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When Making a Good Product is No Longer Good Enough

Six Steps to Take Your Brand’s CSR Strategy into the Future

Submitted by: Tim Joyce and Linda Deeken

Posted: Aug 29, 2017 – 09:30 AM EST

Tags: csr, branding, marketing


The core tenants of a brand’s value proposition have long been understood to reside in functional, rational and emotional elements. The concept has stood the test of time and served marketers and strategists well … until now.

A new world is emerging where delivering on these three key pillars is insufficient to supporting a fully robust brand value proposition. Increasingly, consumers desire critical ‘social’ elements when considering and selecting their brands of choice. In fact, our research at The Cambridge Group is consistently showing that a consumer’s view that a company is “good for the world” accounts for 10-20% of their brand choice. Yes, social media presence and engagement have a role, but the concept is broader.  It is no longer good enough to be a good product--big brands need to be good for the world, too.  In the very near future, delivering on this tenant will no longer be a differentiating characteristic of a brand, but mere table stakes required to compete in the new branded world.

We’ve already seen this transition through companies like TOMS.  While the basic function of the TOMS brand is to sell shoes, the company actually pays dividends in the gift of shoes, sight, water and kindness across the globe.  Consumers are no longer evaluating shoes based on fit, color and design alone; rather, they are evaluating TOMS’ ability to contribute positively to the lives of others.  While some argue the TOMS model does more to ease consumer guilt than it truly does to address the underlying causes of poverty, the company has struck a chord. For five consecutive years, TOMS held an annual growth rate of 300%

Others have followed suit, and an expansion of buy-one-give-one companies and other means of conscious consumerism have sprung up across the globe.  And one doesn’t need to limit the scope to companies that are as obviously altruistic to see the trend.  Expansion of brands such as Whitewave, The Honest Company, Method--even makers of video games like Call of Duty--have realized tremendous growth by brilliantly articulating how their products bring people together.

Unfortunately, with each success story comes another example of a brand trying hard to ‘do good’, but coming up short.  Keeping your brand on the right side of this ‘good for the world’ equation requires adherence to key brand value principles. 

Six Steps to Deliver on “Good for the World” Brand Value
  1. Think beyond traditional “good.”  Being “good” is not limited to the traditional beneficiaries of CSR efforts. “Good” can also be personally physical, emotional and social.

  2. Communicate your value, clearly. Your brand is only as good as people know it is.  Also, while you may not be able to end world hunger tomorrow, you must clearly communicate the broader context behind your corporate investment.  A lack of communication can lead to confusion regarding the true objective, which can cause a company to unwittingly come up short in the eyes of the consumer.

  3. Be clear on the nuances of your business model. Put differently, understand where you make money and where your money goes.  Examples abound of disenfranchised employees and/or customers who invested heavily (dollars, time, or both!) into a corporate mission and statement, only to find the company they were supporting was also profiting from less laudable pursuits in the eyes of their consumers.  For example, an organic, “real food” company offering a full line of “real food” products, but filling its bank account with earnings from french fry equivalents, would undermine its meaning in no time.

  4. Set realistic goals and metrics. Don’t set yourself up for failure.  It seems obvious, but consider the recent trials of The Honest Company, for example, who recently settled a $1.55 million class action lawsuit claiming it misled buyers about ingredients in some of its products.  Set attainable goals, and then work tirelessly to deliver on them. 

  5. Regularly conduct an ‘optics’ test. If you are hypothetically selling a nutrition bar that benefits tribes in Africa, great! If it costs 10-15 times more than a standard bar and the profits are not heavily supporting Africa, you are going to have a PR problem, if not an ethical one.  Turn a critical eye to your own business regularly, and address problem areas proactively.

  6. Be authentic, and willing to adjust.  Accept the fact that you are going to misstep.  Be honest, be transparent and be focused on improving delivering against your goal. 

Far too often, companies striving for better good overlook these foundational principles, sabotaging their brand value and ultimately stunting growth. It doesn’t have to be this way, and consumers don’t want it to be this way. They fundamentally want you to succeed in this arena. Keep focused on these strategies to make the biggest impact and affect change where it really matters.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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