As consumers demand more social activism and positive impact from the companies they support, we’ve seen many brands overreach in their attempts to mix meaning into their marketing messages. Despite some recent brand fails, like Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad, there are many brands that are doing a great job of delivering against their brand purpose (their higher order reason for existing other than making a profit).
Bringing a brand purpose to life in an authentic, credible way pays many dividends, from increased employee morale and engagement to improved consumer loyalty and advocacy. Here are three brands that have recently done a great job of translating their values into action, and connecting in a meaningful way with their communities.
You may have seen this tear-jerking ad, "Neighborhood of Good," from State Farm, where a man is followed around by constant reminders of causes that he could help with. But behind the ad is a story of a brand that has been focused on their purpose of helping people "manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams" for decades. State Farm started by doing a survey on the state of "neighborliness" that realized that there was a real craving to connect with neighbors—but a lack of understanding of how to do it in this digital age. A separate survey they did on volunteerism showed a real desire to participate—but a lack of clarity on what options were available locally. That lead to the creation of the Neighborhoodofgood.com website (powered by the back end AllForGood website) where anyone can log on and find volunteer opportunities close to them. While still in the early stages, the signs are encouraging: in the first week, there were over 10,000 searches for opportunities, showing the hunger amongst Americans for the desire to give back and do something positive.
Amongst all the doom and gloom of tumbling retail stocks, here’s an amazing story of a small retailer with a big heart. Since 1996, Hansen’s Surfboards in Encinitas, California have been giving kids who bring their report cards store credit—$4 for every ‘A’ and $2 for every ‘B’—which has lead to them giving away over one million dollars to date, keeping in line with their mission to be a family-values driven retailer. And the best part of "Goods for Grades?" Parents who participated in the program when they were kids themselves, are now bringing their own children into the store. How’s that for multi-generational loyalty? A simple yet powerful idea to show appreciation and grow loyalty with their customers which could be adopted by retailers—big and small—everywhere.
And finally, here’s an airline that’s making headlines for positive reasons: Canadian airline WestJet has been doing a "Christmas Miracle" since 2012: for instance, helping an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic (even gifting a horse!), or giving away 12,000 mini-miracles in 24 hours around the world (all of which has generated millions of video views and positive social engagement). In 2016, WestJet set out to do something for the victims of Fort McMurray forest fire who lost their homes by throwing them a Snowflake Soiree - and parachuting in thousands of free flights for them. Westjet’s purpose is "To enrich the lives of everyone in WestJet's world by providing safe, friendly and affordable air travel" and by doing these heartwarming activities they really bring it to life.
—Afdhel Aziz is the founder of Conspiracy of Love, a purpose-driven brand consultancy, and the co-author of "Good is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn."