Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Responsible Branding

One financial adviser and radio personality introduces his program with “The paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice.” This is one evidence of how the economy is changing perspectives and priorities: financial responsibility is now a popular concept. And that’s not the only change taking place during this challenging time. Materialism and self-reward is being displaced by social awareness, with hot news topics ranging from the environment to race relations to community activism and involvement. It’s no longer about the “bling” and power grab; the new status symbol is to make a difference in the world and be responsible.

So how does that relate to branding? Well, just as people are evolving socially and relationally, so brands need to evolve socially and relationally. The broad and easy access of communication already gives the public product information and facts such as price and availability. Brands have to rise above the strictly functional performance of a given product and demonstrate “added value” that connects with the consumer where they are at emotionally. Brands need to identify with consumers’ values and communicate that effectively. They need to be just as involved in making the world a better place, be it environmentally, fiscally, or socially.

The Internet, iPods, and smart phones have tapped out the singularly logical, “just-the-facts,” “left brain” of society, so that now the trend is that consumer’s purchasing decisions are increasingly being made by the more emotional and experiential “right brain.” They are not dismissing logic, but rather they are combining the rational and analytical with the imaginative, artistic side of the brain in the quest for a balanced mind.

The strongest and most vibrant brands will be those that are meaningful and consistent all the while being innovative enough to break through the information overload. Successful brand managers are going back to the old business practices of developing relationships and trust with consumers, promoting the idea of traditional values while using the latest technology to do it.

A great example of this is Liberty Mutual. Their commercial (see below) shows people performing one good turn after another—like the inspirational movie, Pay It Forward—and then ends with “When people do the right thing, we call it being responsible. When it's an insurance company, they call it Liberty Mutual." They even have sections of their websites entitled "Culture and values" and "Philanthropy and community involvement" instead of the clichéd "About Us" and "Press Room." They are connecting with people relationally and emotionally with their brand.

With this in mind, the question to ask is, "Is your brand socially aware and connecting with people?" If not or if you're not sure, we can help. Just contact us.

View Liberty Mutual's commercial here:

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