Monday, 13 September 2010

Loyalty isn't Foverver: How to Embrace Social Change to Build Your Brand

I want to share some great examples of how organisations have put sustainability at the heart of their businesses via innovative and at times controversial social initiatives. Using brands for social change is one of the most effective ways in which corporations can quickly move beyond 'traditional CSR' i.e. companies have in the past focused on communicating CSR to their stakeholders so that it has a positive impact on their reputation. The opposite of this is a corporation using its brand’s ability to change consumer behaviour as a way of changing social behaviour.

A good example of this approach is the brand agenda of MTV. For over two decades, MTV has placed social-issue campaigning at the heart of its brand, and has used this technique as a powerful and distinctive method of communicating and identifying with its target audience. In the process it has arguably done more than any other commercial organisation to tackle cultural taboos and change youth attitudes on issues like HIV/AIDS and human rights.

Youth is a key segment for gambling operators and harnessing young peoples’ social consciences to build an operators brand offers a range of possibilities. Zynga, the world’s leading social network game developer, is using its network of 180 million players to raise millions for good causes through players purchasing virtual goods. A key challenge for online gambling operators is that whilst there is no conclusive evidence linking the prevalence of problem gambling with the internet, the online channel is more prevalent with the youth segment, which could therefore be a factor in increasing the prevalence of problem gambling.

Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which focused on women, was considered an unqualified marketing success by many in industry. Unilever took a controversial approach by blatantly debunking the dream that supermodel beauty was within a woman’s grasp, tipping focus away from aspiration towards realism. The campaign filmed Unilever executives’ own daughters discussing their self esteem challenges, which had an enormous impact on consumers. Further stages in the campaign centred on running self-esteem workshops for women and developing a 112 second YouTube film to drive awareness to the workshops. The film had been viewed 3 million times within 3 months of being released.