June 26, 2018

Written By Taposh Ghosh

The concept of a brand has been constantly evolving as the consumers to which they cater, grow over time and demand more out of these global businesses. The 20th-century concept of a brand was to just sell things to people by using paid media and implanting a purchase intent in their minds. Whereas in the 21st century, a great brand does more than selling something to a consumer, rather inspires the people around something bigger than just consumption and will actually inspire them around the mission, the purpose that the brand stands for.

The orientation of branding has evolved in such a manner that in today’s world social movements driving a global agenda, such as diversity, have turned out to be brands of greater recognition than ones who just aspire to sell consumer goods.

To test the recognition and acceptability of mega-brands, an American creative agency named Enso, worked with the polling and research firm Quadrant Strategies to survey 6,000 consumers about their impressions of each brand. The survey gave birth to a ranking, called the World Value Index, which looks at 200 major brands consisting of companies, nonprofits, and a handful of recent social movements that have come to be identified as brands, and studies how well their purpose or mission succeeds in inspiring consumers. The list remains unbiased towards the brands in terms of the impact it is creating, whether positive or negative, but rather assesses which brands resonate most with the consumers.

Enso, which first began the survey in 2016, realized that the ability to inspire consumers around a mission was a powerful tool, but one that was not being measured in other rankings. Some of the results are unexpected. Amazon, for example, is the only for-profit brand in the top 10, even though those who study purpose-driven companies might not consider it one. The remainder 9 are non-profits, which work towards very specific goals and as a result are expected to have greater consumer resonance.

These are the top 10 brands on the list:

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  2. Red Cross
  3. Salvation Army
  4. Goodwill
  5. Habitat for Humanity
  6. Doctors Without Borders
  7. Amazon
  8. Boys and Girls Club
  9. Save the Children
  10. Girl Scouts of the USA

In the early years, the agency expected renowned fashion brands and ones with a more ethical standpoint to be conquering the top of the list, but in reality, it turns out that scale and convenience are factors which matter more than just reputation and popularity. Sebastian Buck, co-founder of Enso, states that Amazon’s high rank is an indication as to the value that people place upon convenience. As per Buck, it is hard to judge that when you think about, for instance, single parents trying to hold down multiple jobs and keep a family together, and the value of convenience and needing one less trip to the store.

The survey mainly asked consumers how aware they were of a brand’s purpose or mission beyond making money, whether that purpose aligned with what they cared about, whether it is a mission they would openly support, and whether the mission or purpose motivated them to buy products or services from the brand.

Nonprofits, along with social movements such as the Women’s March and the The #MeToo Movement, did well, with the list now including more nonprofits than it did in 2016, and many rising to the top. The survey reveals that nonprofit brands and cultural brands may have just as much or actually more power to mobilize people than some of the biggest for-profit brands that spend billions of dollars on marketing. The question that arises from this is whether nonprofits actually recognize that power and ability to inspire the mass to motivate them towards achieving something great.

It is widely accepted that businesses have an opportunity to do better. The survey further shows that while the majority of people believe that businesses can be a force for positive social change, only a third trust business leaders to do what is actually right. The survey also asked whether Americans felt that their employer’s values matched their own, to which only 42% said that they did, while only 14% said that they had a strong alignment of values with their employer.

This particular stat is very interesting to think about as people have made a conscious choice to spend a significant chunk of their life with their employer. However, the idea that they may be spending that period of time in an organization whose values do not strongly align with their own seems like such a missed opportunity, in terms of both life energy and also the business potential of having an inspired, committed, and engaged workforce.

Some brands that are seen as more traditional – like Campbell’s Soup and Johnson & Johnson – have risen in this year’s list, something that Buck attributes to an increased desire to turn to brands that seem trustworthy in a time when only 27% of respondents said that they trust leaders in government. Nonprofits may also rank higher for this reason.

To further assess the survey, if we look at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they are ranked as number 29, which is above YouTube, and significantly above Facebook, which is at 57. This perhaps portrays the fact that people in general look for leadership and a sense of trust in brands. Affinity towards a brand only grows further if the brand has a face, and that face is someone you find to be a good leader of men. Facebook, on the other hand, is one of the four most valuable companies in the world and it is ranking down at number 57, which shows a big disconnect, perhaps arising from Facebook’s recent privacy scandals.

Enso hopes that brands looking at the list begin to think differently about the potential that their organizations have to inspire people around a mission. The objective of the survey is to convince the people within brands to think about the population at large as potentially incredibly significant supporters, enablers, and champions of a shared mission, and ask if they are doing enough and what more could they do to inspire and engage people.


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