The Rise of Civic Brands

We recently launched The Most Connected Brands Index to help businesses and brands understand how they are connecting with consumers and provide them with ways to improve. Tom Savigar, Senior Partner at The Future Laboratory helped contribute to the report and explores how brands have a real opportunity to connect with consumers by stepping up on the issues that matter for society.

Stepping in and stepping up

Businesses are increasingly stepping in where governments are failing and acting as forces for good in society. Amid the shift from top-down corporate hegemony to post-ownership models, brands will need to act as educators and enablers, providing tools for a de-centralised economy. 

In the UK, cuts to public spending in the coming years will affect education, social care and social housing, according to Trades Union Congress. It is not surprising that late-majority consumers are characterised by distrust, disconnection and disenfranchisement. This group comprises middle-to-low-income consumers who work hard in nine-to-five jobs and pay their taxes but cannot afford the lifestyles they aspire to. Now, they are demanding change.

While trust in banks, government and media is at an all-time low, business is thriving. Kathryn Beiser, Global Chair of Corporate Practice at Edelman, argues that “business is the last retaining wall for trust. Its leaders must step up on the issues that matter for society.” Research shows consumers agree. Some 65% believe that businesses bear as much responsibility as governments for driving social change.

The potential value unlocked by companies taking a long-term approach could be worth nearly £2.4 trillion ($3 trillion, €2.9 trillion) by 2025, according to McKinsey. “In the future, it will be even more vital for companies to work together with states and NGOs to create value for societies”, says Kati Ihamäki, VicePresident of Sustainable Development at Finnair.

What this will mean for brands:

  • With the decline of the public sector, brands will increasingly need to communicate a real sense of purpose and create actual social change
  • Millennials and members of Generation D will happily drop profit-driven ventures for those that take a community driven approach
  • Consumer distrust is widespread and brands will have to re-establish their position as a trustworthy entity that people look up to for guidance and leadership
  • Brands will shift to a post ownership strategy, and will need to become part of the peer-to-peer economy to remain relevant
  • Brands will be seen as an educator rather than an employer. A highly skilled workforce is crucial for brands that want to ensure long term growth and retain talent
  • Brands will collaborate with like minded individuals and competitors, as networking, sharing research and cross-promoting development become key to innovation

Dyson brand-ucating the next generation

When it comes to brands becoming educators as well as employers to future proof their business models, Dyson understands this situation perfectly.

There is a global skills shortage and a rapidly evolving economy that prioritises digital-first industries. Workforces are increasingly made up of freelancers, pushing employers to offer education and development as a means of retaining staff.

Indeed, Dyson’s research shows that advances in technology mean the UK now needs 10 times as many engineers as it did 10 years ago, but the infrastructure needed to action this is not in place. Meanwhile, austerity measures are making it difficult for public institutions to address the widening skills gap in engineering.

To counter this, Sir James Dyson is investing £15m in the Dyson Institute of Technology over the next five years, and students will not pay fees as well as receiving a salary of up to £16,000 per year.

Tom Savigar, Senior Partner, The Future Laboratory