Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Understanding 'Brands with a conscience'

We are living in a world overwhelmed by brands and the appeals to consumerism. The more the better. However, a new movement is developing aimed at promoting responsible consumer behavior and healthy investment. A couple of weeks ago, I've read a very interesting book introducing Brands with a conscience. It introduces famous brands - such as Adidas or Dr. Hauschka or H&M - which decided that success must be based on an ethical set of values. The authors, Sandra Horlings and Nicholas Ind, made me the honor of an interview about the topic of their book and the challenges faced by brands in the next decade. Here are the answers of my questions - sent and answered via email.
Brands With A Conscience is available to purchase from Kogan Page RRP for £19.99. Get 20% off by using discount code BMKBB20 at the checkout.

What is the biggest challenge for big brands in the next decade? 

The overall challenge for brands in general is to stay relevant. At this moment in time a major societal challenge in society (and thus for brands) is the trend of sharing information that is not necessarily ‘true’: not ‘true’ in the sense that the rational measurements and comparisons don’t apply any more. And the way facts are presented has become rather subjective. Which feeds distrust and insecurity. Brands have a way of framing ideas and facts in an emotional way, which gives them the opportunity to reach and activate large groups of people. And Brands with a Conscience take this responsibility serious. These brands are aware of their role and impact in the world and live up to this responsibility in a positive, solutions based way. 

What future do small and new brands have in the current marketing context? 

Larger brands may have been more experienced in following the signs of the time. However, the same principles apply for large, small and new brands. We believe brands that are built inside-out; that have clarity of purpose and live that through in strong principles, are best fit to stay relevant. At Medingewe look at brands from a broad perspective; as a means of interacting with all stakeholders in a marketing context as well as a societal (employment, good neighbourship) and financial context. 

What do they need to do in order to answer the sophisticated needs of their current and potential customers? 

Brands with a Conscience follow their own principles and actively share their ideas with stakeholders. Since they are actively aware of their role and impact, they are also open and receptive to the ideas of others. They listen, respond to suggestions made by specific stakeholders and also promote a way of living that they believe can make better the world better. 

Will 'brands with a conscience' become a trend? Why and how can the examples you mention in the book be emulated, without a significant financial loss? 

Since 2004 when we started to recognise Brands with a Conscience, it has been our belief that brands that engage with consumers and other stakeholders in a conscientious way can be a force for good. In the book the majority of cases show that there is financial gain in acting in a conscientious way. And there are multiple surveys available that are mentioned that show the Brands with a Conscience can be, and are, financially succesful. In our view it is not a trend, although there is a growing interest in a more responsible way of doing business - that may be explained by the growing evidence that business originating in the post industrial era comes at a cost for both planet and people. 

How can brands keep their social relevance in time of financial crisis and turmoil? 

Being principles driven, acting human and humane, including all stakeholders: constantly interacting with people in and around the brand to educate and cultivate conscious leaders and followers. 

What are, in your opinion, the most successful 'brands with conscience' in the European market, and why? 

We’d prefer to define successful here as adding to the betterment of society. In our book we have made a selection of leading Brands with a Conscience originating in a diverse range of businesses: such as chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely, Dr Hauschka, Cosentino, adidas, French concept store Merci and Handelsbanken. There are more brands with a Conscience. They come from all over the world. All these are brands with a massive transformative purpose and strong leaders, that live clear, actionable principles. 

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