To find out, we tapped into Landor's consumer brand equity tool, BrandAsset® Valuator. In the United States, we measure 3,000 brands annually on more than 70 key measures of equity and imagery.
One of those measures is "socially responsible." Rather than telling people what it means to be socially responsible and thereby leading their responses down a preordained path, we let them self-define this loaded term. By looking at which brands and companies consumers consider socially responsible, we learn what is important to them and how they define "socially responsible."
The brands that made our 2008 list may surprise you. Once governmental organizations and those dedicated only to charitable giving and activities were screened out, the top 20 socially responsible business brands in America in 2008 were:
|1. AAA||11. Weight Watchers|
|2. Newman's Own||12. Walmart|
|3. Procter & Gamble||13. Gerber|
|4. Disney||14. Target|
|5. Blue Cross Blue Shield||15. ADT Security Services|
|6. Johnson & Johnson||16. 365 Organic|
|7. Tom's of Maine||17. Walgreens|
|8. Home Depot||18. General Electric|
|9. Amy's Kitchen||19. Allstate|
|10. Seventh Generation||20. Whole Foods|
So what does this seemingly disparate group of brands have in common? If we think about them in their traditional business categories, it makes no sense -- large and small, retail and packaged goods, insurance and security services. Upon closer look, some commonalities emerge that may be classified as four principles of socially responsible brands:
In summary, it is clear that U.S. consumers define social responsibility more broadly than conventional wisdom might. To the people it is more than just "doing good for society," it is also "doing good for me." And at the end of the day, isn't that really what all brands should be doing? Finding a way to do good for both their customers and the society as a whole?
So what advice can we offer companies that believe in social responsibility and want to behave and be perceived as more socially responsible? First, broaden the definition. Yes -- sustainability, greenness, and charitable support to your community are important, probably critical to both the future of the planet and your company. But first try to determine what you can do inside your own brand.
If you are a food company, can you demonstrate your commitment to family, home, and hearth by reducing the caloric content of your recipes? Can you identify an unmet need and meet it? (A real need, not just a line extension looking for an audience.) If you are a retailer, can you find more impactful and meaningful ways to give back to the community than just supporting the local Little League team or putting your name on a concert tour? If you are a manufacturer, what can you innovate that looks after our well-being and safety?
By thinking of social responsibility from the consumer's perspective rather than that of the press or your public relations firm, the opportunities for doing the right thing in your own way are broadened and, ultimately, will help build a sustainable brand and business.