Lies, Damn Lies and Morality: Brands Have Some Work to

shellReputation is trust and the sound of distant drums is challenging how big brands play their role in the world raising fundamental questions about the morality of the offering (McDonald’s), the ingredients (Coca-Cola), the business model (Nestle’s palm oil) and product safety (Toyota).

In many cases the reason for the looming challenge is obvious when you contemplate tobacco, but many other brands spanning auto, financial services, oil, mining, gas, CPG, tech and telecom are being challenged by an ever growing number of pundits, thought-leaders, politicians and consumers: are you morally correct?

The typical response from most leading brands and marketing practitioners is to strenuously deny the complaint with corporate statements about their integrity, honesty, responsibility and ethical business practices. Claims and counter claims, evidence and counter evidence run riot and with the dexterity of gook brands claim it’s unfair criticism countering that there’s enough legislation in place and contend that they have a key role helping the environment, growing the economy and generating jobs.

Knowing and doing are totally different and many of these leading brands have a dysfunctional dynamic when it comes to transparency and camouflage the smell of their inauthenticity. Many brands claiming their societal role have woken
up on 3rd base thinking they hit a triple. To shatter the complacency it requires a concert of action to counter the public’s growing concern and cold contempt for many big brands: if you don’t like change you’ll enjoy irrelevance even less.

Brand is not about power it’s about responsibility. To orchestrate, motivate and facilitate a change in perception requires big brands to demonstrate not assert their morality claims. Brand leaders must ensure that strong rhetoric is not left to stand on its own, without a strategy to translate words into action because morality is something you do not wait for.


Money, Morality and Motivation: How do we determine what’s right for us to do anymore?

I attended a fascinating salon where we discussed this topic at DCA Man Heartlength covering sociology, technology, psychology, philanthropy and of course, capitalism and the role of brands.

In today’s current environment capitalism is a sow with nine teats and twelve babies. Over 200 years ago capitalism metastasized throughout Europe then spurring the industrial revolution across the world. It’s widely agreed that capitalism is the world’s dominant economic model that is a system governed by capital accumulation. Is it, or should it be, that is the question as it relates Money, Morality and Motivation?

The Swiss Institute of Technology unveiled a fascinating study of 43,000 global companies to map the structure of economic power and identified 147 companies (many of which see themselves as brands) holding 40% of the world’s wealth. Is the study a close shave or a deep cut to the perception of capitalism and its role generating Money, Morality and Motivation given so few companies have huge global influence?

A thought is a thing as real as an IED. We all believe in the transformative power of business for economic, social and personal good for everyone, everywhere. It creates wealth, purpose and dignity. We have a need for consultation for humanity: to search for fresh and universal human importance for morality and motivation. Today the system is still about accumulation (asset based) capitalism whereas the world has fundamentally shifted to an intangible asset based perceived value economy. Between 1975 – 2005, the tangible asset value of the world’s economy moved from 80% assets to 20% i.e. the majority of the worlds corporations value today is intangible asset value e.g. IP, Research, Databases, Trademarks and Brands as opposed to tangible assets. Therefore, building new sources of growth and being successful in new approaches requires acting in unfamiliar and entrepreneurial ways: new markets power growth and corporate role renewal.

However, to proliferate a new type of shovel ready capitalism it’s going to take a movement.If we can cheaply mobilize colossal sums of investment for growth and change we can move from theories, strategies and tactics to actions. New Century Capitalism based more on the conscience commerce model ‘making money while doing good’ creating social platforms for movements and wealth creation for the greatest number with determination, self reliance and a noteworthy degree of success can be achieved with brands.

“Brand” has always favored revolution — the people, the place and the time. Many are referring to what we are witnessing as an Internet revolution, but we are also witnessing a revolution enabled by new-century brands with unique capabilities that fundamentally offer a platform for morality and motivation. Brands proliferate indigenously and should be the flag bearers for morality and motivation with marketing the battle standard for the “morality” they could come to symbolize. Brands generate money and motivation, but how effective the role brands play in fueling morality 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 they have a direct bearing on the society in which they reside. However, the role of brand is not a fairytale and no CMO wants his or her brand to flail around like a loose fitting part. If a brand seeks to bond with its consumers with morality and motivation, 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. So 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 payoff is huge.DCA Man arms up

The timing is ideal for CMOs to seize this higher ground, strengthening brands’ role in society and taking consumers’ perception of morality and their motivation deeper into core business strategy. The opportunity rests with the phenomena of social sharing, which CMOs should primarily leverage to connect 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 who desires her brand to be beyond just making money and be associated with morality and motivation needs to figure out 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 spending their time and their thoughts.

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 morality and 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. Virtue is a stranger in this world and the “social sharing” consumer compels brands to be alert to their social responsibility more than ever.Image

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 that taps morality and motivation, 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 and move the needle north for morality, motivation and make more money!

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