NEWS29 October 2015

The role of brands in public campaigns

Innovations Media News Retail Technology UK

UK — The involvement of brands in public campaigns has benefits for all involved, said Ben Toombs of TNS BMRB at today’s Customers Exposed conference.


At the MRS-organised conference in London, Toombs spoke of the idea that brands are increasingly playing a role in behaviour change campaigns, and posed the question: “is it time for brands to think seriously about going public?”

“Behaviour change campaigns used to be about shouting loudly from far away,” said Toombs. But, he pointed out, achieving cut-through with these types of messages in today’s busy media environment is more difficult than ever. “Shouting at people isn’t enough anymore,” he said.

Instead, today’s behaviour change campaigns are becoming more and more about the combination of technology, empowerment and community. The use of smartphone apps put the messages in people’s pockets, when they need them; websites such as NHS Choices empower people with information and choice; and campaigns like Stoptober — which promotes quitting smoking during the month of October — provide an incentive to maintain abstinence through community support.

Toombs explained that if brands partner on these types of campaigns, there can be positive impacts for both the campaign and the brand, and used examples of campaigns aimed at various audiences, and delivered through a range of channels, to illustrate this. Evaluation research on the campaigns he described showed that as well as improving the communications’ reach, partnership with brands had a positive effect on people’s responses to the campaign itself and their resulting behaviours. It also improved their perceptions of the brands, and in some cases made people more likely to consider buying their products.

Highlighting the business case for brand involvement in these public campaigns, Toombs pointed to statistics published by Havas Media around public perception of brands: 85% of people apparently believe that brands should improve life and wellbeing; only 3% of people believe they currently do this; and the consensus is that 94% of brands could disappear without causing concern.

However, brands that are seen to fulfil these wellbeing needs outperform the stock markets, and customers are more likely to recommend and stay loyal to them. “Brands need to do more than get the product, price and service right,” said Toombs, and partnership on campaigns can be one way to meet this wellbeing requirement.

As a note of caution, Toombs highlighted the importance of the fit of the brand to the campaign, and said that there will always be people who don’t agree that it is appropriate for brands to be involved in delivering these types of messages. But when the fit is good and the campaign is done well, he said, the partnership can amplify the reach and message and pays dividends to partner brands.