How the right campaign can help businesses
do good while building a powerful brand
For decades, businesses have been talking about sustainability. They’ve been speaking on panels, writing reports that show their positive impact, taking to the stage with charities.
And while they’ve been talking about that, they’ve been shouting another louder, brighter, more insistent message: ‘buy’.
Buy our products. Buy our services. Buy our soda in plastic bottles. Buy our fossil fuel-powered energy. Buy our sweatshop-made clothing. For every whisper about doing the right thing, there have been a thousand ‘buys’ yelled into people’s homes through their televisions, laptops and radios – with bright colours and energetic music and uplifting messages that don’t just give you permission to buy, they make you feel actively good about it.
And it makes sense. Companies exist to make money. To make money, they need to sell products. To sell products, they need people to know who they are and why they should buy from them. But the more people buy, the more trash fills our planet, the more emissions enter the atmosphere, the more communities are exploited. So, what if there were another way? What if companies could build trust, establish a positive reputation, and make people want to buy from them while doing good at the same time? What if companies could use their marketing budgets for environmental and societal good, as well as their bottom line?
More and more organisations are doing just this, with behavior change campaigns that are driving positive action as well as building their brand.
So, how does it work?
Truly effective behaviour change requires a combination of different tactics. At Companies for Good, we’ve used our experience and expertise in engagement, sustainability, brand and advertising to create a simple model that makes it easy for businesses to do good with their campaigns. We call it ‘The 5 Es’.
You need people to see your campaign – very obvious, very important! You can spend a fortune on a campaign. You can pack it full of interesting information and useful advice. But if no one notices it, you might as well not bother. You need to create a standout idea that gets people talking.
You need to help people understand the issue – so they know why change is needed.Without the right information – what the problem is and why it matters – behavior change is impossible. You need to identify the right information to deliver – knowledge that inspires action rather than paralyzing it – then create a compelling way to deliver it.
You need to create feelings about the issue – that a certain behavior is good or bad.People live busy, complex lives. They should care about litter, emissions, worker exploitation… But in reality they care about their friends, or making sure their children get to school on time, or doing a good presentation at work. You need an idea that engages people on an emotional level and makes them actively want to do something about the issue.
‘Everyone else does it’
You need to make the behavior normal – ‘if you don’t do it, you’re the odd one out’.It’s in human nature to belong. We all want to be part of the crowd. Social norming is one of the most effective behavior change techniques in existence – by telling or showing your audience that most other people do something, you’ll make them want to do it too. You’ve probably been the subject of this tactic yourself in hotel rooms. Telling you that previous guests have re-used their towels makes it more likely that you’ll re-use yours – and the more specific the message, the bigger the results. Which means hotels can save thousands of gallons of water, dramatically cut their water bill, and build a positive reputation as a conscious, responsible business.
You need to give people a way to solve the issue – that’s simple, practical, and easier than the unsustainable alternative. It’s also in human nature to be lazy. If it’s easier to throw trash on the floor than walk to the nearest bin, if it’s easier to buy a bottle of water than refill your own, many people will do that. This famous ‘fun theory’ work by VW makes good behavior fun and easy. Tactics included adding sound effects to bins, to stairs that play piano so you want to take them rather than the escalator. The end result? People are healthier, the planet is cleaner, and VW is established as an innovative brand that’s committed to doing things better.
More and more businesses are using their campaigns to do more than sell products. So what about you? Are you a forward-looking, purposeful business ready to change the world for good? Do you have the imagination, the influence, the drive to make a positive impact with your marketing? Don’t wait for others to pave the way. Be a leader. Leave your mark. Be a company for good.