Dentsu Aegis On How to Move From Intent to Action with Brands for Good

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I spent last week in Detroit at Sustainable Brands '19 and was part of the Dentsu Aegis team, playing our part in the launch of Brands for Good.  Why is this happening now and why should we care?  Because the time is now.  We are at a tipping point.  Consumers in their millions are telling companies that they want brands and businesses to act and help them live in more sustainable ways.

The recent data from the Harris poll shows that consumers themselves want to do things to help equity and stop the negative impact on our planet but aren’t sure what to do or how to do it.  There’s an intent to action gap of 65% to 28%.  It is, therefore, vital for brands to play their part to bring all that good intent into action.

As part of a communications network working with the majority of blue-chip clients around the world, Dentsu Aegis has the opportunity to be part of this push to drive action.  Like our client partners, we believe brands have the power to change behavior.  We also believe that communications can be the powerful catalyst to inspire that change.  Those beliefs were the foundation for the launch of Brands for Good in Detroit last week.  The research also identified nine sustainable behaviors that, if adopted by the public at large, could significantly reduce climate change, preserve our natural resources and create a more resilient society.

(Editor’s Note: For more details on the evolution of Brands for Good, please listen to MediaVillage’spodcast interviewwith Sustainable Brands founder, KoAnn Skrzyniarz.)

I was there accompanying the Dentsu Sustainability team, looking through the lens of business and clients.  Some of our clients are also founding partners and more will join.  It was apparent to me over the course of the last few days that the business case is clear.  The United Nations has proved that if everyone adhered to their Sustainability Goals, it would add 12 trillion dollars to the global economy. And the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed how the Make-Collect-Recycle-Reclaim loop would garner an incremental 4.5 trillion dollars.  Brands have always been a force for growth and now they need to be a force for good, too.

As Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer for P&G, was keen to emphasize, we mustn’t stop there.  Brands must be a force for action.

What struck me was the true feeling of collaboration across what are usually fiercely competitive battle lines.  PepsiCo, P&G and Nestlé all sat on the same stage and in the same working groups intent on coming together to find a solution.  These marketers, who compete to fulfill the hydration needs of consumers, also realize that the issue of reducing single-use plastics and developing easier recycling options needs a collaborative effort.  As Yumi Clevenger-Lee of Nestlé Waters said, “This is bigger than any one company or any one person and we have to put aside the competitive part to find solutions for better, sustainable living as consumers use our products.”

While a lot of the conversation in this launch session was rightly centered on the planet and climate change, there was also discussion focused on the third pillar of the mission: building resilience in, and equity for, people.  Dentsu Aegis is a network built for the digital era, and with data and digital at its heart, it can play a key role in this area.  We focus on digital democratization -- bringing access and support to underserved communities through initiatives like Code.org and the Female Foundry.

There were questions at the press conference about how this group would truly become change agents.   People wanted to know why this collaboration versus any other before it would have the right effect.   Good question.  Do we really expect that Brands for Good can make a difference in the lives of the public?  The key to that is to set clear goals and measure our efforts and success.  What gets measured, gets done.  Across our network, we are focused on ensuring every dollar spent on behalf of our clients works to its optimal potential, so we will naturally be leaning in to help set the agenda for the measurement of efforts.  Also key is the will and determination of the members.  There was no one involved who was “dialing it in,” just doing it to stick their logo on the press release.  The drive to succeed was palpable with the world's strongest brands and greatest marketers collaborating across the traditional lines of competition.

This will be a tremendous gathering of marketing brains and brawn to really shift consumer behaviors by making it easier for them to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  We will be building out the lifestyle transformation roadmap this summer, and I personally can't wait to start getting some measured effective wins on the board.

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