Why Every Retail Brand Needs a Social Purpose

Jun 12, 2019

Written by Dora Nikols, Social Mission

Today if we look at some of the most successful brands that have risen from obscurity to be global success stories they all have one thing in common. They don’t compete on price, gimmicks or promotions instead they share their values and support the charities and causes they care about in a meaningful way that win our respect and loyalty.

What sets them apart from their competition is a bold social purpose, this means they have found one cause to align their brand with. They also raise awareness for their cause through their PR and marketing activities which endears more people to the brand.

While philanthropy has been around for a long time and many brands give donations to charities, there are few who have committed to one social purpose. Instead of donating to many charities they are strategic in who they partner with and embrace one key cause they want to make a worthwhile difference.

Show Your Commitment

A great example of a brand that has a social purpose is The Body Shop with its commitment to end animal testing. When it was founded in 1976 it made a bold proclamation to campaign for the rights of animals. To this day it runs its ‘Forever Against Animal Testing’ campaign that actively works to stop companies testing their products on animals. This message is also embodied in its PR and marketing activities.

Instead of looking at charity and business as two separate functions successful brands like The Body Shop look at how they can do good and profit at the same time. When brands submerge their values into their brand and business operations and let the world know about it they create a competitive advantage that can’t be beaten.

For this reason The Body Shop stands heads and shoulders above its competition in terms of its unique positioning. It has created great brand awareness and an abundance of publicity for its stance to ‘Enrich not Exploit’ which it brings to life through its campaigning for animal rights to using renewable and biodegradable packaging and natural ingredients.

Dora Nikols, Social Mission

Another example of a successful brand with a strong social purpose is healthy fast-food Mexican chain Zambrero, it was founded in Australia in 2005 and has grown to over 105 restaurant chains. Unlike any other Mexican chain its difference is its commitment to be ‘Mexican with a Mission.’ It does this by committing to end world hunger and has developed its ‘plate for plate’ program where each time you buy a plate of food a plate is donated to someone in need in a third world country.

Be Socially Responsible

Recently a YouGov study found 87 per cent of Australians think business has a responsibility to do social good. While 55 per cent would recommend a brand that gives even a small portion of its annual profits to charity. This means no matter how small you are, building a social purpose into your brand is vital today. It helps you stand out and gives you something to talk about beyond just your product and service.

Even the 2018 Global Edelman Earned Brand report found nearly two in three people are belief-driven buyers which means they choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on social issues. This is why social enterprises like Thank You Water and Who Gives a Crap toilet paper have been so successful.

Even some of the biggest brands are focusing on creating a meaningful social purpose as a powerful way to differentiate. This is why Dove soap’s ‘real beauty’ campaign has been so successful, it encourages women to embrace and love their bodies no matter what size.

Dove have addressed a real issue it’s core customers care about, body image. It conducted a study with 3,000 women in 10 countries and found only 2% of women found themselves beautiful. This led them to empower “real women” and feature women of all shapes and sizes in their campaigns.

This approach has been so successful that Dove is growing 35% faster than all the other brands at its parent company, Unilever.

What You Can Do

So if you are a retail brand and you want to stand out and stand for something in a meaningful way to grow, attract publicity, new customers and change the world then here are some tips to get started:

  • Look at ways to improve your environmental impact by reusing waste and consider going certified organic, this will attract a new market
  • Select an issue that is extremely engaging and a concern for your customers and relevant to your industry and products to partner with long term
  • Choose initiates that align with your company mission, values, products and services and supports your business goals
  • Involve your staff and customers in your cause to work together to make a difference to your chosen cause
  • Select an issue that is a big social problem that many people can relate to and has the chance to become mainstream
  • Once selected commit wholeheartedly. Avoid any short-term solutions or promises you can’t fulfil or your partnership will be viewed as just a marketing exercise
  • Recognise that you will be expected to demonstrate your commitments in your own corporate behaviour, policies and practices
  • Share your journey and remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to show you are doing something to help solve a problem you deeply care about in society or the environment
  • Create a strong competitive advantage by using PR, social media and storytelling to educate customers on the issue you deeply care about; the way The Body Shop does with its ‘Forever Against Animal Testing’ campaign

Because today as Richard Branson says “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit”.

About Social Mission

Dora Nikols was a speaker at the 2019 seminar program and runs Social Mission a PR agency that helps companies find and share their social purpose so they grow, gain meaningful publicity and attract new customers.

It integrates a bold social purpose into your company and helps you stand out and stand for something by using PR, social media and storytelling.

To sign up to the newsletter or attend a free workshop, email dora.nikols@socialmission.com.au or visit socialmission.com.au

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