Brands Have a Bigger Role to Play in Society: Fueling Democracy

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/brands-a-bigger-role-play-society-fueling-democracy/227457/

By Dean Crutchfield

It’s more often the case that you don’t choose the things you believe in, they choose you and in the name of “universal conscience”, whether nascent or proactive, mercurial brands Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Google, have certainly acted influentially and are unsurpassed in history. “Brand” has always favored revolution and the likes of these brands metaphorically represent this freedom tsunami in several ways: the people, the place and the time. Many are referring to what we are witnessing as an Internet revolution, but are we also witnessing a revolution enabled by new century brands with unique capabilities that fundamentally offer a platform for action.

While brands proliferate indigenously, there is still a massive bond between “brand” and “western”. Brands are the flag bearers and marketing’s the battle standard for the “freedom” they come to symbolize. How effective the role brands play in fueling freedom and democracy is debatable, but it cannot be ignored. CMOs know that brands now not only have different economic value, but indicate different normative values as well, that have a direct bearing on the environment they reside in the world. However, the role of brand is not a fairy tale and no CMO wants their brand to symbolize a chaotic violent period, especially as they are not assured a happy ending. However, if a brand seeks to bond with its consumers, CMOs know it needs to stand for something relevant, unique and of value to them like standing up for the right of ordinary people to basic rights – the rule of law, the right to free assembly and free speech.

Freedom is the celebrity that has center stage across the world right now. How do CMOs prove the leverage of brands’ role – a role that can demonstrably be a platform for action by activating a fan base of millions. And with word of mouth the number one influencer of purchases, the potential pay-off is huge.

For CMOs to harness movement marketing and literally enable consumers to take part in the brands’ actions marks a bold and major cultural shift. Those CMOs that daringly embrace consumer participation can see the opportunity to firmly plant their brands in the hearts and minds of many. Perhaps tools like Omnicom’s Davie Brown Index (DBI) that’s for marketers to determine a celebrity’s ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent could be tailored at assessing “movement marketing initiatives” for brands.

The timing is ideal for CMOs to seize this opportunity to take on decisive role, establishing an even stronger position for brands’ role in society and taking consumer’s participation deeper into the core strategy of the business. The opportunity rests with the phenomena of social sharing, which CMOs should primarily focus on connecting with customers, sparking a conversation – not just a pure sales play. What it takes is a “fans first” philosophy that guides the brands overall engagement strategy. This represents a move away from push advertising toward a model of listening and engaging where appropriate. So the challenge for a CMO that desires their brand be in the social space, is how to achieve it in a non-big brand way that never puts a dollar ahead of a fan.

Social sharing is transforming the economics of marketing and has upended how consumers engage with brands to such a degree that established marketing structures and strategies some argue are obsolete. Yesterday, the funnel approach to focusing ‘paid media’ resources into building brand awareness and then desire at the point of purchase was a sound investment. Today CMOs know it requires a recalibration to where consumers are actively pursuing their time. Research by McKinsey, has shown that consumers do not systematically hone down their choices, but take a more recursive and less reductive approach. The customer journey has always been held in high regard, but the immediacy of social media and the explosion of digital touchpoints make a powerful argument for reassessing the impetus of marketing and brand thinking with earned media.

People forget words, but they will never forget the way you make them feel. We are what we think: 80% of decisions are influenced by “dormant” emotions in the subconscious. Doing the right thing in the name of timeless brand values is evident, but CMOs are understandably reticent that “movement marketing” with that kind of strategy is a race that is hard to win, because the finish line shifts with every move. Thus, the only noteworthy example I’ve found was Henkel’s efforts to clean up the streets near Tahir Square.

Virtue is a stranger in this world and the “social sharing” consumer compels brands to be alert to their social responsibility more than ever. We’ve witnessed in recent years the birth of purpose driven brands and a new “conscious commerce” business model – where a brand can make money while doing good. We can all be persuasive about the inherent risks with movement marketing, but isn’t it surely right to argue that brands’ seemingly inexorable growth will necessitate a more prolific role in world events? It’s often said never make forecasts, especially about the future, but brands must not cross an interval like we have in the world with a step when they can cross it with a leap – with share of trust the needle to move north.

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Author: Dean Crutchfield

In an award-winning career spanning two decades, Dean Crutchfield has created, built and re-invigorated some of the world's most iconic brands.

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