The art of inspiring customers to champion your brand

APCO Worldwide just completed a global study into corporate and consumer relations and launched a Champion Brand Index which rates companies on their ability to inspire customers to promote their brand. APCO’s Index measures corporate brand value among more than 500 of the world’s largest corporate brands in 15 large economies that together make up nearly 80% of the world’s GDP. The insights from the index are powerful as we discover just how engaged consumers are around the social responsibility of brands. This is because the web and social media now give people direct and nearly immediate access to information about corporate behavior and as a result, people can evaluate and criticize corporations’ policies and actions like never before.

The study found that a strong majority (62%) of the public say they care more about companies’ practices and policies today than they did ten years ago. Further, two-thirds (67%) say when evaluating companies, it is as important to them to know how the company operates as it is to know what it sells.

These new consumer concerns can be both rewarding and punitive to brands. Roughly 4 in 10 people globally say that within the last year they have decided not to buy a company’s products not because of the product itself, but because they didn’t agree with the companies’ practices or policies. Slightly more (43%) say they have decided to buy one company’s product over those sold by similar companies specifically because they liked or agreed with the company’s practices.

These number are even more impactful when you consider that more than three quarters globally (77%) believe that corporations have a bigger impact on their lives today than they did 10 years ago. Further, a solid majority (60%) hold that companies now serve some functions in society that were previously reserved only for the government. And perhaps most notable of all, almost half (45%) of those in the 15 economies under study believe that global companies have a bigger impact on their lives than does government.

Scrutiny of companies and the belief that companies are playing a bigger role in society with bigger obligations, is strongest in the developing world. For example, 81% of those in developing economies agree to the statement “when evaluating companies, it is as important for me to know how the company operates as it is to know what it sells” compared to 57% in developed economies. Likewise, 73% in developing economies say corporations now serve functions previously reserved only for government compared to 53% in the developed economies and 56% in the developing economies think companies have a bigger impact on their life than government compared to only 36% in developed economies.

To succeed in this era of increased scrutiny and shifting expectations between corporations and society, smart corporate brands recognize that they first need to be champions for society before society will champion them. Nearly three- quarters worldwide (72%) believe that companies have the ability to shape a better society and more than half (57%) think the best companies aren’t those who try to recruit brand champions, but rather brands that champion for things important to them.

This new study and Index by APCO is the latest evidence in a growing body of research that show that corporate responsibility is not just an important way to build a better world, but also for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors by making themselves more meaningful to their customer. As such, we find ourselves as brands, marketers and consumers,  living in an era when doing good is genuinely good for business. As such, it represents the opportunity of this generation to build a third pillar of social change in the private sector to support government and philanthropy to build a better world for all.

For full details on the the APOCO report, click here.

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