Brand Strategy: The decision to identify your brand with social good

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We are always moved when companies make a profound effort to identify and then act on a social issue. Especially very large companies. We know how hard it can be. It’s not always obvious how to identify an issue that matters to your brand, and then do the hard work to identify the brand with solutions that matter to people.

Making a social purpose part of the brand’s core purpose takes commitment from the top. It takes time and it takes money. But it can have a huge pay-off when handled with authentic, sincere, and meaningful programs that are appropriate for the markets in which the brand operates. Unilever, the second-largest consumer packaged goods company in the world has made such a commitment, and has glittering results to show for their effort.

In an article we noticed recently in AdWeek, Unilever’s CMO, Keith Weed made a series of restructuring moves starting in 2010 as a way to address the company’s environmental footprint. He combined marketing, communications and corporate social responsibility into one group to reduce the natural friction that comes with departments that have cross-purposes. And he made social good a requirement for all marketing efforts, combining social purpose and sustainability into product brand initiatives. Bold moves for a company that spent $7.5 billion on marketing in 2014.

Results of purpose-driven brand initiatives

At Emotive Brand, we apply proven strategic methods to help guide companies seeking to inject more meaning and emotional connection into their brands. Brand strategy always starts with a well-defined promise based on a well-considered purpose. But the strategy takes wings only when the company’s leadership team turns values into action.

In the case of Unilever, their brands that embraced the purpose-driven approach the most saw a 10% increase in annual sales. Overall, Unilever’s sales growth was up 2.9% in 2014, but grew 5.7% in emerging markets where 75% of online consumers are interested in CSR initiatives compared with 40% in Europe and North America.

Waking up the brand

Weed is hardly a rebel or a newcomer seeking to shake up a giant. He’s a 32-year veteran of the company who came to the realization that marketing had lost its way. It can’t be easy for the leaders of a huge enterprise to wake up, look themselves in the mirror, and decide to make a big change. For a company with 1,000 brands used by 2 billion people, the changes made by the Unilever leadership team were both heartfelt and profound. As Weed noted In the AdWeek article, “It’s important to get to the future first.”

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco Bay Area based branding agency that believes in the ideal of purpose beyond profit and helps companies make their brands matter more to people.

Originally published at blog.emotivebrand.com.

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