Brands: The Best Force for Good?   


In recent years, volunteer numbers have flatlined. Some have created startups focused on social good, purchased only sustainably produced items, or donated funds; but it’s not enough.  The private sector must step up. And, brands with their deep pockets and cutting-edge marketing teams, are in a prime position to lead the charge, especially as aspirational consumers make their presence known.  

According to BBMG and GlobeScan, there’s an evolving aspirational consumer who loves style, social status, and sustainability. They want to balance their responsibility to the planet with their desires to express themselves through purchases. For marketers, this group is key, because they belong to other demographic groups as defined by age, race, or sex.

"Brands are expected to live their values and be ethically minded," says Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the innovation group at J Walter Thompson, who believes that cause marketing campaigns do not do enough to reach consumers, especially the 89% of Americans who studies say would switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause given a similar price and quality.  

Brands must show consumers that their purpose-based initiatives support a cause that the brand and its employees are passionate about, that they have genuinely good motives for creating purposed-based campaigns, and that consumers will also benefit. 

One way to do that is to get the consumer involved in a marketing campaign that generates social impact, not just likes and re-tweets. Our team has worked with brands like Buchanan's, Optus, and Coca-Cola to do just that.

From 2013-2015, Optus, a leading telecommunications company in Australia, wanted to better engage their 18- to 24-year old market around music. They chose to do so by creating money-can't-buy concerts where the only way in was through four hours of volunteering. Their exclusive events celebrated the collective effort of over 50,000 volunteer hours over the three years.  

We've seen first hand how a well-designed program like this one can create hyper-engaged customers whose brand love is shared and touted by others. There's also a level of engagement not seen by standard advertising practices.   

"In the past, consumers have been given a choice — do you want to buy the ‘good’ product at a premium or a ‘bad’ one — and often the decision comes down to price,” Matthew Phillips, co-founder of Beautiful Corporations, said. “But we are going to see more brands offering consumers the option of ‘good’ or ‘good’."

Or, perhaps, they'll engage their consumers in an innovative way and invite their consumers to help them solve the problems that plague their communities; because, really, isn’t it about time?