Author: Mark Woerde
Published May 2011
Publishing on Demand
Free copy paperless copy at Letsheal.org
I became interested in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) a few years ago and was further intrigued after I attended “Conscience Capitalism” conference in 2011 at Bentley College just outside Boston, Massachusetts. There I learned a great deal from the likes of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and marketing guru Philip Kotler, things like aligning a brand with a good cause and finding a niche market for responsible advertising. Yet for me there was something missing, it seemed the companies doing CSR were simply looking for a marketing strategy to attract a different target audience and thus expand their bottom line. They may have been looking to expand business to the healthy hipster type because it is where the money is. The sad truth is however that but for a few, most did not have much to say about what it meant to actually “do good with your brand.”
One company that stood out was Panera Bread, a US based restaurant that has not only been donating extra (yummy) bread from its in house bakery to non-profits that feed the poor and homeless, but also had opened up “pay what you can” restaurants for those in the community who simply cannot afford the cost of food.
Panera Bread CEO, Ronald M. Shaich, spoke not how he made his company more money by aligning the bakery brand with doing good, he also did not speak about how customers want to feel good about a company when they buy bread, instead Shaich, told stories telling how communities have been transformed because of Panara’s programs. Programs like, Panera’s Operation Dough-Nation Programs, Community Breadbox™ cash collection boxes, Day-End Dough-Nation™ Panera/SCRIP Card fundraising and participation in community events. He shared that Panera bread is about acts of commitment not to what the profits will be tomorrow, but instead of following their true north, which is being run by a mission of where the company wants to be.
The major shift between CSR and what Ron Shaich speaks about is the same presented in a new book by Mark Woerd. It is a provacative, direct and concise look at provocative and concise way “How Advertising Will Heal the World and Your Business.” Woerde also believes that instead of asking how doing good can help a brand and make a company more profitable, the company should be asking how a brand can help most by doing the most good. Woerde, in fact takes this concept one step further and believes that one day a brand can do so much good that it may win the Nobel Peace Prize.
In his book he calls for a ‘radical paradigm shift in branding.’ Where in the past brands have met self-serving individualist needs, customers are waiting for brands, like Panera Bread, to take the lead in feeding the hungry and initiating safer and better communities to help them help others.
I was intrigued by this idea that a company can be “mission” focused first and profits second and still come out on top and I wondered how Woerde was going to convince his readers that this is actually not only possible but that in fact what customers really want. To lay a foundation Woerde, lead an impressive and intensive 16-country research study of the Worlds largest economies, which showed the hard quantitative numbers, that consumers want meaning attached to the products they buy. The full research report can be accessed for free online on the letsheal.org website.
I was able to interview Woerde for this book review and ask why he felt it was important to conduct such detailed research to explain his point of view. Simply put he knew that it was “necessary to set the change in motion.” According to Woerde “ the main outcome of the research here was in the answers to one of the most important questions in life ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and ‘What role can business and brands play?’
Woerde and the research team were surprised to see that over 74% of research participants thought that ‘helping others’ gave their life meaning. Further the research showed that there is a universal and big search for meaning (only 16% is not searching!). And that a meaningful life is no luxury but a basic need (85%), in fact not fulfilling this desire (to help others) can lead to feelings of depression and lower self-esteem. The research showing that the wish to help others is growing is sustained by the desire of people to do more than donate money.
So why don’t people just help others, Woerde wondered? He was intrigued to see that people stated they found it hard to do more for others than what they already are doing. And that’s where business fits in. The key points in his findings shown in the book were that people prefer brands and companies that can help them in helping others.
According to Woerde, “This wish to do more for others is huge opportunity for companies, brands, and the world. The public overwhelmingly welcomes brands and companies that find ways to help. He further points out that brands which help and do good, which he calls “prosocial brands” are 64% sought out by customers, and these meaningful companies are 70% more sought as preferred places to work.
While a bit data dense at first, the book moves from presenting the research which shows the reasons behind the the WHY and WHAT consumers want, to the HOW CEO’s, marketers/advertisers and others can make their brands “meaningful pro-social” ones. Woerde challenges readers with the conceptual framework he calls “Meaningful Pro-social Brands” which offers new insights and practical knowledge on how to develop and grow brands that bring about positive social change.
The framework shows how to build brands that lead to meaningful action with three main ingredients;
Key driver for business + Real brand value + Societal insights = Meaningful Prosocial Brands
I really liked the model and found it helpful to better understand the difference between what Woerde calls “Pro-social marketing” and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). While at first the two may look very similar, the distinction is that where CSR does not necessarily consider the consumers need to be part of the action, in “Pro-social marketing” the societal insight is an intricate part of the equation. Woerde presents readers with a wonderful how-to guide for the remainder of the book and finishes inspiring readers to do more than just read a book about how to do pro-social marketing – but to become advocates for the cause.
Here is a short video showing some of the work that Mark Woerde is doing with the UN around this topic and how others can be involved.
While we may never see the day that a brand wins the Nobel Peace prize, people vote with their money every day and Woerde’s book shows us that pro-social marketing can do more than help a company win over new customers, but also the world.
Mark Woerde: Director of research and author of “How Advertising Will Heal the World and Your Business” and founder of Letsheal.org is also the co-founder and strategy director of the award winning Dutch advertising agency LEMZ.