It’s a grey December evening in Copenhagen. Just the place to be flicking through a utopian book called Betterness: Economics for Humans on my Kindle app. In it, Umair Haque makes an over-the-top case for businesses to create social value – natural, human, emotional, intellectual, creative capital. Which made me think: what’s the role of brands in this?
We all know brands create huge commercial value – which places like Interbrand try to put a dollar value on. And we can imagine the chain of cause and effect that creates the value.
But can we do the same for social value?
If commercial value is a product of short-term (profit) and long-term (growth prospects), can we think about social value in the same kind of way? As the product of short-term happiness and long-term sustainability?
This diagram suggests how it could work. Improvements, please:
And here’s how the model maps to the five key behaviors of today’s game changing brands.
Robert Jonesis visiting professor at University of East Anglia and Head of New Thinking at Wolff Olins.
Wolff Olins is in many ways a child of the 1960s. Among other things, that means we think our work should have a positive social impact as well as a commercial one.
Indeed, we think that it’s through providing a social impact (getting good things to more people) that you best achieve a commercial impact (revenue and growth). This is in contrast to the prevailing view that a positive social impact usually comes at the cost of a negative impact on profits.
Over the years, we’ve achieved this kind of thing with commercial clients like GE and Tata DOCOMO, and with social enterprises like (RED). More and more, we believe commercial enterprises should have a social purpose. And that, conversely, social enterprise should generate profits.
But how exactly does that dynamic work?
We’re collaborating with the Young Foundation to try to map this out. In advance of a conclusion, here’s my first go. Improvements to the model welcome.
Robert Jones is visiting professor at University of East Anglia and Head of New Thinking at Wolff Olins.