Why good deeds pay off for brands

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The value of ‘intangible assets’ such as brand reputation and consumer relationships is receiving greater recognition by businesses, and new research suggests those of Cadbury are more valuable than those of any other brands in the UK.

The Triple G study rates brands with up to three Gs according to how ‘good’ consumers perceive them to be across three areas: actions, recommendation and engagement. Brands that achieve top scores in each category receive a Triple G ranking, which suggests consumers regard them as among the most trusted brands in the country.

The survey by The Good Relations Group asked 12,000 UK consumers about their views of 120 brands across a range of business sectors. Only 16 of these brands achieve Triple G status, with Cadbury gaining the highest score. In 2013, 20 out of 100 brands met the benchmark, with five doing so in both years: PayPal, Aldi, Waitrose, John Lewis and Weetabix. The research methodologies were different, however.

The top 10 brands overall

Jackie Brock-Doyle, chief executive of The Good Relations Group, says: “You need to be strong across all three areas to be a Triple G brand. That means that not only do you need to understand your purpose and your customer, you need to follow through in your actions too.”

Brock-Doyle argues that intangible assets are vital to the sustainability of businesses. She notes that brands are increasingly inclined to mimic the products or pricing strategies of their competitors, meaning that brand values and reputation are key differentiators in the minds of consumers.

According to figures from Accenture, intangible or ‘soft’ assets such as reputation, relationships and supply chain are worth $35trn (£22trn) to businesses globally – much more than the $25trn (£16trn) attributed to tangible assets like property.

“Intangible assets are the most valuable but also the most vulnerable things that businesses have,” says Brock-Doyle. “They’re valuable because if people genuinely like you and your reputation is strong, they tend to tell other people about it. They are vulnerable though, because if what you are saying to customers doesn’t have authenticity and you’re not matching it with your actions, you will be found out quickly in today’s social media age.”

The first G category asks respondents for their views on the actions of the different brands in the study. This includes whether the brand considers its impact on wider society and the environment and whether it does the right thing without demanding recognition or media coverage. Measured on a seven-point scale, only the top 25 per cent of brands with the highest scores receive a G rating for this category.

Top 3 brands for good actions

Waitrose comes eighth in the overall Triple G ranking and scores highly for actions, coming third when the category is taken in isolation. Marketing director Rupert Thomas attributes this to the company’s heritage as part of the John Lewis Partnership and its commitment to act like “good citizens” when dealing with suppliers, customers and the communities in which it operates.

He also points to the company’s employee partnership model where all staff have a stake in the business and share in dividends. This values-based approach has elevated Waitrose above other supermarkets mired in price wars and provided it with a reputation for quality.

The company has also placed its charity and community work at the forefront of its marketing campaigns to further highlight the good actions behind its values. “Last Christmas, we highlighted our Community Matters scheme – where our customers can vote to donate money to a good cause using green tokens,” explains Thomas. “We have donated more than £17m to 50,000 good causes since the launch of the scheme in 2008 and our partners have given more than 75,000 paid work hours of volunteering time.”

The Triple G study finds that many respondents have an unprompted awareness of the employee partnership model at John Lewis and Waitrose and the role it plays in shaping their values. Amelia Torode, director of strategy at The Good Relations Group, says a common trait across the Triple G top 10 is a strong corporate culture focused on customer service.

“The key factor that links these brands is consumer insight and personal relevance,” she says. “That insight and respect for the customer drives everything these brands do.”

Top three brands for good recommendations

To receive a second G, brands need to achieve a top score in the recommendation category. Respondents were asked the extent to which they would recommend a brand to others using a scale of 0 to 10. A polarised net promoter score was then applied and only the top 25 per cent of brands with the highest scores received the G rating.

This category is designed to test consumers’ views on the reliability and quality of products and services and whether brands deliver on their promises. Technology brands such as Amazon and PayPal (see case study, below) perform particularly well here. The final category of engagement asks respondents about their emotional responses to brands and the extent to which they share their values. Cadbury and Weetabix are among the top scorers in this category.

