‘Do Good’ – Anne Bahr Thompson’s new book on ‘Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel both Purpose and Profit’

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At the launch of her new bookDo Good – Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit’ yesterday evening,  Anne Bahr Thompson stressed that:

“Doing good is not a cost of doing business: it’s how your business wins customers and will be sustainable long term”

The book is based on interviews with thousand of consumers, and shows how people are drawn to companies with a higher purpose – and reward them with their business.

Anne shared the insights from her career in brand strategy, and the several years’ in-depth research that led to her developing a model for Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both purpose and Profit.

Anne Bahr Thompson’s meticulous research and wide-ranging spread of examples makes this book much more than an exhortation: she shows companies what Doing Good means for brands, reputations and profit.

Do Good’ provides a systemic approach to developing brands with good corporate citizenship. The five step model is compelling because it has simplicity distilled from a thorough base of evidence. The steps are:

1. Trust: Don’t Let Me Down
2. Enrichment: Enhance Daily Life
3. Responsibility: Behave Fairly
4. Community: Connect Me
5. Contribution: Make Me Bigger Than I Am

Anne explained:

“The model emerged from grassroots up. This is not just ‘Purpose’ directed from the top of the business, but right through.

It began with an unsolicited nugget from our* research in 2011.
What we found was that real people define CSR [corporate social responsibility] very differently from the experts.”

(*With her New York-London consultancy, Onesixtyfourth)

Anne and her team captured all the brands people named as good corporate citizens and then researched those in more depth. The book is illuminated with an eclectic set of case studies beyond the familiar CSR heroes – with brands like Mrs Myers (eco household cleaning products), GiffGaff, Seventh Generation, alongside Kimberly-Clark and IBM.

The insights from these companies’ experience roots Bahr Thompson’s models in practical business. The case studies shine new light on what it means to ‘Do Good’.

Here are ‘brand citizens’ solving social problems through the power of business.

The chapter on Ellevate shares the gritty (and witty) story of women-banker alumni from GoldmanSachs developing a wide scale network of women from advocating to investing in women. The case study on Lush shows the powerful combination of robust ethics, activist brand and fine-tuned customer-experience.

At the book launch, (hosted at the elegant City club Brand Exchange), Anne shared that:

“Most people hold 12 brands in their ‘inner circle’ of solid loyalty. That’s hard to break into – but there’s also some cheating…
Our research showed that women cheat on brands more than men… And Babyboomers more than Millennials.”

We see a strong overlap between ‘Do Good’ and our themes of belonging: both based on robust ethos, trust, responsibility and community.

Anne’s view is that employee retention is one of the biggest pressures for Doing Good.
She sees this starting at Step 1, with trust with employees, infusing a sense of responsibility and fairness. In Step 4 Community she looks at connecting people through shared values.

The discussion turned to consumers, employees and investors as activists around brands and what’s ‘good’ – and the impact on reputation and profit. A challenge from the floor asked about those companies who don’t seem to care about doing good, like the toughest – and consistently successful – investment banks.

“Everyone knows they’re b*s***ds, and investors say ‘but they’re our b*s***ds’. Why would they shift to ‘Do Good’?”

(I confess to being reminded of the Mitchell and Webb sketch with a WW2 German Officer asking ‘Are we the baddies?’)

Anne emphasised the market force in the push from consumers, and business itself, to secure long-term benefits over short-term gain.

In ‘Do Good’ Anne Bahr Thompson describes how Trust, both given and received, becomes a virtuous circle that benefits profit, purpose, business and wider society.

“Good corporate citizenship begins, not just ends, with trust.”

“The premise of the ‘Do Good’ model is a journey from ‘me’… to ‘we’
From solving personal concerns to social concerns.
It’s a journey, not a to-do list. And one that requires courage”

Her book is thorough, interesting, persuasive – and timely.