August 31, 2023
Marketing leaders should take a conscious decision to make a meaningful difference in the world, creating opportunities for customers to feel a sense of shared purpose in supporting those brands which prioritize social impact in the communities they serve.
We know that post-pandemic, a more conscientized consumer expects brand action in key areas of concern in the world, such as climate change, renewable energy, the circular economy, sustainable agriculture, and corporate social responsibility. In fact, in 2023, circularity is baked into organizations as a key operational sustainability initiative.
The value of business with a purpose is the theme of a new CMO Council program, Doing Better by Doing Good. Globally, there is pressure on brands, particularly those doing business in emerging markets, to be cause-committed, truthful, authentic, community engaged and morally and culturally aligned with helping our planet and society as a collective.
Doing Better by Doing Good, aims to audit, identify, and showcase corporate best practice and successes in blending self-interest with altruism. It will evidence private sector commitment to ESG and sustainability progress, the benefits of CSI spend, and the value realized from improving the wellbeing of people, communities, living conditions, and micro-economies.
When we polled our global membership of marketing leaders on what they viewed as corporate-critical brand benefits to taking a stand as an ethical organization evidencing corporate social responsibility in business, most marketers believe purpose-led businesses will build brand affinity and elevate customer relationships.
Another CMO Council poll of its members on LinkedIn earlier this year reveals 84 percent of marketing leaders believe CMOs should be a pivotal leader and at the forefront of organizational strategy, delivery, adherence, and brand communications around the ESG mandate. A lesser 11 percent view CMOs as part of a team. Only a handful see the CMOs on the sidelines or not involved.
As Donovan Neale-May, CMO Council Executive Director, mandated, the Doing Better by Doing Good pilot program in South Africa, will highlight the innovation, vibrancy, inclusivity, and effectiveness of business with a purpose in the country. This program will showcase corporate South Africa and multi-nationals doing business in the country as best practice leaders worldwide and underscore the values and benefits that can be attributed to ESG commitment.
Commenting, Rayhana Erasmus, Head of Global Marketing for Old Mutual Alternative Investments, says that it is imperative for brands to incorporate “doing good authentically” into their practice. “This kind of engagement leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat business as customers feel part of something bigger than just a transactional relationship.”
For Andra Nel, Marketing Manager: Brand and Purpose for KFC South Africa, this means lasting impact must be created through brand CSI programs. “Sustainability of impact can only be ensured when you have collective ownership from all stakeholders, where everyone feels like it is their own and are together aiming for maximum impact and reach.
“It is important to have a sense of belief in the why. When you have sustainability at the core of what you do, there is no place for complacency, you must continuously challenge the status quo, but also foster deep partnerships and a sense of collaboration. Putting heart at the centre of what we do allows us to keep our eye on the goal and ensures that we have a team of people that are truly passionate and committed to make a difference.”
Projected trends for 2024 require brands as a collective to take tactical action to create a sustainable and resilient global future. This is what organizations should have on their radar for the next couple of years, for long-term value creation, according to Ernst & Young, which says integrating sustainability into business strategy is essential to futureproof your business. This is especially critical to mitigate the impact of global megatrends which will change how we do business.
Erasmus says this strategy is as important for employees as it is for consumers. “Today, consumers are more conscious about the brands they use and the impact of their purchasing decisions. They prefer brands that align with their personal values. By demonstrating a genuine commitment to society and environmental causes, a company can build a strong emotional connection with customers, leading to increased brand trust and loyalty. Moreover, such companies are more likely to attract and retain top talent who are passionate about making a positive difference.”
In fact, EY’s CEO Imperative study showed that 80 percent of the C-suite believe it’s likely companies will take more responsibility for socio-enviromental impact in the next 5 years. The result of not taking action is not only lost opportunity, but also a business risk.
Profit and growth are not the only measures of business success nowadays. “Understanding and responding to disrupting technological, social and environmental changes is becoming increasingly important for organizations. A narrow focus on financial results is no longer enough to interpret medium- and long-term trends; a more holistic approach is warranted to drive competitiveness and in response to stakeholders, including investors, demands for information on a broader range of topics,” EY reports.
As Nel says, consumers are increasingly looking to corporate organizations to drive meaningful societal change and in time, this will become part of the license to trade. “Long gone are the days where consumers would simply believe what you stand for, simply because you said it. This means that you cannot simply jump onto the latest trend. When you are able to illustrate true action, a sense of acceptance and delivery on your corporate responsibility, not only do you build trust and increase retention from your workforce, but you are also able to foster a sense of belonging, belief and in some instances even a movement for greater social change in the workplace.”
Louise has 25 years’ experience in B2B publishing as an award-winning editor, columnist and journalist on media brands in Africa; also working with brands/NGOs as a content strategist. She is currently Editorial Director of the CMO Council; lectures in Marketing & Advertising Communications at Red & Yellow School of Creative Business in Cape Town, SA; and writes and edits retail brand blog RetailingAfrica.com. She holds a Masters in Commerce: Strategy and Organisational Dynamics, from University of KwaZulu Natal, in conjunction with Copenhagen Business School in Denmark and UK Open University.
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