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Marketing and Comms
How to Go Beyond Brand Purpose and Unlock New Relationships with Consumers

Consumers are expecting a new dynamic in the relationship they build with brands. The team from Edelman gathered a full room at Wednesday’s lunch time session to unveil the breakthrough ‘2016 Earned Brand’ research study for the first time. The purpose-centric data surveyed 13,000 consumers in 13 countries about their interaction with their favorite brands.

“Consumers are looking for a new type of relationship with brands and purpose is really central to that,” began Cécile Nathan-Tilloy, Managing Director, Primary Research Lead at Edelman Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Consumers expect brands to be activists in the world. It was revealed that 62 percent said they would boycott the products or services of brands that do not meet these expectations.

The research clearly demonstrated the return on investment for brands once they invest in putting their purpose at the core of every decision they make on a daily basis. Consumers who relate to a company’s purpose become loyal advocates of the brand, they buy the brand’s products or services, they share its story, and they take action with it.

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“55% of respondents believe that brands can do more to solve societal-ills and influence change than governments,” Nathan-Tilloy highlighted. “90% of consumers say that by supporting the brands they love, they feel like they are actively supporting the cause that the brand is behind.”

Brands need to step up and embrace the opportunity that consumers are giving them. The research analyzed and measured the strength of consumer-brand relationships across 18 industries – including food, utilities and financial services – and found that purpose-driven branding was the most under-utilized form of consumer engagement.

“No matter what category you are in, there are brands, there are people who are building relationships based on their purpose,” stressed Jaclyn Murphy, Director of Brand Purpose at Edelman EU.

Three Different Forms of Brand Activism

Murphy delved into three global campaigns that have led the way on purpose-led actions.

1. Bringing a social cause into the public eye

Persil’s Dirt is Good brand launched their Free the Kids campaign last year to bring to the forefront the criticality of real play in child development and educate people. As a washing detergent, the brand has always advocated for getting kids outdoors to play, learn and get dirty. They also partnered with Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in the field of education and creativity, to develop this conversation. The brand has used their influence and ability to convene the key players around the issue – such as experts, NGOs, government and politicians – to be a catalyst of impact and long-term social change.

2. Leading by example about a societal issue

REI closed its doors to shoppers on Black Friday and encouraged people to get outdoors because they are a co-op that cares about their people. The announcement spurred a conversation on social media and REI succeeded in creating a movement by inviting others to join them and get involved by going outside on Thanksgiving. What started as an action for their employees ended up being a powerful campaign that generated a strong response and built brand loyalty with their customers.

3. Making a statement by taking action on a polarizing topic

Paypal made a statement by cancelling plans to open an operations center in North Carolina as a protest against transgender discrimination. There is no clear right or wrong way to respond to such a societal issue, but once a brand takes a stand like this, they must be ready and prepared to stand behind their viewpoint in conversations and engage with both the positive and negative feedback. Many people engaged and got involved in the campaign and used Paypal in any way they could to show their support for what Paypal was doing.

Best Practices

Murphy went on to discuss the best practices that could be learnt from these campaigns, which included some of the following.

  1. Pick your battles carefully - Brands should not get involved in a conversation just because it’s happening or because it will get press.
  2. Relevance - Is your brand talking about a genuine issue? Do your customers care about this issue? Is it relevant to the business and the people the company serves?
  3. Legitimacy - Is the cause aligned with the brand’s point of view and actions, before the brand steps into that conversation?
  4. Intent - Are the brand’s intentions and motives understood as genuine with no hidden agenda?
  5. Don’t run a campaign, start a movement - Commit fully to the cause, contribute new research to the conversation, and find ways to help the debate move forward.
  6. Get the right voices - Connect with people and partners who are legitimately involved in the conversation. This makes it easier for people to understand what you are talking about in a language that is familiar to them.
  7. Stay Involved - When you are addressing a controversial subject, be responsive and engaging with supporters, as well as people who don’t agree with your viewpoint. Be sure to be prepared in advance with material to support your position. Cherish the opportunity to engage directly with consumers and reinforce the conversation.

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