Brands must move beyond profit

Brands must create a purpose beyond profit to regain consumer trust in big business and Government, say brand and communications experts.

Tom's gives a pair of shoes to children in developing nation for every pair purchased.
Tom’s gives a pair of shoes to a child in developing nation for every pair purchased.

According to data from Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer financial performance is the “old way” businesses built trust with consumers and the City, while the “new ways of societal trust” come from things like transparency, principles based leadership, business ethics and how a company treats its staff.

Speaking at the Be the Brand conference in London yesterday (26 September) Nick Howard employee engagement director at Edelman PR says that “upgrading” to what the conference describes as “capitalism 2:0” is a “huge opportunity” for brands and businesses.

“It’s not a PR or a marketing thing, it’s built from the inside out,” he adds.

For capitalism 2:0 to work, however, business must act beyond self interest and gain real trust, which requires a purpose beyond profit, according to speakers. Brands such as John Lewis, Unilever, Tom’s shoes and Nike were cited by speakers as brands that have managed to gain trust by shifting their business view from short term profit to long term purpose driven performance.

Sue Unerman, chief strategy officer at Mediacom and author of Tell The Truth, says that the problem some brands have gaining real trust is that marketers “often forget their role is to create value and represent the truth … not just create advertising.”

While many brands have developed comprehensive CSR programmes to address this need for purpose, this is not the same as building authentic trust in your brand, added Tim Bleszynski, strategy director of The Alternative a branding agency that specialises in cause marketing.

He said: “Trust has to be more than a component or function of a business, it has to envelope the whole of what you are.”

He cited BP and Barclays as examples of big businesses with perfectly crafted CRM strategies, that have been proved to mean nothing because there is no “moral compass or business purpose” to shore it up.

Diana Verde Nieto, founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, an online forum promoting “positive” brands, believes that CSR is becoming obsolete as a standalone division.

“It’s becoming obsolete like health and safety used to be. The society we live in needs money to operate but it’s possible for businesses to reconcile people, planet and profit into their business models. We need to stop thinking in silos,” she says.

Bob Thust, head of corporate responsibility CR at Deloitte agrees that CSR should not be a separate division, adding that his aim is to make his own role obsolete by building social purpose throughout the Deloitte business.

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