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Contagious Contributor

4 February 2020

Good Businesses will do Good Business 

Karen Boswell, VMLY&R's EMEA chief experience officer, on why the next decade belongs to brands that help people vote for the world they want with every purchase they make.

The last decade closed with a focus on consumer centricity and cultural resonance. Brands were pulled into social, economic and political conversations as consumers began to conscientiously shop with their principles in mind.

This heightened and informed awareness of the power that consumers have, to influence not just a quarterly forecast, but the shape of an entire business model, mission and purpose, is a sign for the decade ahead that cannot be ignored.

This next decade will be one of human connections and will belong to brands that empower people to vote for the world they want with every purchase they make.  

As we started to see what consumers will stand for, and what they will stand against, we also ended 2019 with successful action-oriented work from brands also taking a stand.

Nike became a dominant activist brand when it stood for [former NFL quarterback Colin] Kaepernick. Patagonia was again heralded for closing its stores, this time to join the climate strike. KLM encouraged customers to fly less. Gillette encouraged men to the best they could, I could go on.

As an industry, we have encouraged, scripted and created these movements. Yet, too many brands and agencies are still too slow to change. And yet all around us we see consumers wanting to be empowered and demanding more than ever before.

They want to save our planet, for themselves and future generations. They want companies to be accountable and take on their share of the challenge. They want to buy from brands they can believe in.

Our industry has some of the best thinkers, leaders and dreamers around. We get paid to think, lead and dream. Surely, we need to be at the forefront of this.

Karen Boswell, VMLY&R

Having a positive impact is not a navel-gazing activity for businesses. How a brand or business speaks and acts, has to be sincere – from the first to the last employee, through every aspect of the business cycle and consumer touch-point.

We’ve just stepped into a new decade, one that Prince William called ‘one of our greatest tests’ during his launch of the Earthshot Prize, a project seeking action to repair our planet and backed by Sir David Attenborough, who called for ‘a new generation of thinkers, leaders and dreamers to think differently.’

Our industry has some of the best thinkers, leaders and dreamers around. We get paid to think, lead and dream. Surely, we need to be at the forefront of this.

In the last decade, we matured dramatically in how we conduct ourselves, how we tell stories that inspire, that inform decisions and change behaviours. We saw innovative products and service design. We moved towards stronger connections with our consumers. We started to understand the power of what we can do when we do it well.

We have at our fingertips the ability to enable and empower huge audiences to think, lead, dream, buy, consume, share, speak and behave differently.

So what are we going to do to make this next decade the one that changes the world for good? Because it’s not a choice anymore.

If a brand does not stand for something, it will not be seen or heard by its consumers.

If a brand is silent, it will see other brands pass it by.

Saying is not enough anymore. Doing is not enough anymore. Brands and businesses must be prepared to re-engineer in totality to deliver for what consumers want. They must be empowering enablers.

So, what are we empowering consumers to do that they couldn’t do before? And if we were to vote for the world we want with every purchase we make, what world will we be living in as this decade comes to a close?

If there’s one little mantra you keep with you as we move through this next chapter, I ask that you consider it to be this one: ‘Good Businesses will do Good Business’.