SIGNALS: GROWTH PLATFORMS FOR A COVID-19 IMPACTED WORLD (10 OF 11)

The Age of Citizen Brands

Use Your 15 Minutes Well.

Paul Kelders Oct 07, 2020

Even before Coronavirus, there was an emerging mindset that calls for businesses and brands to ‘muck-in’ and play their part building a solid, positive society for the benefit of citizens. With CV, this mindset has accelerated and expanded. For brands, this will mean rejecting or reimagining frequently indulgent Brand Purposes and limp CSR statements for something more practical. Brilliant and imaginative, but practical above all.

The death of neo-liberalism has been heralded for at least a decade, however, now, as we emerge from recession and austerity into yet another period of uncertainty with the backdrop of creeping nationalism and increasing corporate power, there is a growing appetite to discover a new way.

Three fundamental drivers of this shift - Empowered Humans; Recession and Austerity; Coronavirus - have fed an often unconscious belief in the need for radical societal change.

The coronavirus crisis in particular seems to be fuelling this. For example, an astonishing 71% of Europeans are now in favour of introducing a universal basic income. As Timothy Garton Ash recently put it in the Guardian, “A better world can emerge after coronavirus. Or a much worse one.” (1).

And people have been helping ‘be the change’; never before, at least in our lifetimes, have we been so together or have so many felt so much part of a collective movement.

If there is a crack in this global tragedy that lets some light in, it is that we, the people, are resolutely together. We are witnessing, and respecting, how the individual impacts the collective, and not just bemoaning how the collective is encumbering the individual.

What this means is that artificial and unhelpful divisions of age, race, gender, geography are being challenged and hopefully weakened. Critically, we, the people, are realising that we can no longer abdicate our responsibility for our planet to children, neighbours, governments, or celebrities.

This truth holds for brands.

It can be argued that many brands have been guilty of talking and thinking more about their purpose and related CSR initiatives than the fundamentals of how they can do what people want them to do, better, cleaner, and better again.

Let’s be clear, it’s good to be good and it’s also good to do good. And we must remember our responsibility to grow shareholder value and returns. This is also good.

But this ‘brand – shareholder – purpose’ ménage-a-trois, is driven by inward looking, or selfish motivations. And as long as the rules are ‘double-digit growth; ‘find our why’ and ‘have the most fun/creative case study’, we will continue to operate as entities rather than as something bigger.

That ‘something bigger’ is what we in jump! have called ‘Citizen Brands’.

A Citizen Brand is one that understands that it has an imperative to play a greater role in the world in its pursuit of sustained and profitable growth.

We must move beyond ‘Brand Purpose’ and ‘CSR’ to become something that delivers a lot more of what we call Functional Value and Ethical Value. We, as marketers, have tended to lean too heavily on the ‘Emotional Value and Financial Value’ sides of our propositions forgetting that the greatest thing we can do is deliver on our promises and to use our brand power

and ‘clearly of the brand’ as they are promoting the utility of what they offer rather than a marketer’s dream of what they might/should offer and this is more powerful.

Brands have started being good neighbours; good citizens. As we saw very early in the CV19 crisis, major brands started to turn their resources towards practically helping out.

LVMH and Pernod Ricard began making hand sanitizer; Aldi and McDonalds agreeing on temporarily cross-hiring the burger chain’s employees; Prada and Zara are making medical face masks.

LVMH cosmetic researcher in laboratory

What is interesting from a marketing perspective is the role brands must play if they want to be ‘more than just a brand’. And I’m not talking about ‘Brand Purpose’, something I’m quite ambivalent towards at the best of times, I’m talking about what we in jump! call ‘Brand Citizenship’.

From today, brands who want to do more than ‘just’ profitably, and perhaps brilliantly, deliver on their promises (and let’s not be coy about it, that is their main function) will need to dismount the all-too-often high horse of ‘Brand Purpose’ and muck in as a citizen.

This means extracting maximum utility from your resources for the on-going gain of all. It is the brand acting as an individual obsessed with creating human-wide wins.

Citizen brands muck in, like the rest of us. Sometimes they do it with greater resource and ideas, sometimes they just get stuck in.

Create jobs; pay your taxes; treat people well; make good stuff; reinvest; add imagination; help make tomorrow better than today. Muck in. This isn’t ‘Purpose’ or ‘CSR’, it’s being a good ‘Citizen Brand’.

What’s striking about this is the holistic depth and breadth of the ‘ask’ from companies.

A new brand expectation: ‘good citizenship’ & Playing your part.

For the public good.

People will look more, now, to how brands and companies are conducting themselves.

It’s no longer enough to hide behind a glamorous, and frankly often indulgent ‘Brand Purpose’ or CSR statements; now we’re in the time of ‘Play By the Rules and Play Your Part’.

As brands begin the fight back for share and custom, people will look at (or be interested in) how the companies they’re supporting behave.

Brand must put in place ‘Citizenship’ programmes.

Citizen Brands muck in, like the rest of us. Sometimes they do it with greater resource and ideas, sometimes they just get stuck in.

Create jobs; pay your taxes; treat people well; make good stuff; reinvest; add imagination; help make tomorrow better than today. Muck in. This isn’t ‘Purpose’ or ‘CSR’, it’s being a good ‘Citizen Brand’.


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SIGNALS: GROWTH PLATFORMS FOR A COVID-19 IMPACTED WORLD (07 OF 11)

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Miranda Shanahan Oct 07, 2020

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