Should brands take a more 'values-led' approach to their marketing? The Marketing Society Forum

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield has criticised brands for ignoring the 'common good'

YES - RAY KIESER, Group managing director, Europe, Schawk and Anthem Worldwide

For a brand to persuade someone to interact with it, it must inspire some kind of engagement, and the primary driver for this is emotion. Consumers react emotionally first, then rationalise.

By taking a 'values-led' approach to marketing, a brand can develop a narrative that inspires this response. People love to have a point of view and, even if they disagree with yours, that's better than them not having a view at all.

Ben & Jerry's puts fairly political views at the centre of its values, but this won't be right for every brand. However, all brands should be able to identify the genuine values that embody what they stand for and allow their target market to react emotionally.

YES - CLAIRE HARRISON-CHURCH, Former director, brand communications, Sainsbury's

Many brands have values that are central to how they do business - check out Sainsbury's 'Our values make us different' approach. Yet, while consumers think values are important, they don't rate them as important to communicate, so they don't tend to feature significantly in communication plans.

However, as products continue to become more commoditised, it is the company or brand values that will sway consumer loyalty, and, unlike pricing, you can't change your values overnight.

What is important is that any communication is engaging and thought-provoking. As companies such as Unilever and Sainsbury's know, 'doing good' and making profits are not mutually exclusive.

YES - JAMES MURPHY, Chief executive, Adam & Eve/DDB

Brands that take a 'values-led' approach must be prepared for scrutiny.

They are putting themselves out there and the ruthless lens of social media will expose and amplify any hypocrisy.

There have been plenty of examples of window dressing and 'greenwashing' that have backfired and left brands damaged. Yet there are also amazing examples, such as John Lewis, where values are plumbed into the business model and the recruitment of talent.

Those values create not only a unique business, but also a brand that customers are excited by, loyal to and even forgiving of. There are also fine examples of traditional commercial businesses that have adopted bold programmes, such as Marks & Spencer's 'Plan A'.

YES - Joe Clift, Brand and marketing consultant

I'm not certain it is any more important than before. Consumers have always needed to be able to trust in the brands they buy.

What's different now is that people are more empowered, have greater influence and are more likely to express strong opinions quickly than ever before.

Reputations can be broken in seconds, with the click of a mouse or a few characters in a tweet. So it has become more important that companies have strong values at the heart of their brands.


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