That's the bottom line for New York-based consultancy Onesixtyfourth. The firm, in its new report, CultureQ, lists five ingredient trends constituting a recipe for "brand citizenship." All of the trends suggest that a company's big vision for social improvement matters as much to consumers as the quality of the products it sells.
“Brands that deliver on an overarching vision – those that can help improve society in new ways -- are the brands that are bubbling to the top, as many people are losing faith in longstanding institutions’ abilities to do so,” said Anne Bahr Thompson, founding partner of Onesixtyfourth.
One of the trends looks at how consumers are seeking ways to think about their lives differently. The firm says that search gives brands an opportunity to talk to consumers about new lifestyle possibilities. "Favorite brands unite Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers equally through a common culture."
The firm says brands also have the opportunity, with a "personal responsibility officer," to fill a space vacated by such institutions as hospitals, schools and banks, which have lost the confidence of consumers. "As a result, brands will help to fill this void by working to gain consumers’ respect and loyalty by improving communications and offering greater benefits," says the report.
And brands must become one-to-one marketers, speaking to each consumer. Consumers, because of digital technology, expect it. The firm says brands must execute "precise relationships" based on a person's idiosyncrasies and preferences.
As the global economy wobbles, the environment staggers, and the prognoses by respected seers (albeit through a glass, darkly) about where our species is headed sag, people will also look at how brands operate, the firm predicts. Are brands being equitable? Fair? Green? Brands that address these will do so by working collaboratively with other brands and with consumers to improve daily life, and using education to help consumers see the personal benefits of social responsibility efforts, per the report.
Finally, since political and societal changes have let the younger generations down, people will try to turn that around. Thus, the company predicts, brands will cultivate work groups focused on developing sustainable projects.
The research also suggests that the top attribute consumers value in a good corporate citizen is its ability to respect the environment, treat its employees well and be honest in what they say and do.
The CultureQ report suggests that brands can achieve some of these goals by tying sustainability and ethical business practices to branding initiatives to drive loyalty and increase brand advocacy.
“Consumers want to be connected to something bigger, and brands now have the opportunity to fill this void,” said Thompson.