Paving the Cow-path of Social Purpose
Could contributing to a greater good be a shortcut to a success for brands?| November 3rd, 2016
Paving the what now? “Pave the cowpaths,” means looking where the paths are already being formed by behaviours and then build on them. This principle is always observed in parks and campus, where people take shortcuts on the grass avoiding paved paths. Successful brands build this thinking into everything they do, more on this later
As the inexorable growth and influence of social media continues, the globalization of society is having a considerable impact on the outlook of the modern consumer.
The global citizen is constantly connected, continually consuming and competently conscious of ‘what’s going on’, not just around them, but out in the wider world too. And through this, many of them are unsurprisingly growing a conscience; with rising concerns about the welfare of society and the environment as a whole.
Because of this evolving outlook, people are beginning to have expectations for brands to contribute to positive change in society through ‘social purpose’, those that do are now held in higher regard (and subsequently purchased more) **. This echoes (with a social slant) Milward Brown’s 2015 report which highlights how brands with clear purpose have a stronger equity. In other words, clear purpose in the consumer’s eyes, creates a strong, valuable brand.
At a stage in history where audience attention is at a greater and greater premium (e.g. Facebook in-feed average dwell time is just 1.6 seconds), providing ‘relevant content’ to consumers may not be enough to get / keep their attention and affection. Some brands are seeing the incorporation of social purpose as the answer. And we’re already seeing some benefit from this approach; after moving from comparatively light-touch corporate social responsibility, to actively embracing social purpose at their core.
By showing empathy with their audience’s outlook, brands can create consistent, authentic, and emotive narratives for content. And MediaCom have seen this strategy work well for some of our clients. Shell’s Make The Future and Churchill’s Lollipoppers award winning projects being two such examples of focusing on solving social community issues in the UK and abroad.
The so called ‘Green Giants’: Unilever, Toyota, Ikea, Target and GE each generate a billion dollars or more from products or services that have sustainability or social good at their core. The future of Unilever could be the world’s biggest NGO, imagine! In June 2016, M&S also announced £185m in profit from ‘Plan A’ (their sustainability programme) that includes only selling sustainable fish.
These companies and many more are unifying around powerful social issues as they understand good business is good branding, leading to hugely engaging conversations, content and of course…profits, because they are addressing broader issues and seen to be considering objectives that are bigger than their own.
The cow-paths of social purpose are being formed and leading to green pastures. It’s time to build on their success.
- 76% of people polled believe that brands should share their environmental impact publically, Protein 2016 Audience Report.
- 16-24s feel fashion brands (66%), tech brands (56%) mega brands (Google, Apple etc.) (79%) and media brands (63%) should involve themselves in actively backing a cause, Voxburner Trends 2016.
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