Top three brands for engagement

Weetabix is also one of only two brands that makes it into the top 10 of every demographic grouping when the respondents are divided according to gender, age and geography; PayPal was the other. Heritage is an important factor, with the cereal brand drawing on its 82-year history, UK-based supply chain and health credentials to maintain its universal appeal.

“Health is the biggest macro-trend affecting our food industry and families in particular are looking for brands they can trust to give their kids the right start to the day,” notes Sally Abbott, global marketing director at Weetabix. “We consistently deliver that.”

The brand also has strong associations with the British countryside and supporting local agricultural communities. The wheat used for Weetabix is grown within a 50-mile radius of its Northamptonshire mill and the company places standards on growers to protect the environment.

Top 10 brands by age category

Rather than simply celebrate its heritage, the brand is also seeking to introduce product innovations to maintain its relevance. Last week, for example, Weetabix launched a large outdoor advertising campaign to promote its new Weetabix On The Go breakfast drink.

“We could look backwards and celebrate the fact we’ve been around for so long, but that would soon become tiresome for the consumer,” says Abbott.

“We’re very lucky to have that heritage and I feel the weight of responsibility that’s been passed onto me from my predecessors, but our role is to keep the brand relevant for consumers today.”

Marketers’ response

Rupert Thomas Waitrose

Rupert Thomas , Marketing director, Waitrose (ranked 8th overall)

Consumers are increasingly well-informed and keen to look beyond the ‘shop window’ of a business. They care about all aspects of how an organisation conducts its operations and relates to its stakeholders. If they don’t like what they see, they have the power to withdraw their custom and, through social media, broadcast their views.

Employees also care about what their company says and does. At Waitrose our democratic structure enables views to be expressed and management to be held to account through open communication channels. This is a fundamental and valuable aspect of our co-owned business and means we are able to take decisions for the long-term to ensure a strong and sustainable business for the future.

Sally Abbott, Weetabix

Sally Abbott, Global marketing director, Weetabix (ranked 4th overall)

Weetabix is a brand that plays a big part in UK family life and our health credentials, taste, broad appeal and provenance are probably the areas that give it these kinds of scores in a report like this.

The company was set up 82 years ago with health credentials at its heart and it is as relevant today to consumers, if not more so, than it ever was.

We take quality levels very seriously and all of our wheat for Weetabix is grown within a 50-mile radius of our mill. Our agricultural partners and growers are a big part of our Weetabix family and when you behave in that way as a brand, consumers will find you out and you will score well if you have integrity.

Case study: PayPal (ranked 5th overall)

PayPal payment
PayPal’s innovation, such as its check-in technology, has helped it build a strong reputation with consumers

PayPal’s highest score across the three Triple G categories comes under ‘recommendation’, where it makes it into the top three brands. UK marketing director Alison Sagar believes this is due to the reliability and quality of the brand’s services and its role in making it easier for people to make and receive payments.

The brand, together with Weetabix, is also one of only two brands that are rated in the top 10 overall across every demographic grouping in the research. This month the company is rolling out the second wave of an advertising campaign that focuses on the idea of PayPal as an enabler in people’s lives.

“By its nature and design PayPal has universal relevance,” says Sagar. “The campaign is about how we empower people to do the things they couldn’t before.”

The role of facilitator also enhances PayPal’s reputation for good actions. By focusing on innovation, the company has brought electronic payment technology to charities, small businesses and local traders.

Last year, the company launched ‘check-in’ technology that enables PayPal app users to identify shops in their vicinity that accept PayPal payment, click on them to check in and pay using their PayPal profile. The technology is available at both independent retailers and nationwide brands.

Sagar says that focusing on user needs has helped the brand to develop a strong reputation among consumers and merchants. “Our culture and values involve putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, so it’s great to hear that customers value that.”


Brand communications consultancy The Good Relations Group worked with sister market research agency Chime Insight & Engagementto survey 12,000 UK adults about their views on 120 brands across three categories: actions, recommendation and engagement. Only brands that achieve top ratings across all three categories receive Triple G status.

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