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Vivid Brand in the Press! Our MD Gideon Karmiloff, talks Omni Channel circles and Social Responsibility in The Drum

Well behaved shoppers: Why social responsibility initiatives are the gift that keeps on giving for brands

Clever social responsibility programmes are leaving shoppers, consumers, retailers and brands all with the feeling they’ve behaved well, says Vivid Brand managing partner Gideon Karmiloff.

As children, we grow up being taught right from wrong, often told off for bad behaviour and rewarded for good. And it’s a familiar pattern brands are increasingly adopting: demonstrating good behaviour has become more and more important for brands in an age where telling people what you’re about is no longer enough – it is actions that count.

But it’s not just brands who are judged by their actions; it’s retailers, consumers and shoppers too – and, where ‘good behaviour’ is demonstrated, it is rewarded.

In recent years, brands have invested more and more heavily in social responsibility programmes as a recognition that consumers trust businesses that incorporate good values. Brands engaging in these efforts do it because they know that consumers will pay a premium for socially responsible products – and also, because they know that shoppers are looking for ways to express their values through what they shop, where they shop and how they shop.

Without these programmes, according to the Edelman Good Purpose study, more and more consumers would be ready to punish brands that do not support social initiatives – 44 per cent of respondents say they will refuse to buy the brand’s products, will criticise it to others and share negative experiences of it with others. In the digital age, this is a powerful threat. Waitrose acknowledged the power of demonstrating good behaviour and took advantage in 2008 when it launched the ‘Community Matters’ scheme, allowing shoppers to decide which community project to support using a token. By involving shoppers in a choice, Waitrose has engaged them emotionally and given them the power to make a difference.

The impact of this is threefold: the shopper leaves with a warm, fuzzy feeling of having performed a good deed, the retailer looks connected to their community and appears to be giving back, and the charity gets the support it needs. Everyone basks in the glory of good behaviour. In 2012, JWT created a new fundraising campaign called ‘Hope’.

In-store, shoppers could pick up an engraved wooden block branded ‘Hope’ and scan it along with the rest of their shopping. Once scanned, £1 was automatically donated to the Alzheimer’s Society. Born from a simple insight (that we all desire our good deeds to be recognised), by creating something physical (the block) out of something invisible (a donation), it provides clear and physical evidence of your good nature.

It’s difficult to write about initiatives like these without thinking of Innocent smoothies. Its highly successful ‘Big Knit’ campaign was taken a step further by Sainsbury’s. The supermarket not only supported the brand with additional and prominent shelf space but also matched the donation of the brand so that a perfect triangle of good behaviour was created: the brand created an innovative donation campaign for a deserving charity, the retailer supported (and donated) and the shopper received a wonderful gift with purchase – and all enjoyed the warm feeling that good behaviour elicits.

The concept of rewarding good behaviour has filtered right down to retailer loyalty programmes which have evolved beyond the standard ‘points for purchase’ model to much more personalised, intricate systems that directly respond to how shoppers behave. As shoppers tweet about a brand, leave feedback for another and share their experiences through social media, retailers are reacting to it with closely targeted communications that reward this intimate behaviour. In turn, this has allowed retailers to target their shoppers much more effectively, and be much more relevant by moving away from one-size-fits-all offers.

With the increased use of social media to write about our shopping and consumption activity, innovative brands and retailers are utilising omni-channel communication agencies to create virtuous circles where good behaviour is encouraged, promoted, communicated, leveraged and around again. A gift that keeps on giving, where shoppers, consumers, retailers and brands all leave feeling they’ve behaved well, and been rewarded handsomely for it.

Read the article on The Drum website here