The values conveyed by brands

We could summarize the proposal of the recent study conducted by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, The company behind the Brand II: in goodness we trust with a phrase from the philosopher Kant, "practice without theory is blind and theory without practice is sterile.".

At a time like the present, in which the immediate and ephemeral, along with the exposure and continuous communication, it seems that consumers want to go a little further and have a deeper understanding of brands behind the products or services they acquire in the market. A knowledge that allows us to know the essence that hides the fragrance that brands want to sell us. 

We want to know what values and commitments hide the concrete practices and actions that brands and organizations carry out. In other wordsbrand reputation matters, and to an ever-increasing extent. This is well known by companies, aware that consumers today are not only buying products or services for their functionality, but are also buying based on the reputation of the company that sells the product or service. This reputation is not only generated through ethical intangibles, but the role they play is very relevant.

It is true that it is more complex to communicate intangibles such as ethical values, and perhaps that is why companies insist on communicating specific actions, which are much more measurable and easier to make visible. However, if this is all that organizations do and they do not go any further, then, to borrow Immanuel Kant's phrase, consumers look, but do not see; they observe the practices that companies communicate, but do not see the reason behind these practices. It is not wrong to communicate the concrete practice, but it is necessary to accompany it with the reasons and arguments that provoke it.

Before continuing, however, I would like to dwell briefly on some implicit issues that appear in the foregoing:

  • The first is that we are in a world in which brand building is still very relevant, and to an increasing extent if we take into account that consumers today, above all, acquire experiences rather than functional solutions.
  • Reputation, linked to the brand, continues to be the most important return generated by the company's commitment to intangible values.
  • Showing the characteristics of the product or the specific action of the organization is important, but it is also necessary to make visible what is behind this product or action. That is to say, the tension that often occurs in large companies between the visibility of the corporate brand and that of the product must be resolved by counting a little bit of each.

An example of good management, in my opinion, of this issue can be seen, for example, in the L'Oréal brand. It is clear to no one that adding the brand The L'Oréal product line gives this product a seal of qualityThe reputation acquired by the brand is transferred to the product. This does not mean that the product does not matter. Continuing with the example of L'Oréal, it is important to say that a particular shampoo is free of parabens and sulfates (the latest trend in hair washing), but how many of this product would be sold if the L'Oréal brand were not behind it? How much of this product would be sold if the reputation of the L'Oréal brand were that of an organization for which environmental care is anecdotal?

In fact, the aforementioned study states that 9 out of 10 business executives (86%) believe that having a strong corporate brand is as important, if not more important, than having a strong product brand.. And 85% of these managers are of the opinion that putting the brand logo on the product packaging has an impact on the consumer's purchase..

This tension between the product brand and the corporate brand also arises between social responsibility actions and the ethical values of the company behind these actions. In the study I mentioned above, this issue clearly appears as one of the areas for improvement for brands.

  • "Companies overcommunicate community contributions relative to the importance consumers place on these actions."
  • "Companies under-communicate their values or ethics relative to the number of consumers who want to know about how honest and ethical the companies they deal with are."

That is, companies are spending too much time communicating their results and activities in the community and not enough time making visible a broader, more holistic approach to purpose or their values. However, as also shown in the study by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, 34% of consumers say they are increasingly buying from companies or brands that share their values.

This issue of sharing values between the brand and the consumer is, in my view, the great challenge facing organizations today. Ethical values, perhaps because they are intangible or perhaps because of a certain fear on the part of companies to commit themselves openly and transparently to an ethical proposal, continue to be an internal matter. However, if there is one thing we know today, it is that what most binds consumers, and the same could be said of employees, to a brand or company is to generate an emotional experience in them. And there is nothing more powerful to generate that emotional experience than to seek a connection based on values.

In times when generating engagement is so necessary and important, some even propose this issue of the engagement as the new era of marketingwhat better way to achieve this commitment than putting the brand's values into play.

Just to give you one piece of information, 32% of consumers say that now more than ever they want to feel good about the brand or company that generates the products they buy, and for that it is essential to know the responsiveness of a company to the problems it faces and its ability to bring well-being to the lives of customers and positive social impact, going beyond the quality of its products and services. These two issues are the fundamental pillars for building a good reputation in the 21st century.

In the words of Paul Massey, Global Lead for Social Impact at Weber Shandwick, "consumers are responding to a sense of shared purpose with companies, which is often expressed through the way brands talk about consumer well-being, environmental impact and social issues affecting communities".

In fact, Weber Shandwick and KRC Research's own stadium goes a step further and shows that 41% of consumers and 46% of business executives believe that companies should speak out on controversial issues such as race, immigration, gender, etc., playing a greater role in social and environmental issues and thus helping to make the world a better place to live in.

By way of summary, The company behind the Brand II: in goodness we trust, highlights 6 issues as those being faced and managed by companies that today have generated a good reputation worldwide.

While it has always been important to know who is behind what we see, in times of uncertainty, over-information (and misinformation) it is even more important if possible. Let's hope that brands and companies realize this and accompany the usual noise of their communication with a symphony that gives a little more harmony to what they want to tell us.