“People want brands to step in and solve things that government can’t.” With the latest news of #BoycottNRA and the #MeToo movement, it could seem that this is an idea plucked from recent headlines. But the role of business in social issues has been a part of the conversation for centuries. Anne Bahr Thompson is a leading expert on this and author of the new book Do Good. We discussed corporate social responsibility, brand citizenship, and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast presented by Twenty20.
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About Anne Bahr Thompson
With more than 25 years of experience as a global brand strategist, Anne Bahr Thompson is an accomplished researcher, writer and speaker, the pioneer of the strategic framework of Brand Citizenship®, and a Trust Across America 2018 Top Thought Leader in Trust.
A former executive director of strategy and planning and head of consulting at Interbrand, the world’s leading brand consultancy, Anne founded Onesixtyfourth, a boutique consultancy, to integrate cultural shifts & a social conscience into brand development. Her writings have appeared in Economist Books, hbr.org, The Guardian, Brand Quarterly, Bloomberg News, and many other publications.
Anne’s new book, Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit, is available in stores and online now.
Did you know … Being a sucker for interesting brand names, I had to start the conversation with a question about the name of Anne’s consulting practice, Onesixtyfourth. I won’t paraphrase (I’m not sure I can paraphrase). It involves three Egyptian gods and an essential ingredient in taking things apart. Curious? You’ll have to listen to the episode for more. SPOILER: It involves leaving room for magic and exploration.
Who excels at brand leadership? The usual CSR suspects always show up: TOMS, Warby Parker, Seventh Generation, Whole Foods, and Patagonia. But in 2011, Anne was surprised to see Apple leading the pack at a time when they were being lambasted for supplier relations. Why the disconnect? “Because Apple enriches people’s lives. It’s a huge ‘me’ proposition.”
How brands can “do good” in five steps. Anne has broken this down into a five-step process: (1) You have to deliver on trust — have you done what you said you’ll do? (2) Enrichment — how are you enriching customers’ lives? To the previous point, Apple does this. (3) Responsibility — first to your employees and then the environment; this is where the pivot happens between being a “me brand” and a “we brand.” (4) Community — bringing people together through shared ideas. IBM did this with their values jam. (5) Contribution — this final step is when it’s part of the enterprise like Seventh Generation.
Taking the first step. If this sounds scary, read Anne’s book for a step-by-step guide. When I asked Anne for a first step, she replied: “Courage. It takes courage to do something that doesn’t have a formula. It takes vulnerability.”
Pouncing on a brand vs. giving a brand a chance. In today’s fast-moving media zeitgeist, many brands stumble and many are called out. “You have to punish companies behaving irresponsibly. But anyone who’s trying deserves a chance. We need to come together to solve problems.”
What brand has made Anne smile recently? I was worried when Anne said she was going to deflect this question but her reason was insightful. “There’s no one brand. The ones that make me smile are the ones people city in my research.” A valid and data-driven answer.
As We Wrap …
Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Steve Hutt gave us a shout on Twitter for several of our recent episodes. Thanks for listening!
Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.
Thanks again to our sponsor Twenty20. Your source for on brand photography for your brand. You can get five photos with Twenty20’s one-week free trial at Twenty20.com/OnBrand.
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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!