Marketplace Insights: January 2017 edition

The latest news, research and buzz on purpose-driven brands and customer trust from Business in the Community's Marketplace team.

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Trust and purpose in business

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals trust in business is down in every aspect - business must do more than pay lip service to stop trust reaching crisis levels. PRs, marketers and CR professionals nod along and conclude that authenticity and purpose are needed - but it’s clear that very little has changed in the way that companies are behaving or levels of trust would be on the up.

Companies must think boldly about their role in society, if they are to grow sustainably and bring people with them. According to Edelman, the three top ways for companies to build trust are treating employees well, offering high quality products and services and listening to customers

Using British creative consultancy Radley Yeldar’s index of top purposeful companies, Sustainable Brands have looked at how purpose is lived across different regions. Not surprisingly, Europe is the most engaged and  best at embedding purpose into the business, maybe in part due to its progressive attitude to responsible business. North America was said to have the most inspiring purpose statements, and its companies were best at engaging all audiences in purpose.  And while Asia is the least engaged with purpose, the brands there that have embraced it stand out as being the best at storytelling and consistency. Food for thought for global companies operating across all these regions.

Customer attitudes to purpose

A study by Unilever of 20,000 adults across five countries has claimed that a third of consumers choose brands based on their social and environmental impact. The study also found that one in five would choose a brand if its sustainability credentials were made clearer on packaging or in marketing. This equates to a €966bn (£817bn) untapped opportunity. If true, this is very encouraging as many studies have shown customers wanting sustainability, but marketers know that this rarely translates to purchasing decisions.

Meanwhile, as ever more brands are being pulled in to political debates, Marketing Week looks at how different brands are choosing to respond. Recent examples include Airbnb and Starbucks' responses to Trump's travel ban.  But can brands truly both live their values and remain apolitical? 

One argument has it that these brands risk alienating their customer base, while others argue that consumers should be able to choose who they spend their money with on the basis of shared values. It is a fascinating dilemma for brands.  Do they stand up for the issues important to them and risk losing customers who may disagree, or take no ownership at all? The more a business support and rallies for the issues that matter to it, the greater the potential for deeper relationships with customers who share the same views.

Bringing purpose to life for customers

The Drum talks to Leila Fataar, Diageo’s first head of culture and entertainment, on Diageo’s approach to being purpose-driven. Those struggling to integrate purpose throughout their business may benefit from Leila's collaborative examples of how different functions in the business can interpret and incorporate purpose into their area of work. It supports our belief that in order for a business to live purpose authentically, it must be owned across functions, not just by CR or Marketing.

Ford has shared its vision for the “City of Tomorrow”, imagining how advanced technology and infrastructure could form a more harmonious transportation network. Moving away from a focus on cars, it looks to become a transportation company, initially through a fleet of self-driving, autonomous vehicles used to develop a ride-sharing service similar to Uber.

Bill Ford, executive chairman, claims this is a move to “create a better world for future generations”. Is this just a clever marketing ploy for an industry damaged by recent scandals or a real turning point? The proof will lie in whether Ford is willing to spend the capital required to have any real impact.

As research reveals children are consuming half their daily allowance of sugar before they leave the house, the Huffington Post points out that brands should take ownership in helping children to be healthier. Food corporations need to accept their future success hinges on being proactive about changing for good rather than being forced by regulation.

One company acting on this is Mars, which is trying to combat the issue through responsible marketing. After committing to stop advertising food, snack and confectionery products to children younger than 12, the company updated its marketing to aim to an older audience, taking steps such as changing the M&M characters to have mature, adult characteristics.

See BITC's Marketplace pages for more on this agenda.