Jun 18, 2013
What are the most inspiring initiatives from "brands with heart"? 

Brands with Heart

This year, CBA is partner of the Biennale Internationale Design Saint Etienne, which explores the large theme of Empathy. At this occasion, we’ll cover a topic that warms our heart, in such a way that we use it as our credo : « brands with heart ».

Emotion is very often the starting point of a designer’s inspiration… Saying this, the real challenge in our field is to move from an emotion-driven vision to a genuine emotional response for the end consumer. As underlined by Rafael Gomez, designer at Queensland University of Technology, ”to design enjoyable products we must first understand what makes people happy and design products based on that critical understanding.” He analyzed the emotional impact of MP3 and PDA devices : beyond the functional benefits of these music players and communications tools, these devices were perceived as important for consumers, because of their « escape » and « relaxation » attributes. The understanding of human needs should thus be leveraged to create any goods or services, according to Gomez.

Co-creation as an emotional commitment driver between brands and consumers

Youtube, Wordpress, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Flickr, Instagram, … numerous sites and applications enable everyone to become creative and to share their words, pictures, songs, videos, and so on… Creativity is now everywhere, and it influences the evolution of marketing : today, brands can collaborate with their consumers-creators, in order to create always more bonding, commitment, and conversation.

According to Cecilia Weckstörm, head of the Consumer Experience department at Lego, “Brands are no longer created, they are cocreated,”she argued. “Strong emotional engagement produces the motivation to cocreate.” Also, Lego encourages its millions fans to develop content via their social platform ReBrick, which allows the brand lovers to share their own creations.

In addition to their commercial value, brands can try to boost their social value on a long-term perspective, by raising awareness on their own causes. Wikipedia can count on the involvement and support from thousands of contributors, and is thus able to offer a source of knowledge without precedent, that is accessible to everyone. A brand such as Autolib incites people to share their car, instead of owning one. This way, brands encourage creation and sharing, while minimizing the destruction of human and natural resources. When they imply such an equation, brands enhance their emotional capital towards consumers.

Brands that commit. For real.

We wrote a note on Generation G about three years ago : brands still continue to praise for kindness. Interflora sending flowers to Twitter users when they feel down, Ben & Jerry’s offering free ice-creams, Tropicana bringing the sun back to a Canadian city during winter, Google supporting the LGBT cause with its campaign It Gets Better, … All these initiatives truly reveal brands’ hearts.

Chipotle, the Mexican fast-food giant, proved its difference when fully repositioning its brand philosophy early 2000’s. In its report Food with integrity, the company draws attention on its efforts to get supplies of healthy and free-range meats, organic products, hormone-free dairy products, family farms and as much as possible, from local producers. In 2012, Chipotle communicated for the first time on TV during the Grammy Awards ceremony, with a campaign entitled Back to the start, a poetic animation movie denouncing the devastating effects of intensive farming, with a country-style cover of Coldplay’s song The Scientist. Chipotle invited the audience to buy the song on iTunes. The benefits have been donated to their foundation Cultivate Foundation, which aims at encouraging responsible, sustainable and healthy farming. In addition to this Cannes-awarded campaign, the display integrates a unique loyalty program – Farm Team – dedicated to helping members chosing a more responsible diet, as well as a Cultivate music festival, mixing concerts, food, crafts and debates.

Through this assertive posture, aligned with the current consumers’ expectations, its sophisticated storytelling, a remarkable campaign that calls on emotion, we can definitely say that this constitutes a great brand project, all the more surprising coming from a fast-food chain ! Rival fast food giants are learning lessons from Chipotle’s stance.: McDonalds recently announced its willingness to stop tapping into intensive farming !

Brands which change the world : an utopia ?

In a crisis context which has brought along gloominess for a couple years, brands have finally understood that consumers were eager to consume goods and services with a purpose : they want to feel that they contribute to building a better world. Brands like Fairtrade suggests another way to envision consumption, by improving the life conditions of small producers. The positive evolution is that this type of initiative is not only the prerogative of fairtrade organizations…

The case that moved us the most lately is the operation Help – I’ve cut myself… and I want to save a life. Help Remedies is a company which sells over-the-counter medicine and first aid products in the US, and which was already known for several reasons : its packaging that take the heat ouf the serious world of drugs with playful, colorful and minimalist boxes, affordable prices, a witty and fun tone of voice, crazy website and videos, …

Last year, the brand teamed up with the ad agency Droga 5 and the bone-marrow transplant organization DKMS, and included a marrow donor registration kit, a swab for mopping up drops of blood and a pre-paid envelope. inside its band-aid boxes. The principle is simple : when cutting yourself, you can send some of your blood to the national bone marrow registry, which will inform you of your donor potentiality, by easily reaching for a plaster. This sharp initiative put the spotlight on this fundamental cause thanks to an simple yet powerful mechanism, and the brand saw its bands sales boomed by 1900% in a couple of months ! Not to mention the hundreds of lives that could have been saved, with one simple gesture…

Financial scandals, food crisis, frauds, relocations, bad buzz, … rarely brands have been fighting over so many issues and threats. Though, they have the power and means to make society sensitive to great causes. By launching heartfelt actions, generous brands can not only increase their profit, but also and beforehand generate loyalty from a commited and passionate audience. And let’s dream for one minute : they might be able to change the world.


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