5 Mandates For Brand Citizenship

Anne Bahr ThompsonJanuary 23, 20183 min

Businesses have the potential for effecting societal change in unprecedented ways. Many businesses recognize the magnitude of their responsibilities. However many still don’t act on this recognition. – CultureQ participant

Here’s what our three years of qualitative and quantitative research told us about how people define businesses responsibilities to customers, employees, and society, distilled in our five steps that comprise Brand Citizenship:

Step 1. Trust. Don’t let me down. First and foremost, people want brands that deliver on their promises. Consumers loudly and clearly told us fair value for quality matters more than absolute price. People are faithful to brands that clearly communicate what they offer and follow this up with reliable products and services, sincerity, reciprocity, and listening.

Step 2. Enrichment. Enhance daily life. Innovative, hip brands that are ahead of the curve are great, but the notions of new and improved alone are not enough to capture attention. People identify more with—and are less price sensitive toward—brands that understand the things that are important to them individually and that help them to simplify their routines, make mundane tasks less dull, and enrich their daily lives.

Step 3. Responsibility. Behave fairly. In a post-recession, flattened, and transparent world, customers expect brands to treat people fairly, behave ethically, and be proactive in their business practices. This doesn’t mean a brand has to be perfect. Indeed, people respect and become fans of brands that behave more like people than demigods, provided they are honest about their shortcomings and strive to be better.

Step 4. Community. Connect me. The brands we choose are extensions of who we are and act as badges for what we are about to other people. Fans want brands to connect them to other people who share their interests and true passions. Physically, virtually, and emotionally, brands have the power to rally communities, change our behavior for the better, and fix social problems—provided they are not overtly political.

Step 5. Contribution. Make me bigger than I am. People insist that brands play an active role in creating a more positive and life-enhancing future. They want to buy from and deal with companies that are making a difference and contributing to our communities and world. As noted earlier in this chapter, participants in our research were clear that the brands they labeled as leaders have the know-how and skills to do this. They yearn for the brands they buy—or aspire to buy—to advocate on their behalf and address the issues that matter most to them. By improving life on the planet, a brand is ultimately enriching its fans’ lives.

Brand Citizenship begins with delivering value to the individual person, or ME, through the products and services they buy, functionally and emotionally, and then moves outward to deliver added value to society—or the collective WE. Brand Citizenship is a win-win-win solution that mutually benefits people, companies, and society. It integrates doing good activities, such as fair-employee policies, CSR, sustainability programs, ethical sourcing, and charitable giving with brand development in order to strengthen a brand’s reputation, foster greater loyalty, and enhance value creation.

Our research demonstrated that, regardless of size and no matter what industry a company is in, it can reap the benefits of Brand Citizenship: more loyal consumers, more engaged employees, more raving fans, more positive reputation, more engaged stakeholders, and more value for shareholders. With so much media attention focused on larger, well-known social enterprises that have “doing good” overtly embedded in their vision or brand purpose, Brand Citizenship’s five steps equally help the Fords, Vaselines, and Madewells of this world, as well as entrepreneurial start-ups, to connect the dots, so that they, too, can earn a profit and get lasting credit for fair employee policies, CSR, sustainability programs, ethical sourcing, and charitable giving.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Anne Bahr Thompson. Excerpted from her new book Do Good, Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit.

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