Doing good and the Brand Citizenship continuum – Interview with Anne Bahr Thompson

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Do Good

Today’s interview is with Anne Bahr Thompson, pioneer of the Brand Citizenship movement, founder of OneSixtyFourth and author of a new book: DO GOOD: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit. Anne joins me today to talk about brand citizenship, her research, her new book and the power of aligning purpose, profit and doing good in business.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Putting Dan Pink’s Mastery, Autonomy & Purpose into practice – Interview with Jeremiah Smith – and is number 254 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Anne:

  • Anne recently published a book called DO GOOD: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit.
  • Doing good no longer has to be perceived as a cost to your business. It’s actually a way to invest into your brand, your reputation and into growing loyalty and engagement with customers, employees and other stakeholders.
  • The book is a result of consumer research that took place over the course of three years.
  • A five step model of brand citizenship emerged from the research.
  • Conscious capitalism, doing good or having a greater purpose beyond profits are part of the same movement and trend but there are fine lines that exist between each of them.
  • The desire for companies to play a bigger role in society’s problems is fueled, at least in part, by political polarization and dysfunction.
  • The Brand Citizenship model that Anne has developed sits on a “Me to We” continuum.
  • One surprising thing that emerged from the research is how customers characterize who is a good corporate citizen.
  • Whilst you would expect to see Apple named as a leadership brand, they did not expect Apple to be named as a good corporate citizen, especially in lights of the scandals like the one seen at Foxconn.
  • But, people named Apple as a good corporate citizen because of the way it transforms the way they communicate with others and how it brings joy into their lives by giving them music 24/7.
  • This put them firmly in the “Me” section of the continuum.
  • Similarly, Wal-Mart in the US and Tesco in the UK were ranked as good corporate citizens because their pricing they afforded customers a better lifestyle.
  • The five steps of Brand Citizenship are:
    1. Trust: Don’t Let Me Down. Brands that deliver on their promises are trusted more. Digital communications and information channels have made reciprocity one of five key requirements for trusted brands.
    2. Enrichment: Enhance Daily Life. People identify more with—and are less price sensitive toward—brands that help them to simplify their routines, make mundane tasks less dull, and enrich their daily lives.
    3. Responsibility: Behave Fairly. In a post-recession, flattened, and transparent world, customers expect brands to treat their employees fairly, behave ethically, and be proactive in their business practices.
    4. Community: Connect Me. Brands that rally communities, motivate behavioral changes and fix social problems – provided they are not overtly political – attract more loyalists.
    5. Contribution: Make Me Bigger Than I Am. Brands that play an active role in creating a more positive and life-enhancing future enrich loyalists’ lives by improving life on the planet.
  • Mrs. Meyers, Ikea and Plum Organics are examples of enrichment brands.
  • Burt’s Bees, Innocent drinks and the Forest Stewardship Council are examples of community brands.
  • Warby Parker and Kenco coffee are examples of contribution brands.
  • Where your brand is on the continuum has to be linked to your business proposition as it is the root of how you define your larger purpose as a business.
  • This is not CSR initiative. This is way more than that. This is a way of fundamentally reassessing your place in the world as a business and how you connect to your customers, employees, suppliers and the world and how that allows you to do bigger and better things.
  • Citizenship is an ethos that permeates your whole business and that begins with really understanding what your higher order purpose is.
  • The main barrier to adoption of this type of approach is not having courage to step up and step out.
  • The view point of many boards and their focus on maximising shareholder returns is also a barrier.
  • However, large investors like BlackRock and their CEO, Larry Fink, are now calling for long-termism in corporate social responsibility to be more ingrained in business.
  • So, hopefully the investor and the board barrier will fade.
  • Companies who have this type of approach have seen increases in sales e.g. Vaseline, a Unilever brand, has a healing initiative that has bith increased new sales and repeat purchases.
  • However, companies need not be frightened about talking about their good citizenship.
  • John Lewis in the UK is a good example.
  • The research didn’t identify them as a good corporate citizen because they just are a good corporate citizen and are part of the fabric of UK life. Customers just expect them to behave in a good and ethical way.
  • Anne recommends that brands that are interested in exploring this approach, first, step back and view their company from a new perspective whilst acknowledging that aligning purpose and profit and any associated change that is needed to do that is not going to happen overnight.
  • Check out Anne’s book: DO GOOD: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit.

About Anne

Anne Bahr ThompsonNamed Trust Across America 2018 Top Thought Leader in Trust, Anne Bahr Thompson has been inspiring business leaders to use their brands as a motivating force for change for many years. She started to observe and write about how peoples’ connections to companies were turning upside down at the start of the Millennium, before many others identified this shift. With more than 25 years experience as a global brand strategist, Anne is the author of DO GOOD, which explains her pioneering model of Brand Citizenship® – and the cultural dynamics that led to the creation of the model.

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A former executive director of strategy and planning and the head of consulting at Interbrand, the world’s leading brand consultancy, Anne is the founder of Onesixtyfourth, a boutique consultancy that helps companies align purpose and profit by integrating cultural shifts and a social conscience into brand development. She spent several years in the banking sector in strategic planning and research and began her career at Grey Advertising. Anne brings the knowledge and understanding that only comes from interacting with a lengthy list of the world’s most prestigious brands including: Aegon, adidas, American Cancer Society, Citibank, Emerson, Hard Rock Cafe, IBM, ING, JPMorganChase, Kingfisher, MerckMedco, Microsoft, Pearson, Pepsi, Prudential, Quaker Oats, Roche, Save the Children, Scandinavian Airlines, STA Travel, Stolichnaya, Symantec, ThomsonReuters, Tri-Star Entertainment, UNICEF, Waitrose/John Lewis Partnership and many others.

Anne’s writings have appeared in Brands and Branding (Economist Books), hbr.com, Brand Quarterly, Journal of Brand Strategy, Bloomberg News, The Guardian, PR News, and many other industry publications, and she has been interviewed about her mega trends on Fox Business. An active community volunteer, she is extremely proud of the work she has done for non-profit and humanitarian aid organizations, both global and local. She holds an MBA from the Darden Graduate School at the University of Virginia and has been an adjunct professor at New York University Stern School of Business’s London campus.

Check out Anne’s book: DO GOOD: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit, take a peek at the Brand Citizenship and OneSixtyFourth websites here and here and, finally, say Hi to Anne on Twitter @annebt and connect with her on LinkedIn here.

 

Photo Credit: swanksalot Flickr via Compfight cc

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