Brands can create a better tomorrow – but the road there needs more than good intentions

Christian Purser
Source: Getty

The theme of this year’s Mobile World Congress is creating better futures.

Startup and breakthrough brands such as those showcasing at MWC and its sister platform 4YFN are widely heralded as a force for good that will be instrumental in the creation of a better future for all of us.

But it’s not just new technologies and digital enterprises that can offer hope. Big businesses have a golden opportunity to step up and play their part in creating a better future. Brands have greater scale, reach and resources than some national governments. If growth is pursued in the right way, with vision beyond profit, we could be entering an age of big brand redemption.

There are several areas, aside from profitability, that brands can and should use to fuel growth and genuinely create better futures.

Initiatives must be authentic and built into the brands’ overall promise if they are to resonate with customers. They must tackle problems directly related to a business’ sector, such as Volvo with its Vision 2020 target, which aims to ensure nobody is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo from 2020. Such a target offers both vision and hope, and if Volvo succeeds it will enjoy superhero brand status.

Airbnb is an example of a brand helping to promote shared human experience, by uniting people of all nationalities through initiatives such as “Share your homes, but also share your world,” urging hosts to give guests a real sense of what life in a foreign country is like. It brings us together authentically and taps into our fundamental need to belong, in our increasingly fragmented world.

Customers want to feel represented by the brands they choose. They are tired of the media’s limiting characterisation and categorisation of social groups. Dove, Asos and Nike have all pushed to reflect consumers with sincerity and accuracy, and these brands now play a valuable role in enhancing social mobility and equality.

Accessibility is another key area brands should be looking to tap into. Making products and services that are as accessible to as many people as possible can help break down barriers and promote equality. Our ageing western populations both want and need to be catered for.

And finally we know consumers want to act ethically and do the right thing, but convenience and price will always trump good intentions. Brands that can find a way to ease the guilt customers feel about their habits, such as Iceland pledging to remove plastic packaging by 2020, will continue to gain real advantage.

Making the shift from being seen as the cause of, to the solution to, social and environmental issues won’t be easy for established brands, but it can, and will happen and in the process brands will be actively creating a better future for us all.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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