brand owners are building the value of their brands around aligning social good with business good. These organizations realize the foundation of their competitive advantage will be based on a higher purpose — social good.
In the marketing driven model of brand building, the focus is on awareness and communicating better features of the product. Consumers and customers simply exchanged money for a product. When the performance of the product matched up to customer expectations the brand promise was delivered. End of story.
That’s not good enough for consumers/customers today.
Apple’s on-going saga of complicity in the harmful working conditions in the Chinese supplier factories is a recent example of the deeper scrutiny placed on brand owners. Apple’s circumstances makes the point clear — consumers not only consider the products you make, or the services you provide, they’re also looking carefully at your entire value chain–where your stuff is made, what it’s made from, how it impacts the environment, the community, who your suppliers are, how well employees are treated. Consumers are scrutinizing the value of brands based on the social good they do in the world.
Brand owners must ask themselves “how can we align our business good with social good”? The answer to that question needs to come from the very top of the organization, not from marketing or PR departments. The answer to this question must be the very reason or purpose the business enterprise exists in the first place. The relationship of social good and business good must be the core value proposition of the enterprise — above money-making.
Breaking Down The Barriers Within Organizations
Traditionally the siloed nature of organizations would have one group of people thinking and acting on corporate philanthropy and community, while other groups are developing and marketing products with the greatest margins possible. These functions rarely if ever are coordinated by a vision to maximize social and business good. Business good and social good being “functions” rather a unifying principal of existence.
Enlightened brand owners are breaking down the functional barriers in their organization and converging these interests into a common social purpose driven brand value.
Patagonia is extraordinary in this regard. The higher purpose of Patagonia is not to make and market more technically driven outer wear, rather Patagonia’s leadership has aligned their core values and mission around stewardship and sustainability of the planet as a whole. They are a leading voice and advocate for the greater good. This is not a brand strategy, or clever marketing– it’s who they are as an enterprise. It’s the reason their employees come to work everyday. It’s also the reason the brand has unquestioned relevant differentiation in their customers minds and competitive advantage at a premium price point in the marketplace. Patagonia is a brand that represents social good and business good as two sides of the same coin.
The deeper principal that brands like Patagonia are based on is simple — social good is highly valued (relevant) to its customers and drives business performance (competitive advantage). Patagonia then walks the talk everyday. For Patagonia, there’s no difference between advocating for greater sustainable and stewardship of the planet and making money.
Doing Good Is Not Good Enough
Doing social good simply for a business gain is a fool’s errand. It’s not enough to “do good”. The aspects and activities of social good is not something added to the brand’s purpose — it is the purpose! Enlightened brand owners are employing the brand strategy principal of relevant differentiation to align social good and business good.
Three critical factors need to come seamlessly together to make your brand’s social purpose have relevant differentiation.
First, you need to know without question, what the brand is the very best at doing.
Secondly, whatever the brand is best at must be something customers really care about.
Finally, whatever the brand is best at, and highly valued by customers, must serve the good of community (planet) at large.
With these insights brand owners and managers can more easily identify activities of social good that your brand can own in unique and authentic ways.
Doing good is good business.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education