27 Jul Building Brand Equity and Authenticity through Social Enterprise
Authenticity being defined as genuine, bona fide and true, means that in marketing, brands would be communicating all of these emotions to the consumer. While this might seem a daunting task, the truth is, when a brand has such a reputation, it also means that when things go wrong the consumer is likely to give benefit of the doubt and continue to believe in the brand as it leverages on the equity it would have built.
Social enterprise has truly become a great strategy in building authentic brands as it has the ability to position a brand with a set of values and as part of the social fabric of the community that it serves. While many brands in Zimbabwe participate in social and community activities consumers are not always left with a sense of authenticity as the participation is not always consistent or strategic. Take for instance Old Mutual which sells different insurance policies is known to support marathon races. That’s a great brand strategy for a company that benefits tremendously from keeping people healthy. However, their positioning in so many ways is truly consistent and leaves consumers feeling they truly believe in people’s health and wellness.
Positioning a brand into the fabric of society through social enterprise allows the brand to be a market leader with a constant identifier being engrained in the consumer’s mind. When brands show up to community events and are constantly there through disaster relief, emergency management or simply celebrating with the community, consumers feel like they relate with the brand and are likely to also use that product or service despite the pricing point.
Let’s evaluate a leading brand consulting firm Cohn and Wolfe’s, results on 100 Top Authentic Brands. Disney was rated first with BMW, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Apple being in that order for the top five brands. These results were from 12,000 consumers in 14 markets with over 1,600 bands to review. The three R’s, reliable, respectful and real were part of the benchmark used to define authenticity. In addition, the definition of authenticity was relative to each market and each industry. Given cultural differences across the globe these top brands have gained a sense of authenticity by providing a genuine product or service while ensuring that they are respectful of their consumers, by providing a product or service they stand behind. They are therefore reliable at all times, taking full ownership and responsibility for failures. There is a lot we can learn from these top 100 brands , that are able to transcend borders and lead the way in bridging cultures through communicating an authenticity that can do more for diplomacy than any embassy can ever achieve alone. Social enterprise, particularly on selling to the millennial generation (Gen Y), which is known for demanding a lot more from brands and having a short attention span is going to be key in marketing strategy and brand positioning in the next 10 years.
Brands that are not looking at the millennial generation behavior might be left behind as new brands and more innovative products are being developed based on the need to solve social problems. As a Social Entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am surrounded by innovators looking to create products and services around social problems. Take for instance Amazon.com which is positioned as number four on the top 100 brands list is merely an e-commerce marketplace yet today ranks number 29 on Forbes list of top 50 companies. In 1994 when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com, it was not as well received, yet he saw the future generation which was excited about technology and knew that e-commerce would meet the need of a tech savvy individual who would rather shop online at any hour of the day versus wasting time in traffic and being around crowded shopping malls, he saw the future. Amazonsmile is the charity brand and focus on giving back to society through organizations such as St. Jude’s Research Hospital and Charity Water to name a few.
While many organizations claim to have corporate social responsibility programs, they seem imposed upon, merely a check and balance for a for-profit organization to do something for their community. The truth is big corporates are focused on big profits rather than community. The reality is many organizations have this tab on their websites, and usually a designated official within the organization and yet it’s not meaningful because writing a check in itself does not solve community or social problems, but creating enterprise around a problem and ensuring that such enterprise has a sustainable model, is the future of corporate social responsibility. The term corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been in existence since the 1960’s-1970’s and while some companies have truly lived up to its demands the truth is, it is being slowly replaced with a more authentic, sustainable, futuristic disruption known as social enterprise, a movement that I am certainly proud to be a part of.
By Philippa Sibanda
Phillipa Sibanda is as Speaker, Mentor and Business Coach . She is also a licensed Respiratory Care Practioner in Texas and California. She is an Angel Investor for Zimbabwean Start-ups as well as the Co-Founder Dominion Innovative Creations, GBI Business HuB. Phillipa is also the Founder of Hwela Foundation and the “Thrive Beyond Illness” Project.