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Why brands need social purpose, now

We live in uncertain times which can make us untrusting of brands, whether political, corporate or charitable.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals the largest-ever drop is trust across sectors. Of the four main sectors (business, government, media and charity) business is the most trusted amongst the uncertain. The only sector that can make a positive difference.

This is somewhat contradictory to nfpSynergy’s regular charity awareness monitor. Whilst they acknowledge that trust in charities is fragile, their research shows that trust has bounced back between the sector scandals of 2015 (CEO pay, the death of Olive Cooke and the closure of Kids Company) and summer 2016.

But the trust crisis now cuts much deeper, because many of us also doubt ‘the system’ and how sectors work together to create the structures we live our lives by.

The trust gap between the informed and mass population has widened, leading to populist movements charged by societal fears such as globalisation, the pace of innovation, immigration, radicalism, corruption, and eroding social values.

But there is hope and a way forward.

Edelman report that three out of four people agree a company can take actions to improve economic and social conditions in addition to delivering a profit. In other words they want a brand to deliver social value, as well as shareholder value. When you delve into the full report it is interesting to see just how many drivers of trust focus on societal change.

In addition, fifty-two per-cent say a company’s efforts to protect and improve the environment is important to helping build trust. Despite President Trump eradicating climate change from US Government discourse.

Public trust helps to deliver brand engagement, and loyalty, so when trust drops brands need to respond, quickly.

That’s why Edelman encourages institutions to “step outside their traditional roles” to address societal concerns, as more corporate brands and B-Corps are doing. Most recently demonstrated by Tesco launching its first campaign about its commitment to tackling food waste, with their Chief Executive Dave Lewis hailing “purpose-driven” brands as a way of building consumer trust. And it’s why nfpSynergy calls for charities to embrace authenticity by staying true to their values.

At The Team, we encourage brands to boost brand trust by defining their social purpose (why they exist and the value they create for society), and activating it across their business from their product to services, to their employee and customer experiences.

Our book (How good is your brand purpose?) provides the business case for social purpose, with cross-sector case studies, quotes and inspiration.

Download free e-book ‘How Good Is Your Brand Purpose?’

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