The act of consuming responds to a dual functional and emotional need of the consumer: functional, because the product or service is purchased primarily for its functionality, and emotional, because it also responds to an emotional need. And brands, for the most part, use these two tools to differentiate themselves. But a third key factor is on the rise: the societal benefit offered by the brand. The brand’s commitment is its ability to work in parallel with its economic activity for the common good.
The policy of social and environmental responsibility has a strong impact on public opinion. Numerous studies have shown this: the degree of commitment of a brand increasingly weighs, positively and negatively, on its perception. Just as the mention of hobbies and extra-professional activities sometimes helps to make a CV stand out from the crowd, so does a brand’s commitment distinguish it in the eyes of the consumer, but also in the eyes of its employees: it gives that brand its uniqueness. The choice for the brand is therefore either to remain in the background, as a spectator of the world in which it operates or on the contrary, to share with its targets its vision of this world.
The brand’s commitment to a cause (social, environmental, ethical…) makes it an enhanced brand: it takes on a new dimension. With at least 3 very quantifiable impacts:
improved consumer recommendation to other consumers: the creation of true brand ambassadors;
less price sensitivity in the purchasing decision;
active loyalty: the brand occupies a special place in the consumer’s mind, on top of mind.
To be effective and to nourish the brand identity, the commitment must respect certain rules. Business for Social Responsibility thus distinguishes 3 criteria that every brand must respect in order to associate its image with a societal commitment: “improve their transparency, make the audience accountable and explain the goal”.
The choice of causes for which a brand can choose to commit itself is vast: social, environmental, ethical, or even political. But this commitment is far from insignificant: it is a total and lasting commitment for the brand. Ideally, the nature of the commitment should already be present in the brand identity. It just becomes an additional expression of it.
Almost all brands have developed their own storytelling. Stories that are more or less well-founded, and more or less credible. And this is the limit of the exercise: in a society where transparency is set up as a value, a badly conceived or badly executed storytelling is easily perceived as a manipulation. Commitment to the brand means doing; and it is its actions that speak for it. Even if it means talking and making people talk about his actions. Because the consumer still ends up detecting a fictitious commitment that does not correspond to the true values or actions of a brand.
By its very nature, engagement is controversial and a source of debate. It necessarily implies alienating part of its targets: the one who does not share it. But on the other hand, refusal of commitment is synonymous with lack of flavor. The objective of the brand that wishes to commit itself is to generate maximum added value with the least possible risk.
Brand engagement is a way of offering its consumers a “proxy” engagement. The choice of cause is therefore also based on the degree of interest it can generate in them.
For the above reasons of credibility and sincerity, the brand’s commitment must be long-term. It is hard to imagine a short-lived mobilization fulfilling these conditions, then the brand giving up what had seemed to be one of its reasons for being.
So where are we now? Examples of brands expressing their commitment are multiplying. But it is still far from being systematic. Above all, in India, the approach only seems to concern companies that mobilize real means of communication. It is striking to note that in the United Kingdom – where fundraising is much more professionalized and marketed than in India – many associations and NGOs offer companies, whatever their size, turnkey engagement solutions, with a double benefit for them and for brands. A development factor that should eventually become established here too.