MARKETING WITH REAL MEANING: THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD CITIZEN MARKETING STRATEGY

Can a company or a brand really market with genuine meaning and be a good citizen? In the first of a two-part blog, Jennifer Wilson of Way To Blue examines the Good Citizen market strategy.

“I’ve worked in the marketing industry for over 20 years around the world and too often brands, particularly in the wellbeing space, stagger between pushy messages with veiled product promises to bland meaningless promotional tweets. A different approach based on delivering real consumer value can cut through the noise, develop customer loyalty and engage your audience.

We throw around terms like ‘brand citizenship’, ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘reputation management’ as part of the concept of brands working to project an identity of themselves as caring, sharing, trustworthy members of society. I don’t feel this goes far enough and brands must push themselves to be Good Citizens and actively pursue this as a strategy.

Good Citizenship Marketing is when a brand understands its evolving role in society, proactively acts with purpose and chooses to invest in positive acts both to improve perception of it as a brand and as a tool to build trust. Good Citizenship goes hand-in-hand with reputation management but is a more active way of building trust.

Although it might seem obvious that brands need to do this, there are tangible reasons to work on Good Citizenship:

• It’s easier to hire staff – 93% of us are influenced by wanting to work for Good Citizens
• It increases business – 70% of us are likely to not buy from a business that doesn’t demonstrate Good Citizenship
• We’re likely to be proud to work for Good Citizens – 72% of us want to work for companies led by CEO’s who actively work to build Good Citizenship practise

The ‘image’ of Good Citizenship

Brands always want to project a perception of good citizenship, but walking the walk is more important than talking the talk.

Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s most successful medical devices, product, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods companies, also ranks highly when it comes to fines around products – most recently £3.6bn related to talc (currently subject to appeal).

Johnson & Johnson has traditionally worked hard to retain its good reputation and it will be interesting to see how it counters the negative effects of both this Baby Powder ruling, and the findings relating to their vaginal mesh products. Johnson & Johnson is an active participant in many clinical trials – a way to use good citizenship to rebuild its corporate credentials, which may be why the brand chose the good citizenship route.

Coca-Cola is well known as a soft drink, but they are also one of the most reputable brands in the world – with solid leadership and vision, strong environment credentials (more than 40% of the bottle is plastic recycled by Coke), and increased emphasis on low/no sugar drinks. That said – producing over 110bn plastic bottles a year – most of which end up in landfill or oceans remains a problem for them they are yet to overcome. Good Citizenship would be a good focus to try and address this.

When trust is gone

Sadly, the Good Citizen Marketing Strategy is most useful and visible when something goes wrong. Mistakes happen, we know that, particularly in the health and wellness space and these stories get a lot of press and social commentary that can set a brand back years. Countering a situation can be hard – the trust that has been built up over the years can be destroyed by a single incident. Rebuilding trust is hard and will take time. Working out where to start can be a huge challenge that brands must face head on.

The same applies to brands or products linked to health or lifestyle outcomes, such as tobacco, fast food and gambling brands, getting on the front foot and positioning yourself differently in the mind of consumers can be critical to getting traction and, more importantly, an audience where you might otherwise be an outcast.

Jennifer Wilson, global head of health and wellbeing, Way To Blue