Building brand value thru new CSR platform

27 May 2010|Kelli Peterson

Today Levi’s launched their Care-to-Air Challenge which will award $10,000 to the person who can design the world’s most innovative, covetable air-drying solution for clothing. Levi’s is the latest in a series of big brands this year using the open-source collaboration platform to reinforce community minded values via an approach that engages pragmatically and progressively.

Previously CSR efforts have been directed through philanthropic endeavors like Susan G Komen for the Cure and American Red Cross campaigns. Independent of product or business line, these efforts have captured the public imagination and humanized brand character but they have largely been reactionary opportunities that speak to more traditional give-back thinking. Riding a range of cultural trends and technology advancements , brands are beginning to bring together community giving and sustainability to create a more compelling brand story that more intuitively leverages their core business proposition.

Following on the tails of Nike’s GreenXchange, Starbucks launched betacup in March which is an on-line contest created to engage industrial designers in the development process for addressing Starbuck’s commitment to serve 100% of their coffee drinks in recyclable or reusable cups. This effort creates buzz through perceived engagement and social networking communities and it is eminently promotable because it opens the dialogue on an epic sin of Starbucks – the material waste associated with every single purchase. It is not a blockbuster sizzle campaign but it shows a roll-up-your sleeves problem-solving mindset. It demonstrates that they believe their consumers can be a part of the solution and it creates an aura of honesty and transparency that is difficult to achieve with traditional campaigns.

Brand evangelizers preach the 360-degree brand experience, meaning every single touchpoint should ooze a brand’s essence and values. The more you isolate and successfully optimize a single brand interaction, the deeper you cement your customer relationship. But not until recently have we seen the prominence of giving back (CSR) and sustainable operations begin to be leveraged more intelligently as an indicator of what business values the brand stands for. Online innovation platforms and competitions are the latest tactic in a growing shift of mutual accepted responsibility for getting us out of the mess we’re in.

Like Pepsi’s Refresh Project, these efforts appear to be only the beginning of creative engagement opportunities designed to foster grass-roots dialogue around our most pressing issues while building brand authenticity in the process.

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