Alice McDonald  |  Tuesday January 22nd 2013
Relationships are complicated, right? And it seems it is no different with the brands we love.
Brands are increasingly finding that a quality product and good service are not enough.

As consumers, we want more from the brands we buy, and know that there are other ‘brands in the sea’ that may meet our ever-increasing demands.
More than ever we want to know that brands are worthy of our love. We want to know that the brand is more than a business – we want to know that they have a heart. It makes them easier to like or love and makes us, the consumers, feel good in the process.

Good corporate citizenship is becoming more important to brand image and the way brands promote themselves. Social Media and the digital age have a lot to do with this as we increasingly research, share and comment on brands. It is also the platform in which we are starting to engage directly with brands.

Business needs to respond to this – and it is the way that they negotiate this new relationship with their customers that will determine their strength, health and ultimately their wealth.

Nike, once a poster brand for sweatshops and human rights issues have turned their brand around. By taking on a key issue that was very close to their brand Nike have successfully acknowledged the issue and now achieve top marks for its transparency, environmental policies and human rights performance. Nike has just enjoyed its sixth consecutive year on the Corporate Responsibilities magazine’s annual ranking of best corporate citizens.
 
Nike has not only behaved like a good corporate citizen, but have treated their relationship with their customer well. Their behaviour highlighted that even a troubled brand can restore favour, (like many relationships) by acknowledging they were wrong, showing some heart and promoting good intentions.

Let’s remember also however, that as in relationships, for it to work, there needs to be truth.
Good intention that appears random can seem suspicious to customers and could be quite a turn off.  Creating a good Corporate Responsibility Plan that is supported by what the business does well ensures authenticity and greater impact on the initiatives.

Considered implementation, and a grounding in the company culture are also important to generating a halo effect on the business. This will enable not only the building of the brand but also building rapport with customers – perhaps even making them an employer of choice to discerning jobseekers.

We recently steered the Corporate Responsibility Plan of one of our kind-hearted clients in the finance sector. They were initially looking to support an overseas charity, but after discussion it was agreed there was a group they could help that was practically on their doorstep – and whose culture fitted their own.

The staff of this client are not only a motivated bunch but a have a somewhat over-representation of fitness fanatics.  They have embraced this by regularly participating in ‘active’ fundraising for the local charity for under privileged children. The end goal is raising funds for the charity but there are many positives for the company along the way, including supporting a culture of assisting others, a focus on health and personal challenge and those that are not physically involved cheer them on like friends. It is a win-win for all concerned and with this commitment the benefits are reaped by the charity, the business and the positive impact it has on their own clients – some of whom even donate regularly to support this Corporate Responsibility initiative. And yes, with my marketing head on, I can tell you that they have received some great unpaid publicity for their efforts.

As brand interactivity and consumer participation increase, businesses face two choices; develop and implement strategies and create a meaningful presence in a corporate world or run the risk of seeing your brand erode as consumers look for love.

My advice? If you’re looking for some love for your brand or business – look first at your brand values, look at your culture and then start planning your first date.