Buick Achievers Scholarships: Driving change through education

This week I’ve been exploring how brands are bringing their marketing savvy, creativity and heart to bear on pressing social issues. One exciting new example is the annoucement by Buick and General Motors Foundation of the 1100 Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, including 100 outstanding students from across the U.S. who will each receive a scholarship of up to $25,000 that is renewable for up to four years.

The focus of the initiative addresses one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. today – the need to help more students reach college to realize their potential. Obviously such efforts have enormous benefits for the reputation of a brand improving the likelihood of more customers choosing the Buick brand over others. As the Edelman 2010 goodpurpose® Study revealed, 86% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests.

Yet the benefits to the brand are multifaceted. “One of the aims of the Buick Achievers Scholarship program is to strongly encourage today’s brightest young minds to pursue fields of study that will prepare them for careers in manufacturing industries,” explains Bob Ferguson of the GM Foundation. “By doing so, we will help improve our nation’s global competitiveness in fields that are driving economic growth in the 21st century.”

What’s more, such scholarships transform the lives of the recipients. Many of the recipients had already overcome enormous obstacles in their lives and nearly half of the scholarship recipients are the first in their families to attend college.

My hope this week was to dramatize the creativity that brands can bring to their purposeful engagement with their customer community. Whether it’s education, the environment or homelessness, customers are looking for brands to add meaning to their lives and such efforts resonate deeply. As such, the core values of a brand are more powerful marketing tools than ever as they enable a brand to make an emotional connection with their customers using social media. Each of these efforts should be celebrated as permission slips for other brands to do the same, and by working togther the private sector can have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of people and the well being of society at large.

What other brand initiatives have changed the way you think about a brand? what would you like to see more of from brands?